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Terminator: Genisys Dolby Atmos Blu-ray Review

Genisys is a reference Atmos soundtrack in all regards, truly made for home theater demos and rarely missing any opportunity to push audio boundaries. While I highlight my favorite scenes below, the entire film is just packed with great audio moments.

“You are going to love this movie.”—James Cameron, director Terminator and Terminator 2

The first time I saw this movie was while I was reviewing the PRIMA Cinema, and it’s tough to beat the experience of watching a first run Hollywood film in the comfort of your home in full 10-bit video quality. When I saw that it was going to be released with an Atmos soundtrack, I was pretty psyched to give it another viewing.

I’m a huge fan of the Terminator franchise, and have seen all four of the previous films. In fact T2 stands as one of my all-time, top 10 movies. I can clearly remember sitting in the theater watching and being absolutely mesmerized by the action while simultaneously being equally dumbfounded by the effects, and I feel the film stands as a pivotal moment in Hollywood effects. Many feel the series has been flagging ever since T2, however I felt both T3 and Terminator Salvation (aka T4) had their moments and fulfilled their roles in moving the saga forward. (And definitely benefit from second and third viewings.)

As the name suggests, Genisys returns to the beginning, and the majority of the move is just classic summertime, popcorn fun, with tons of action, massive explosions, and terrific effects. The writers do a great job rebooting the series while still playing homage to its origins, and Genisys delivers a near shot-for-shot recreation of one of the original Terminator’s iconic scenes, immediately thrusting fans back into known — and beloved — territory.

Genisys is a reference Atmos soundtrack in all regards, truly made for home theater demos and rarely missing any opportunity to push audio boundaries. While I highlight my favorite scenes below, the entire film is just packed with great audio moments. For example, there are several scenes in the film where characters enter the “time displacement device” to travel back — or forward — in time. As the portal spins up to speed, you get a great sense of it whipping all around the room, spinning 360 degrees and putting you right in the middle of the vortex. When they reappear, there’s a huge storm of electricity and lighting that crackles and buzzes all around and overhead.

Another thing I appreciated was that with tons of heavy weapons used throughout the film, the audio mixers did a great job of capturing the different sonic signatures and impacts of each weapon, with different pistol sounding different than each other, and different from shotgun blasts which sound different than heavy caliber sniper rounds. In a movie where the weapons play such an important role, it’s nice that they are given the appropriate sonic care.

The movie does deal quite a bit with the paradoxes of time travel, which they try to explain with a bit of exposition from Arnold’s T-800. But, I would just offer this bit of advice on time travel in movies from Austin Powers.

Genisys is available in both 2D and 3D versions and I watched the movie in 3D because, well, I could. For the most part I don’t think 3D added much to the film—nor did it detract—but I noted a couple of moments where it stood out to me.

***Spoilers Ahead***

Judgement Day

Hollywood really seems to have it in for San Francisco lately, as this is the second movie I’ve watched in about a month that destroys the city by the Bay, and specifically the Golden Gate Bridge and Transamerica building. (The other was San Andreas, my Atmos audio review here.) Before the opening title even hits the screen, the sounds of Judgement Day being wreaked upon mankind by a fully aware Skynet explode into the room. ICBM’s streak past the sidewalls, crisscrossing the room, and ripping across the sky overhead. When the missiles begin exploding, debris and shockwaves tear through the room, blasting into the back of the room and resonating all along the sidewalls. Skynet makes short work of San Fran, with explosions that tear the city apart and blast through the listening space. Welcome to the first two minutes!

You don’t have to wait long for the first Terminator attack as it occurs shortly after the four-minute mark. The scene begins with a young Kyle Reese (Bryant Prince) walking into a drainage pipe, presented with nice ambient sounds of echoes and water drips all around. A dog starts barking to warn of the Terminator’s presence and its barks echo and change position based on Reese’s POV. John Connor (Jason Clarke) comes flying down from the ceiling to save Kyle, his blaster shots coming from overhead and tracking down into the room. The destroyed Terminator goes out with guns blazing, its shots flying wildly all around the room leaving clearly localizable laser impacts in every corner.

Striking the Heart of Skynet

At eight minutes into Chapter 2, Connor’s army infiltrates Skynet using a deactivated Terminator. There are significant laser blasts all around the room, and then the computer announces the breach with a nice diffuse, echoing quality. Fighter jets streak past overhead, making strafing runs that chew up the room from front to back and helicopters fly past on both sides with guns blasting away. Terminators of various designs fight back until at 10:30 Skynet is destroyed and a last, powerless Terminator jet coasts by overhead to crash in the distant back part of the room.

“Come with me if you want to live!”

There’s a pretty great old Arnold/Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising his role as the original T-800 now programmed to protect Sarah) on Young Arnold fight at 21 minutes into Chapter 4, with the two T-800’s just wailing away on each other. The fight culminates after the 22-minute mark with Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) blasting the evil T-800 with — I believe — a Barrett .50 caliber sniper rifle. The rifle shot is realistically huge, blasting from high up on the left side of the room to destroy the T-800 in the front. The 3D view through the sniper scope delivers a really great use of dimension and depth.

