John Connor sends Kyle Reese back to 1984 to look after his mum Sarah, and in the process finds himself in a franchise-rebooting timeline.
Director: Alan Taylor
Staring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Matt Smith
Run Time: 125 Minutes
Release Date: Out now (US)/3 July 2015 (Europe)
The original two Terminator movies are revered to this day, while the third outing and Salvation aren’t quite held in the same regard. From the get-go, this puts Genisys (and we still don’t know why the spelling is what it is) in an unenviable position of needing to be better than 3 and 4, and good enough not to desecrate the originals.
It fails on both counts.
Devoid of good acting, competent scripting, impressive CGI and everything else that can make a movie great, Alan Taylor’s attempt at a franchise-continuing and -restarting is doomed from the beginning.
Following an encouraging start, and an opening 20 minutes that offers homages and winks aplenty to James Cameron’s original two outings, the film finds the nearest cliff and leaps off it. An admittedly-impressive photo-realistic take on Arnie’s 1984 Terminator offers early promise, but as the film goes on and different time periods get visited, any goodwill is quickly eradicated. Arnie tries, bless him, but he is given virtually nothing to work with and by the end, attempts to establish new catchphrases are put to one side and we get retreads of the old (and soon obsolete) ‘classics’. Once the main plot point is established – though there are many more not given the same treatment – the film gives up on trying to be a solid part of the series and descends into farce.
Schwarzenegger’s main role here, aside from blatant attempt to draw viewers to another Terminator film, appears to be that of plot exposition; “If there is something that viewers may not understand, just give Arnold this line to explain it” seems to be the script missive. Hearing Schwarzenegger explain nexus flows and how a laughable attempt at time travel should be understood is almost as hilarious as Jai Courtney’s latest attempt to lead a franchise. Oh yes, his ‘performance’ in A Good Day to Die Hard has not been forgotten, and there is a real danger now that he will become synonymous with the death of a series. No-one is pleading for a new John McClain adventure, nor should anyone be clamouring for another visit to whatever the hell time period we end up in next in the Terminator series.
Let’s not be too hard on Mr Courtney though, as he isn’t exactly surrounded by sterling performances; though Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor offers a lot of spirit (and fans will be happy to see Clarke make it to a major Hollywood title following five years nurturing dragons on Game of Thrones), but the writing of the character makes it difficult to truly get behind, as well as the increasing knowledge that she will revert into typical movie heroine who will kiss the main male lead by the film’s end.
And as far as the film’s other Clarke, Jason has shown in Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that a competent and engaging actor lies beneath the surface. Unfortunately here, we only get surface. In fairness, he has to present a character that has been written so poorly, with little-to-no development and a naturally-unlikable personality. Note to the writers: self-awareness and humility are required in movie characters that we should be cheering on.
Stepping into the shoes of someone like James Cameron for such a loved (well, the first two anyway) franchise is daunting, however Taylor should be commended on some counts. He handles big action scenes well, as demonstrated in Thor: The Dark World, though you will soon tire of the levels of destruction that plays off more like a Michael Bay dream. He may want to have a word with the marketing team, however, as their decision to show off the movie’s biggest plot twist in the trailers makes even less sense now than before. Admittedly, it would hardly have improved the film, but at least some unexpected drama – with next-to-no real explanation for – would have existed.
To sum up Genisys (and again, please explain the ludicrous spelling); Quite simply, the first half plays like someone has watched the original two films, then cut and pasted the action scenes without the story substance. The second half plays like it was written by someone who’d never seen a Terminator movie.
And who thought that horribly-shocking Bad Boys montage was a good idea?