Terminator: Genisys – Film Review

Director: Alan Taylor

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke

Release Date: 2nd July

Terminator: Genisys is a dumb, dumb movie.

Most will have gathered that from the subtitle alone. This is an action movie that aims to deliver stress-free, family fun in broad strokes, with little attention paid to finer details. Such as logic. Or character development.

The concept is similar to 2009’s Star Trek. This is a reboot that theoretically remains canon with the main series by incorporating time-travel and alternative time-lines. Kyle Reese (Courtney) once again travels back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Clarke) so that she can give birth to John Connor (Clarke). Like the T-800 however, things are not as they seem on the surface.

Sarah Connor is a badass mercenary, not a waitress, and she doesn’t want her destiny decided for her. The Terminator gets his ass handed to him by the Terminator: wrinkly edition. The T-1000 from Judgement Day is walking around aimlessly, like he owns the place. And Jai Courtney mysteriously seems to think that he can now act his way out of a paper bag.
If you mashed the first two entries together, you’d basically get this chaotic mess.

Before condemning the film however, it should be praised for one thing that the last two, criminally dull installments in the franchise missed out on entirely: It’s actually a fun ride.
This might seem like a difficult pill to swallow, considering how much stigma surrounds the term ‘family-fun’ and PG-12 ratings. Before making any harsh judgments, remember that the Marvel movies are geared towards providing ‘family fun’ as well. And people seem to like them quite a bit.

Alan Taylor, fresh off Thor: The Dark World, brings his style of CGI whimsy to the Terminator franchise and, to his credit, the action sequences are engaging, even if they’re not particularly memorable. The much-toted helicopter scene from the trailers is suitably ridiculous.
And one thing from the 80’s that will never change: there’s a ton of satisfaction to be had in watching Arnie get into escalating fist-fights. It all counts for very little, considering what’s at stake. This is always the case in time-travel movies, which all have their own reset button. But like most modern action movies, it’s a distracting light show while it lasts.

For die-hard fans of the franchise, this is going to seem like a fairly weak compromise. In an effort to make the series fun again, this installment sacrifices a lot.
The relationship between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor looks like it’s going to be set up as an interesting comrades-in-arms sort of scenario. Instead, it waddles pathetically down the tried and tested rom-com route, with sassy “I don’t like you, but we need to work together” dialogue.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Jai Courtney is Lieutenant Bland, but Game of Thrones fans are going to be disappointed with the lead actress as well. Emilia Clarke is the polar opposite of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, exhibiting none of the fierce assertiveness that she nailed in Judgement Day.
It’s ironic that, in this installment, she is meant to be colder and more ruthless than ever. According to the plot, she’s been training for the events of this film since she was a little girl. Instead, she is just a sassy damsel in distress. She is constantly in need of assistance but is pretty quick to criticize Reese, in order to lend the rom-com aspect of the story some credence. Courtney is bland, but Clarke is a staggering misstep in the casting, almost certainly roped in based on her popularity.

As a result of this and other elements, the central theme of the film is quite fittingly a sense of misplacement. This comes across most notably in the tone which, as mentioned, is very whimsical. There is a brief scene in a prison that feels like it could have been lifted right out of a Paul Feig comedy, even going so far as to make fun of Emilia Clarke’s height (and yet this still didn’t set off alarm bells for anybody in the casting crew).

The one area that this works, albeit shakily, is with Arnie himself. It’s totally out of character for the Terminator to crack wise or make cutting remarks in total monotone. In the older films, it wouldn’t have worked.
With the Governor of California returning to action movies after a long hiatus however, it feels oddly right. Seeing Arnie mocking Reese’s manhood, robotically asking people to “Bite me” and utilizing that creepy grin at inappropriate moments, it all just comes together in a guilty pleasure that could easily be renamed ‘The Arnie Variety Hour’.

Enjoy the film for these segments if you can, because between the humour and the action, there is little else going on worth mentioning. The plot is littered with holes, all of which can lazily be explained with ‘time-travel’, frustrating as that might be. The presence of the T-1000 in particular is a total mystery, but you are left to fill in the gaps yourself.

The film wanders briefly into intellectual territory at one stage before running back out again, screaming:
The year 2017 is essentially the same as the current day, but by focusing on a lot existing gadget-y tech, such as iPads and Bluetooth, it is distinctly portrayed as futuristic. The film doesn’t do much with this other than the simple message the original film already hammered home: technology might be bad.

Genisys is totally at odds with the previous installments, but with such blatant disregard for the franchise, the film affords itself some freedom to be its own thing.
As such, it can just about afford to be exactly what it is: a mindless action movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger thriving off the ridiculousness of it all.

Terminator fans will hate it, action fans will enjoy it, but it’s doubtful anyone out there is going to love it.

Score: 3/5
Written by Stephen Hill

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