Release Date: 2 July 2015
Running Time: 126 min
Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, JK Simmons
After an absence of twelve years, Arnie returns to the character that made his name. After all, he said he’d be back. So here he comes with Terminator Genisys. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been so true to his word.
Opening in the year 2029, with the war between evil supercomputer Skynet and the human resistance coming to an end, Genisys begins like an overblown, big-budget remake of 1984’s The Terminator. This time though when human soldier Kyle Reese (a crushingly bland Jai Courtney) goes back to the 80s to protect Sarah Connor, he finds her already in the care of Schwarzenegger’s aging T800 who’s been with her since childhood.
The fifth film in a franchise centred on time travel, Genisys (a spelling that’s as ugly to type as it is to read) has a plot so dense and convoluted there’s no point in trying to summarise it. The first two Terminator movies had an elegant simplicity to their stories: a killing machine is sent back in time to kill the mother of a future resistance leader, while someone else is sent back in time to protect her. Five films in and Terminator Genisys features alternate timelines, nexus points and an assortment of other sci-fi guff. The story contorts and twists to try and fit into the established mythos; there’s several times that things grind to a halt so that characters can explain what’s going on to a blank faced Jai Courtney.
Much like the recent Jurassic World, another sort-of-reboot of a beloved franchise, Terminator Genisys milks the pendulous udder of nostalgia for all it can get. There’s a smorgasbord of nods, winks and other types of pandering to fans, but again like Jurassic World these references and callbacks are lacking the brio and invention of the films that inspired them. It’s so in thrall to the iconography of the previous films that it forgets to bring anything of its own to the table. The effect is much like hearing a pub band cover a classic song.
That’s not to say that Terminator Genisys is a complete disaster – some of the VFX are incredibly impressive – it just all seems a bit shiny, expensive, and hollow. The cast are largely uninspiring, particularly the aforementioned Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke’s John Connor, but there’s enough action and explosions to divert blockbuster audiences who just want to see shit blow up.
In an age where branding and built-in audiences are a primary driver for the production of blockbusters it’s hard not to compare the movie business with the Terminator. After all the Hollywood machine is ruthless. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until every classic franchise is completely dead. There’s talk of the producers trying to squeeze another couple of sequels in before 2019 when the rights revert to series creator James Cameron. If that’s the case I’ll not be back.