Terminator: Genisys (12A)
“Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The T-800”
UK Release Date: Out Now
Written By Jack Bottomley
It is 2015, or so they say, to be honest with Bush and Clinton throwing their names in for presidency, a Jurassic Park film dominating the world and Arnold Schwarzenegger heading up a Terminator film, we’re beginning to wonder. However, whatever the year, one series that seems to ironically not have been limited by its era is the Terminator series. Indeed as the years have passed since, the Terminator series is one that has become more relevant. Starting with James Cameron’s 1984 breakout masterpiece (The Terminator) and his groundbreaking 1991 sequel (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), the series has continued to thunder on. However after audiences and critics met Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and McG’s Arnie-less (well, kind of) reboot/prequel (or rather future-quel) Terminator Salvation (2009) with a degree of bemusement, the franchise started to get a little rusty at the pistons. And so we arrive at Genisys, a film that sees the original series star return, features a great cast and closeness to Cameron’s films not to mention praise from the man himself. So how did this film end up being the worst reviewed of the series? How indeed…
Critics have shot the hell out of this sequel/reboot and while there is a great deal of validation for this (lets not kid ourselves Genisys puts many a foot wrong) after witnessing what has been called “a car crash”, “abysmal” and “a franchise betrayal”, you have to wonder just how many people were going in with more hate than a Skynet server. The spoileriffic trailer ahead of release, as well as some questionable effects work and a naff looking title were indeed a cause for concern but after walking out of Genisys (after the credits- there is an extra scene folks), say what you like but it can be called anything but lazy. The film sees John Connor (Jason Clarke) lead mankind to the verge of victory in the war against the machines in 2029, however he knows Skynet’s plan to send a machine back to 1984 and sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to stop ‘The Terminator’ from altering the course of history. So far, so familiar, right? Well things do not quite pan out the way they did before, as Reese is soon met by a very prepared Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke) and her older looking T-800 Guardian (Schwarzenegger). The game has changed and the fight to stop Skynet is filled with more twists, turns and unexpected perils than ever expected.
Admittedly Genisys is a film set to divide opinion, the more nostalgic may well hate the revisionist narrative whereas more open-minded fans should find something here to enjoy. Genisys is hard to talk about without spoiling in some way, so I will simply say that it is barmy. From start to finish, the time jumping, history altering, age-leaping plot spanks your brain to the point where it is left as red as the Terminator’s eyes. Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier’s script is a very noble attempt to tell a worthwhile story, one that connects to and then alters the established mythos, as well as highlighting our modern day reliance on technology. Sadly Lussier and Kalogridis have also over plotted, making the film overly complex, as well as desperately trying to justify it existing. So yes, Alan Taylor’s (Thor: The Dark World) film is hard to follow but if you just roll with the magnetised punches, there are some very accomplished ideas within.
The characters, like the film as a whole, suffer by comparison to the originals but on its own merits Genisys is a solid blockbuster. Jai Courtney is not as charismatic as Michael Biehn, nor does his Reese strike the same chemistry with Emila Clarke’s capable Sarah Conner. That said both actors fit their parts well enough, although they do feel more drawn from TV. However the fine support offered by an action ready Jason Clarke and underused but screen-enlivening J.K. Simmons helps a great deal. However Genisys’ real glue is its main attraction and not for the reason you might think. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return as the T-800 is not just fun for throwback reasons; it is fun because Arnie tackles the role in a fresher manner than expected. Without him, the film would succumb to it’s many flaws, but his performance is fun, engaging and his Guardian T-800 and Clarke’s Sarah Conner relationship is the film’s most compelling angle. Truly, their history (left open for expansion) is what draws you in and simply put Genisys belongs to Arnie, who (via some great make up) delivers a multi-era set, layered and undeniably powerful performance.
As the film races towards its inevitable CGI-heavy action closure, you may well be lost in the details but Taylor keeps on systematically providing the set pieces, the twists and the action. Some things may not work but a great bus chase, badass moment involving acid and a very tender moment in a weapons bunker all add to a string of notable moments that do. Genisys is crazy, occasionally nonsensical and yet undeniably interesting. Intended as the first film in a new trilogy, it may well be end up being the last but something tells me that, like Skynet, this franchise will find a way to keep on going. And do you know something? For all the hate this has received, I would not mind the machines rising again. Hell, you may even find things I missed and love it! Fans have certainly being taking to it better than critics. I am not saying Genisys is spectacular (far from it) but it is weird, different and a film that genuinely tries to prove (and makes decent case for itself) that, like Arnie’s central figure, this franchise is “old but not obsolete”. It’s imperfect but far away from the fifth film doldrums of Rocky V and A Good Day To Die Hard. Give it a go people; it really is not as bad as they say, in fact it boasts some rather enjoyable ideas!