Review – Terminator Genisys

He said he’d be back, and sure enough Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the franchise that made his name for this convoluted and confounding exercise in everything-and-the-kitchen-sink filmmaking.

This is the start of a supposed trilogy - on the basis of Terminator Genisys, Judgement Day can't come soon enough

This is the start of a supposed trilogy – on the basis of Terminator Genisys, Judgement Day can’t come soon enough

James Cameron may not be everyone’s favourite director, but in The Terminator (1984) and its game-changing sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) he kept the narratives straightforward, the characters interesting and the action eye-popping.

Cameron was smart enough to avoid getting bogged down by the head-scratching ins and outs of time travel; instead using it as a device to drive the action rather than the other way around.

I'll be back...again: 'Pops' (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Terminator Genisys

I’ll be back…again: ‘Pops’ (Arnold Schwarzenegger) in Terminator Genisys

Alas, the same cannot be said of Terminator Genisys, which ignores the events of Rise Of The Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) – no bad thing – and instead tries to have its cake and eat it by invoking Cameron’s first two installments whilst rebooting the franchise.

It’s a tactic that is becoming increasingly popular in Hollywood following the success of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek (2009), which cleverly took the Trek franchise down an alternate timeline whilst still keeping everything that made the series so successful in the first place.

John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) take the war to the machines in Terminator Genisys

John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) take the war to the machines in Terminator Genisys

Here, director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) faced an uphill task from the word go, working from a nonsensical script by Shutter Island scribe Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, whose most recent credit is, er, Drive Angry, and delivering a movie that has the whiff of studio interference all over it.

The messy trailers didn’t exactly sell the film and a later trailer (not the one I’ve linked to in my review) stupidly gave away a crucial plot twist – a sign that usually signals a studio’s lack of belief in a product.

Genisys follows resistance fighter Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), who is sent from a 2029 ravaged by Skynet’s apocalyptic destruction back to 1984 by leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) to protect his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke – no relation) from a Terminator, or Terminators as it turns out. However, Kyle gets a shock when it emerges that Sarah isn’t the defenceless waitress he’s been expecting, but rather a kick-ass soldier who has been protected from childhood by a reprogrammed T-800 model Terminator (Schwarzenegger).

Hanging out: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) in Terminator Genisys

Hanging out: Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) in Terminator Genisys

That just about covers the first 20-30 minutes, which actually promises much before the shark gets truly jumped over and the time travel-laden plot goes off the deep end.

The method behind Skynet’s ploy to achieve world domination is at least relevant to the digital age, but by treading over Cameron’s original the film ties itself up in a ridiculous amount of plot threads to get to where it needs to; with lazy waffle about time nexuses and dual realities served up as creaky bridging points to keep the whole thing from crashing and burning (and failing in the process).

Whilst the script goes off in a multitude of head-scratching tangents, the film attempts to divert the audience’s attention away from picking black hole-sized holes in the plot (who sent Arnie back to protect a young Sarah? Actually, who cares) by piling in action set piece after action set piece. Machines that Cameron’s movies built up to be near unstoppable killers are disposed of with relative ease early doors to make way for the central villain, whose identity is the film’s supposed ace card but only serves to undermine the first two, far superior, installments.

Can you guess which Terminator this is? Nope, neither can I.

Can you guess which Terminator this is? Nope, neither can I.

Arnie is clearly having a good time as everyone’s favourite cyborg. Although the explanation for an ageing Terminator isn’t entirely convincing, it does allow him to point out to all the haters that he is “old, not obsolete”. Emilia Clarke is given a rather thankless task in an underwritten role and the chemistry she shares with a very average Courtney is, at best, tepid.

Jason Clarke, meanwhile, looks like he’s treading water waiting for the next Apes picture, while JK Simmons gets to loosen up in a fun role as a police officer who’s lucky to be alive and Matt Smith, like so many others, gets virtually nothing to do.

