DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor
SCREENPLAY: Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier
STARRING: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
RUNNING TIME: 126 mins
Reviewed by Abbas Daya
It’s been about six years since the last Terminator film, Terminator Salvation, was released and the hype surrounding Terminator Genisys left many drooling in anticipation. It stars the even more droolworthy Emilia Clarke, Daenerys of Game of Thrones fame, as Sarah Connor; Jason Clarke as John Connor, the hero of the resistance and the Austrian Oak, Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in the flesh and metal, as the titular cyborg.
Terminator Genisys seeks to reboot the franchise by going back to the plotline of the original 1984 film. It opens with John Connor leading a resistance attack against Skynet (the evil AI that controlls all machines). The attack is not just meant to destroy the silicon despot but also to smash a time machine Skynet will use to send a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor, John’s mum, thus preventing the resistance ever forming. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is the soldier sent to protect Sarah and to father John.
“Yeah, yeah,” I hear you scoff, “this is old hat!” But hang on folks – it’s not that simple!
Reece arrives in LA in a nostalgic recreation of the original film, preceded with sizzling tendrils of energy, dumped naked in an alley and what follows is a homage to the 1984 original with some nifty twists thrown in.
After first encountering a tramp (and all fans of the original will remember it) Reece flees a policeman but not before discovering that said cop is actually a T1000 liquid metal Terminator. This is the first of many twists, the next coming after Kyle has broken into the department store and filched those familiar Nike trainers and duffel coat. He is caught by a pair of policemen and attacked by the T1000 as they are escorting him out. His bacon is saved by the appearance of a T800 (Arnie) working with Sarah Connor, now a streetwise bad-ass, fully aware of Skynet and Judgement Day, not the wide-eyed naïve woman he was supposed to save. From here on in, the trio jump into various futures, filled with standard action staples, chases, gun fights, explosions and hair-raising stunts, in a bid to save humanity by destroying Skynet. They also have to contend with, yup, you guessed it, yet another new breed of Terminator!
So what’s good about the film?
Who doesn’t love Arnie? He IS the Terminator. An actor, naturally gifted with the sort of wooden and stiff performance that makes him perfect in the role. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, if he ever did. The Terminator may be old but he’s still scary – even, perhaps especially, when he smiles – and Schwarzenegger relishes the opportunity for a few funny lines.
Emilia Clarke does a pretty impressive job as a tough, young Sarah Connor and Jason Clarke is a convincing John Connor, scars and all. Jai Courtney is amusing as the somewhat dazed Reece, though it must be said, nowhere near as good as Michael Biehn in the original. J. K. Simmons’ Detective O’Brien brings much needed light relief to the action.
The story starts off well but ultimately doesn’t quite work. The idea of skewed time lines is full of potential but tricky to pull off and Terminator Genisys doesn’t manage it.. The film felt too rushed, with plot elements left unanswered. The leap frogging through different futures made my head spin and the twists in the plot may have been designed to be novel and lend weight to the story but were weak and badly conceived. The final twist was also predictable. I was left feeling unsatisfied, there was nothing new here, just a rehash of old story lines interspersed with clichéd action film tropes and new faces.
The original Terminator and Terminator 2 had real meat, with Terminator Genesys we’re offered a snack as opposed to a proper meal.