At 27 minutes into Chapter 4, Sarah crashes into a clothing store driving an armored truck to rescue Kyle, smashing into the liquid metal T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) and then blasting it with multiple — looks like a Desert Eagle — .50-cal pistol shots. As the truck leaves the store, it races through the middle of the listening room and after a bit of time paradox dialog, Reese (Jai Courtney) attacks Arnold. This attack causes the armored truck to swerve off road and crash into a fire hydrant at 28:45, creating a geyser of water that splashes up into the ceiling speakers.

“We have approximately 35 seconds…or less”

At 35 minutes into Chapter 6, the trio drives into a cavernous warehouse with great acoustics defining the huge space; lots of reverberant echoes and little clinks that really set the stage. The T-1000 comes crashing through the glass and hurls a spear of itself that sails right past your left ear, pinning Arnold to the wall with a solid thunk. Kyle gets into a fight with the resurrected T-800, blasting it at close range with a grenade launcher, and then at 37:30 the Terminator is walking above Kyle and trying to spear/punch him, delivering some great dimensional audio as the Terminator repeatedly attacks him. This scene will give your sub a workout as each explosion and punch is delivered with massive LFE.

At 39 minutes, Sarah leads the T-1000 into the trap and the whole sequence has a ton of great audio. As it opens she hears a bunch of noises that happen in a 180-degree hemispherical field all around the room as she looks trying to track the T-1000’s location. This is a terrific demonstration of Atmos’ ability to surround a listener with audio clues from all points in the room. At 40 minutes, Sarah empties her magazine into the overhead barrels of acid, causing it to rain and drip down all into the room, really making great use of the overhead speakers blending with the floor speakers to drench you.

“Sarah Connor, put on your seatbelt!”

At 1 hour 23 in Chapter 13 we get what I think is the marquee demo of the disc. It begins with Connor walking into the bunker/armory that Arnold has set up and his voice swirls all around the room as the characters try tracking him. At 1:25 Sarah blasts him with — I believe — a Milkor M32 MGL (Multiple Grenade Launcher), sending massive explosions, debris, and fireballs around the room. Secondary explosions continue in the background before a huge fireball erupts through the center of the room.

Shortly after, Connor gives chase on a motorcycle, and he jumps overhead and lands on the roof of the bus, his motorcycle flying off and causing cars to swerve into the left and ride side of the room as they try and avoid it. Arnold and Kyle blast away at Connor, shooting holes into the ceiling and you can clearly hear the thin metal of the bus’s roof buckling as John walks around overhead, letting you accurately track his movements through all four ceiling speakers. At 1:27 you hear John move down the left side of the bus and crawl underneath, where he throws Arnold through the windshield of a cop car providing a gimmicky, though effective, bit of 3D fun. Moments later Connor rips the brakes off the bus, throwing them past your head into the back of the room causing the bus to go careening and smashing along the Golden Gate Bridge. Fortunately, they don’t need to worry about not having any brakes because Connor rips out the axle at 1:28 making the bus flip in the air and spin end-over-end through the room delivering an epic amount of low frequency info into the room. The bus rolls for a bit before coming to rest perilously hanging from the side of the bridge, tail down towards the Bay. The audio space inside the bus is filled with great subtle sounds of the bus and the bridge with creaking metal groaning and other ambient sounds as Kyle and Sarah climb out to safety.

“We’re here to stop the end of the world”

I think helicopters are Atmos’ gift to all the sound mixers of the world, and Chapter 14 uses them to great affect during an escape from the police station. At 1:35 the group goes onto the SFPD’s rooftop helipad and jumps into a copter, the sounds of the blades spinning up over your head. Connor starts attacking and there is the steady pop-pop-pop of fire as he moves around the room shooting on the go. The helicopter slides off the side of the building and swoops overhead, with Connor pursuing in a second chopper. The helos scurry around the city, dodging through buildings and just over traffic, giving a wonderful sense of things passing close by on both sides and overhead. When Connor’s copter crashes it spins violently out of control all around the room, before bursting into a fireball. The scene is relatively short — about four minutes start to end — but is action packed and makes a terrific demo that won’t leave anyone wondering what all the overhead speaker fuss is all about.

Genisys Coming On-line

The grand finale battle is lengthy and has no shortage of gunfire, explosions, and subwoofer challenging, Terminator-filled destruction and mayhem. My favorite part begins at 1:47 in Chapter 16 where Genisys is talking to Kyle through various video cameras. Kyle shoots at the camera and the shot explodes high and loud in the ceiling right over your left shoulder. Machine Connor then pummels on Arnold, producing bass that you’ll feel in your bones. The battle culminates in the time portal at 1:50 giving another huge swirling effect as Sarah and Reese run to the safety of the steel bunker. At 1:52 Arnold is spit out of the portal, whipping past the left side of the room and thrown into a pool of liquid metal, right before a massive explosion blasts through the room, the seething fireball destroying the complex.

But what about Arnold? Not dead, just upgraded. And ready for more…? “One thing we know for sure; the future is not set.”