ByTeresa D Lee, writer at
Writer, Script Supervisor, 1st/2nd AD, on Twitter as @euphoriafish.
Teresa D Lee

Fans on Reddit say, a LOT.

Commented opinions in Terminator Genisys discussions include that he lacks facial expressions, he looks nothing like Kyle Reese, and he hasn't been good since his death scene in Spartacus as Varro.

And then I saw this on Moviepilot.

"Jai Courtney acts with a low-key, quiet determination that conveys a gravitas that goes well beyond his years." -- Arnold Schwartzeneggar (?) or Moviepilot Magazine editorial staff?

Citation is needed:,share_fb,share_twitter via @moviepilotnews

I actually would have said the above quote about Matt Smith, but he’s Skynet now so I guess we’re not supposed to sympathize with him this time. Of course, I did anyway because my opinion is that he has many more subtle expressions and more vocal gravitas (albeit in a higher vocal register) than Jai Courtney. I like his character persona as an omniscient time traveler, political expert, and now cyber planner kill bot general.

A lot of fans are bashing Jai Courtney’s portrayal of Kyle Reese in Terminator Genisys, and I wrote that he could be the film’s Achilles heel when I was forming my own opinions of it.

I truly don’t, however, have a personal grudge against Jai Courtney and I doubt you do either. In his Reddit AMA he seems a nice enough guy who knows his strengths and is humble about what he's done while working toward bigger roles. He says in this discussion he wants to make a film about the Sydney Harbor Bridge wherein he'd probably play the bridge, so he clearly can take jokes even about himself and his being typecast as strong henchmen.

The formula of Terminator Genisys’s script seems to be “negate all character roles to shake up audience assumptions.” Sarah Connor is no longer a victim and instead more like Final Fantasy VIII’s Squall-- a wounded warrior fated with great responsibility (though thankfully not nearly as mopey). And to allow her to be that stronger focus in the series, Kyle Reese is more vulnerable. Maybe the fan anger is toward the development that Kyle Reese is no longer the main hero but is now a henchman to Sarah Connor?

As fans we shouldn’t hate on actors for portraying characters as written. And it was too his credit that he didn’t try to be the stronger Reese from The Terminator, because that would have worked against the more gender equal turn the series is taking.

The scene with Reese that worked best for me is the new hospital scene when Reese and Sarah start a distractionary fight with each other to escape police custody. “I didn’t mean MOST of what I said about you.” Following that, for the rest of the film he fights with strength in the action while following Sarah in the dialogue because she and Pops now have more knowledge and foresight about the machine strategies.

That he’s thrown off guard and is no longer a stereotypical male protector is good for us in the audience. The arc of Sarah Connor in the Terminator series is what makes it more than just a meatheaded gorefest. Her character is the one that most displays humanity in contrast to cold machine strategies of killing.

There are more than enough moments still where Reese performs well enough as a soldier. He’s just not the leader of the team anymore because his victim no longer needs saving. He is as strong as he can be in a more subordinate team position.

As to acting, let’s admit that most of us in the audience are not actors; we just know what we are seeing and how it emotionally effects us. After we acknowledge that maybe we think it’s weak to see Reese follow instead of lead, let’s look at what Courtney actually did with him. I thought he had more subtle facial expressions than in his death scene as Varro in Spartacus, and that’s good since too much emotion from him would have weakened an already weaker character.

I personally would have hated him more if he’d come across like Eric in Divergent:

where he’s such an alpha male putting Tris in her place as a newb.

I haven't read Divergent or seen the whole movie but this domineering gym rat persona grates on my nerves and I subconsciously read moments like that as a devaluation of female characters that both Divergent and Terminator are balancing out with their stronger female characters.

I also have to say I saw Jack Reacher on TV lately and did not notice Courtney's agent character next to an extremely chauvinistic Tom Cruise. But I think I've found my own problem with Jai Courtney, knowing that he reached international fame as Bruce Willis's character's son in A Good Day to Die Hard. He’s had a string of jock characters that are turning his persona into either the next Bruce Willis or Vin Diesel.

I am so sick of Vin Diesel. If enough other people are not, maybe I'm just not his target audience. But so far Jai Courtney looks like another copy of that model and he hasn't even been taken by the T-1000s yet.

At least Terminator Genisys gave Courtney a character we liked already, even as the story makes him less relevant. His relevance could all change again in the next film and the next until either Reese becomes humanity’s savior instead of the Connors, or else he is never even born.

Could Terminator Genisys be a return to the more intelligent, empathy-worthy action hero path as in A Good Day to Die Hard? Maybe, like Bruce Willis, he should be in a comedy or subtle thriller some time. He seems good natured.


What do you think, is Jai Courtney picking annoying characters or does he play decent characters in an annoying Vin Diesel-ish way?


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