This is the start of a supposed trilogy – on the basis of Terminator Genisys, Judgement Day can’t come soon enough.

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17 comments

  1. theipc · July 15, 2015

    HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM Not sold on seeing this in the theater but I’ll check it On Demand.

    Nice post! Good lad!

  2. jameshaseltine · July 15, 2015

    Great closing line!

  3. Tom · July 16, 2015

    Yeah this franchise really needs to be over. I can’t imagine a way that any further films are going to be *any* kind of improvement, even over this. And being better than Genisys isn’t exactly saying you’re competing to be the next T2. Haha. Unfair standards, perhaps, but man. Someone cut the cord on these robots already jesus. That said, I did enjoy myself here watching Arnold making those incredibly creepy, awkward fake-smiles. Lol!

    • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2015

      Yeah, that smie wasn’t funny was it? Just a bit pointless – and odd. The relative box office office compared to Furious 7 or Jurassic World has raised serious questions over a sequel – it’s Terminator: Salvation all over again.

      • Tom · July 28, 2015

        Some part of me giggled at Arnie twisting his face into that creepy smile but I think you’re right though. It definitely was forced and felt odd. A far step removed from his badassery in the originals! Goodness only knows how they hope to pull off any more films from here. . .

  4. Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop · July 16, 2015

    Pretty spot on here mate. Part of me enjoyed some of the action scenes but the plot is just an incoherent mess. The way they literally just ignore who sent the original Arnie back is laughable, saying that it’s classified or something. I also have an issue with how they’ve turned this into a 12A to cater for a younger audience who are technically still too young to watch the originals.

    • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2015

      Glad we’re on the same page. The fact that the whole ‘Pops’ Arnie thing, bearing in mind how central it is to the plot, was brushed under the carpet was a critical error on the film’s part; one it never recovered from.

  5. The Telltale Mind · July 16, 2015

    I liked it quite a bit. Your points are all valid, but I don’t think they went in to reinvent the wheel. I think it was simply to get people reacquainted with the familiar before they went all out in the next one.

    • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2015

      Glad you enjoyed it. In terms of reinventing the wheel, I felt they were trying to have their cake and eat it by leaning on the original and putting their own – unecessarily convoluted – spin on the franchise. Believe me, I wanted to enjoy this; i just left feeling it was an opportunity missed.

  6. Consumed by Film · July 16, 2015

    This movie was such a damp squib, right? Plot arcs left, right and centre. At least Arnie was fun to watch. Great review mate!

    • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2015

      Cheers mate; I think ‘damp squib’ just about sums it up 🙂

  7. ruth · July 17, 2015

    Hi Mark! I missed the press screening of this one, but after reading the reviews I’m kinda glad I did. Apart from Arnie, I don’t feel that any of the cast fits the role. I think Lena Heady was a much more suitable Sarah Conor (which she did in the TV series) than her GoT co-star Emilia Clarke.

    • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2015

      I liked The Sarah Connor Chronicles; I thought that show didn’t get the chance it deserved. They had to have Connor as a soldier to fit the ascetic of the movie, but the fact they couldn’t bother to explain how ‘Pops’ was sent back to the ’70s was just ridiculous.

  8. mlbradford · July 17, 2015

    Too bad th film cldn’t have been as coherent & clever as this review, man!
    I HATE IT when 1 or 2 people are dangling from a great height, and there is always ALWAYS! someone w superhuman strength to hold them and spurt some shit about “Don’t let go!” – most overblown/repeated cliche in movies now and it has become so irritating.
    Please mind th rant and accept this Creative Blogger Award:
    http://bradscribe.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/fistful-of-awards/
    Cheers!

    • Three Rows Back · July 27, 2015

      Most kind! This film enjoys its cliches doesn’t it! Thank you for the award; I very much appreciate it. Sorry for the late reply – I’ve been struggling to find the time to spend on my blog recently; hopefully that will change now I’ve got a little more time. Thanks again!

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