A Terminator sequel/prequel/reboot/uncategorized instalment being inevitable, Director Alan Taylor (Thor 2) has gone the route of the recent Star Trek adaptations and set the summer blockbuster in an alternate yet very familiar timeline.
Kicking off in the post-apocalyptic, machine-ridden Skynet wasteland that is earth, world saviour John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (now Jai Courtney) back in time to save his mother Sarah (Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke) from a T-800 model Terminator (a very young, digitally-enhanced Arnold Schwarzenegger). Before he leaves, a new Skynet model (Doctor Who’s Matt Smith) attacks Connor. Rocking up in 1984, Kyle finds that the timeline is all screwed up and a very clued-in Sarah has teamed up with another T-800 model (an older, less digitally-enhanced Arnie). If you don’t want to know any more, don’t watch the trailer.
Despite confusing time mechanics that even Matt Smith couldn’t explain, this is a very fun action-epic even if it relies almost entirely on nostalgia-inducing allusions to its predecessors. A bus chase across the Golden Gate Bridge stands out, along with a visually-arresting sequence featuring an MRI machine. Funny and light-hearted at times, Genisys’ producers even pay lip-service to the long-running joke of Skynet resembling real-life tech multinationals, something that will not be lost on anyone with an itunes account.
Arnie is a pleasure at any rate, fondly reprising his famous role and providing the right combination of humour, thrill and nostalgia that the film needed. Lacking a clear antagonist and Cameron’s mastery, Genisys would have been bland and forgettable if not for Schwarzenegger’s presence.
Clarke and Courtney have no way near the chemistry or dogged perseverance of either Linda Hamilton or Michael Biehn, inspiring none of the tension or horror of the early 80’s classic. To date, there has not been an entry which has matched the terror of the franchise’s low-budget original and its treatment of the relentless machine, Genisys joining the other sequels by opting for larger-scale set pieces and convincing CGI over the grittier action sequences which made the original so popular.
A greatest hits compilation of the Terminator series most iconic moments, Genisys gets too bogged down in time machinations and working in fan-references to far better films to stand on its own. Not the original but easily the best Terminator film since Judgement Day, Genisys is a thrilling yet all too-familiar entry in the franchise.