He always said he’d be back…
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
Directed by: Alan Taylor / Written by: Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier / 126 minutes
What’s it about?
In a war torn future where machines are intent on humanity’s extinction, resistance leader John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah. On his arrival, Reese discovers that the past is not exactly as he was told it would be…
Like Arnie himself, the Terminator franchise refuses to stay inactive. Whilst James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are considered to be solid cinematic masterpieces, subsequent Cameron-less installments Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation were found to be, well, lacking. Now arrives Terminator Genisys and with it the hopes of reinvigorating a beloved and valuable Hollywood property.
Despite the torrent of negative opinion that has preceded the film’s release, Terminator Genisys is actually a fun, exciting and visually impressive science fiction blockbuster that is appreciably superior to Rise of the Machines and Salvation. Employing the Terminator franchise’s time travel concepts to good effect, Genisys serves as part sequel/part reboot as it takes its lead from Cameron’s films and creates a divergent timeline (a la J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) where new stories can be told – “the future’s not set” as we were told in T2. It’s a device that also allows for some nifty twists and turns, some of which have sadly been spoiled in the film’s marketing (and diminishing the impact of one particular plot element).
Whilst Terminator Genisys doesn’t hit the heights of T1 or T2 (nor would it ever have hoped or expected to be), for those prepared to go in with an open mind and realistic expectations, there’s still much to enjoy. Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his most iconic role as the T-800 model Terminator, much as you remember him from those previous outings – stoic, resourceful and armed to the tooth. Affectionately nicknamed “Pops”, there’s subtle hints of warmth seeping from inside that cold metal exoskeleton as Arnie’s reprogrammed T-800 plays surrogate father and protector to Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor. It’s not quite as resonant as the relationship we saw played out in T2 but helps establish the emotional core of Genisys.
Given the overly dour tone of Terminator Salvation, Genisys opts to incorporate a fair amount of humour that for the most part succeeds – not as well balanced as Judgment Day but, bar the odd moment, is less jarring than some of the silliness of Rise of the Machines.
Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke presents a version of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor that is somewhere between that of T1 and T2, melding elements of youthful naivety with that of battle hardened resistance fighter – allowing for some good interplay with Arnie’s “old, not obsolete” cyborg. Jai Courtney (unfortunate to have made his Hollywood break in the abysmal A Good Day to Die Hard) is surprisingly decent in the role of Kyle Reese, although lacking the grit and intensity of Michael Biehn’s turn in The Terminator (and the “special edition” cut of T2) it’s a take that feels appropriate in Genisys.
Jason Clarke is afforded the opportunity to add new layers to resistance leader John Connor, whilst also conveying the familiar weariness and determination we’ve seen previously. There’s also another enjoyably creepy and haunting interpretation of the liquid metal T-1000, brought to life this time by South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee. Sadly, J.K. Simmons is given little to chew on in a semi-comedic role as a washed out L.A. cop and Dayo Okeniyi’s Danny Dyson isn’t given much presence either. The same could have also been said for Doctor Who’s Matt Smith (credited as Matthew Smith), yet his role carries more significance.
Aided by a lavish production budget, director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) delivers some excellent CGI-infused blockbuster set-pieces in Terminator Genisys, from the opening future war battles of Los Angeles 2029 to the climactic showdown in San Francisco – it’s all as explosive and frenetic as today’s audiences would expect but never verges on nauseating. It’s also laudable that Taylor stages recreations of key moments of Cameron’s The Terminator with skill and reverence and coupled with references to Terminator lore peppered throughout there’s plenty for fans to be geeky about.
The bottom line: Terminator Genisys is a decent stab at reinvigorating a beloved, albeit creatively mixed, franchise. It’s as fun and exciting as a modern Terminator film could hope to be and is well worth a look.
Terminator Genisys is in cinemas now.