Terminator Genisys (2015)
Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney
Plot: During the future war, Kyle Reese prepares to travel back in time to protect Sarah Connor, unaware of how the timeline is about to change completely.
Terminator Genisys provides a glimpse into the future war with Skynet, who are on the brink of losing a key battle to the human resistance led by John Connor (J, Clarke). It is Connor who leads the forces into the heart of Skynet where they witness that the time machine synonymous with the franchise has been activated and that a terminator has been sent back through time. The resistance are able to use the machine to send back Kyle Reese (Courtney) to save Sarah Connor (E, Clarke), but when Reese arrives in the future prepared to save Sarah, things are not what they seem. Reese now finds the roles reversed with Sarah saving him, accompanied by a Terminator named ‘Pops’ (Schwarzenegger). Reese, fresh out of the womb of time travel soon realises that the past he has arrived in is not the one he was warned about.
The recent growth of the Terminator franchise has become much like a garden weed. Desperate attempts to recreate the success of Cameron’s first two films have only resulted in disappointment after disappoint, leaving fans asking ‘why?’ With every year generating new rumours and speculation as to who will revive the franchise, Alan Taylor was finally given the reins to create not just a new and different Terminator film, but a whole new trilogy. With the narrative of the first film bled dry and the idea of the future war being the guiding light for the future films scrapped after the failure of Terminator: Salvation, Paramount knew that they had to come up with new ideas to generate new appeal. Terminator Genisys is what resulted; an attempt to take the Terminator films in a new direction by recreating the narrative of the first film and changing it by adding alternate timelines to the mix of headaches caused by pre-existing confusing timelines – a clever and ambitious ploy that could only be executed successfully if given time and careful planning. In keeping with this mix of new themes and ideas, Taylor added new cast members to the mix. Jason Clarke took the role of John Connor, becoming the sixth actor to represent the character after Christian Bale declined his reprisal, and with Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton being too old to reprise their roles, they were replaced by Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke respectively.
Much like Arnold’s aging, metallic character, Schwarzenegger delivered a rusty and mediocre performance, failing – but only just – to nail the synthetic representation of a robot. Of course this was inevitable with Arnold now in his 60s, but it was nice to see the writers give relatively believable explanation for the apparent aging of the otherwise ageless robot. Aside from a mildly captivating performance from Jason Clarke, there were no stand-out performances. Jai Courtney struggled to be a convincing Kyle Reese as he seemed to be cosy throughout the film despite all the horrors his character was going through, and Emilia Clarke just didn’t display the diversity required for a role as complex as Sarah Connor. I am, however, more inclined to believe that the disappointing performances came down to bad casting choices as opposed to a lack of talent.
With the death of Stan Winston in 2009, the special effects that had made the previous Terminator films so iconic was no longer present and, instead, the special effects were put in the hands of a new team made up of former members of Winston’s original group. The idea behind this was to get the effects in Genisys as close to the previous films as possible, a task not so simple in a cinematic landscape so obsessed with overusing CGI. Watching the Blu-Ray version of the film in full HD, I was hoping to get the most out of the film’s visual display and whilst I thought the film maintained a high standard, there were certain effects that despite being over 20 years more advanced just didn’t look as authentic as they did back in 1991. When a film lacks story you have to turn to the entertainment value and visual aesthetics, but when it gets to that point, it’s closer to being a spectacle instead of a movie.
In conclusion, Terminator Genisys was successful only in being different, rather than evolving the gritty atmosphere and subtle humour of the previous films. In many ways, Genisys became ‘Terminator: The Sitcom’. Sarah Connor and her terminator are the comedy duo, while Kyle Reese (the scarred warrior who lives a haunted life – now dazed and confused) wonders what on Earth is going on. The movie doesn’t disappoint on an entertainment level, despite certain action scenes bordering on absolute ridiculousness, but the loyalty to the previous films is non-existent. The plot tried too hard to be confusing and clever, but at the same time tried to explain its elaborate twists and turns with explanations that didn’t make sense. Furthermore, aspects of the plot that could be followed coherently were always passed by too quickly before there was even time to digest them. In short, the impression I got from Genisys was that its purpose was to cash in on naive fans looking for a clever change of direction, whilst disregarding everything that made the previous films so successful. Whilst Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation were only just watchable, they had their own redeeming factors and showed glimmers of potential, something Genisys simply didn’t.
Genisys had the ambition and desire to be original, but lacked a convincing execution and has, therefore, sent the Terminator films in a new and disappointing direction. But, with the rights of the franchise due to fall back into the hands of James Cameron in 2019, fans can rest assured that the Terminator series can rest dormant for the foreseeable future courtesy of this movie’s less than impressive reception equating to a cancellation of the company’s proposed trilogy.