Review – Terminator: Genisys

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Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, JK Simmons
Director: Alan Taylor
Certificate: 12A (action, explosions)
Running Time: 126 mins
Release Date: 2nd July 2015

James Cameron recently went on record to say that he considers Terminator: Genisys to be the true third film in the Terminator franchise. While he clearly meant that it followed on rather better from the two that he directed than the official third and fourth entries, the cynic in me and everyone else couldn’t help but assume that it would be more closely related to the two shit films in the series than the two good ones. Although Terminator 3 was underrated and had a great ending, it’s still a full 24 years since there was last a properly great entry in the franchise

Now, the time travel aspect of the series is going to make this plot summary a bit complicated, so bear with me. We kick off immediately before the events of the first Terminator film. That is to say, we’re in the far future, and Skynet is about to attempt a last desperate roll of the dice by sending a Terminator back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. Kyle Reese (A Good Day to Die Hard‘s Jai Courtney) follows the computer-generated young Schwarzenegger through the portal, and we’re treated to a couple of entertaining scenes which pay a nice homage to the original. However it rapidly becomes clear that this is not the 1984 that we or Reese were expecting. This timeline’s Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) has been watched over by a Terminator since she was 9 years old – consequently she kicks some serious ass, and Arnold has an excuse for actually looking his age. Together, they need to figure out what needs to be done in this new timeline to stop Judgement Day from happening, and naturally fend off a new foe more dangerous than any they’ve faced before. “Before” being a pretty flexible term

The opening scenes actually allowed me to believe that maybe Cameron had a point after all. The alternate 1984 is more imaginative and playful than anything that Rise of the Machines or Salvation had to offer, and raises hopes that we might be in for an entertaining Back to the Future 2-style remix of what’s gone before. Unfortunately it’s not long before Genisys has run roughshod all over the franchise’s already-contradictory established rules about time travel in the interests of creating something considerably less interesting. A promising start rapidly gives way to just another conventional action blockbuster

Nothing that happens after the first half hour or so of Terminator: Genisys makes any sense beyond “because the film says so”. Whether it’s trampling a bit more on the extensively-trampled continuity of the film in the interests of creating a new antagonist, or having our heroes steal a school bus when multiple more practical vehicles are available just because somebody wanted a school bus chase action sequence, or having every line Schwarzenegger delivers sound like it was extensively workshopped to be as quotable as possible. Unfortunately it ends up sterile and unmemorable, just another sequel in just another franchise rather than the worthwhile exercise that it so easily could have been

It’s a shame, because there are some flashes of promise which deserved to be explored further. J.K. Simmons is criminally underused as a cop who sort of knows what’s going on with the Terminators – expanding his role, or better still having him play Earl Boen’s psychiatrist character from the first two films, could have made a big difference, but instead he’s sidelined after about 10 minutes onscreen. Similarly Doctor Who‘s Matt Smith deserved a bit more involvement than his insignificant bookending of the narrative. But more than anything, seeing the great opening squandered on something that ends up so hollow and generic is the biggest disappointment of all

Our Verdict: 5/10


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