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Terminator Genisys Review


The 2015 nostalgia train continues chugs ever forward, and after stops at Mad Max and Jurassic Park, now it pulls into the Terminator station with Alan Taylor’s Terminator Genisys, a reboot in the vain of 2009’s Star Trek (but more final in its intention), which takes elements from all four movies in the franchise (even cribbing from t.v show The Sarah Connor Chronicles at one point) to create an entertaining, if not entirely perfect, Terminator stew.

A lot has been made of this movie’s approach to push the reset button on the franchise, using The Terminator as a starting point to spin it off in an entirely new direction, and for at least the first half of Genisys, this approach works. The familiar beats are there: John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading the human resistance in 2029 against Skynet and its army of machines. A Terminator is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) before John is born. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back to protect Sarah. When Reese reaches 1984, he realises that things are very different. The main difference is Sarah doesn’t need much protecting, having being raised from the age of nine to be the ultimate bad ass by The Guardian, a reprogrammed Terminator with human tissue that ages (an excuse really to have Arnold Schwarzenegger and go easy on the anti aging effects), who she lovingly calls ‘pops’.

When it's threading the worn path of The Terminator, and to a certain extent Terminator 2, Genisys works surprisingly well. It doesn’t overburden itself with homage (the biggies are in there, like a thumbs up or certain lines being requoted, but that’s about it), and watching what came before branch off into unrecognisable outcomes is kind of a blast, especially when seeing The Guardian throw down with his younger self fresh out of the time vortex. Taylor captures the period look quite well, and the early action scenes, as our heroic trio fend off Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000, do a great job of getting you fully immersed in the story, despite some dodgy effects here and there. Also, the mind boggling fact that T-1000’s liquid metal effects haven’t changed one bit since 1991 is hard to shake once you realise it. When Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier’s script starts to strike out on its own, that’s when the cracks begin to show, not to mention we have to deal with some truly awkward exposition that just seems dumped into the proceedings. The middle act sees the story almost stop as it tries to explain the new status quo. Thank god, for J.K. Simmons', fulfilling the Dr. Silberman role here, presence as the comic relief, because he makes the endless exposition and gaping plot holes that much easier to bear. Then there’s that plot twist that was revealed in the trailer (which is below, so don’t watch it if it has somehow passed you by). As it is in the film, it’s reveal would have had much more power if we hadn’t all known months in advance, and just adds up to another explanation we have to wade through.

Where Terminator Genisys is at its best is in the action sequences, and Taylor seems to be having a blast trying to top himself with each one. Each set piece is suitably impressive, and while every effect isn’t perfect, it does nothing to dull the enjoyment of the mayhem he has wrought on screen. They do seem ill served by the script, which is becoming more and more a sticking point with me. Terminator Genisys is clearly a movie that wants to be big, and most of the time it succeeds, only to be dragged down by bad plotting or lazy dialogue. The cast do a good job with what they have, with Emilia Clarke doing a good job as Sarah Connor, this version hiding a vulnerable shell underneath all the bad assery. Her relationship with Arnie’s ‘Pops’ is actually pretty sweet, and seeing Sarah almost fighting her destiny is a nice development for a character that has always been incredibly focused on one goal. Arnie doesn’t really do much different with his role, he’s the hulking protector and sometime comic relief he’s been before, but you can’t really fault it. Jai Courtney may get a bad rep at times (could it have anything to do with A Good Day to Die Hard, I wonder?), but he’s actually good here as stoic hero out of his depth. Sadly, Jason Clarke doesn’t fare as well, with his John Connor almost a macho caricature. I found myself rolling my eyes whenever he was on screen. And while a big fanfare was made of his casting, Doctor Who’s Matt Smith is given very, very little to do, though it was always  stated he would be more of a presence the two proposed sequels.

Rebooting something as iconic and beloved as the Terminator franchise, especially to this degree, was always going to be a hard sell, but Terminator Genisys just about pulls it off. While it is let down by a poor script, it is still an immensely enjoyable ride, and by far not the worst of the series.

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The Movie Bit: Terminator Genisys Review
Terminator Genisys Review
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