Film Review: Terminator Genisys (Rated M – USA, 2015)

Yes, Terminator Genisys is a robotic movie in more ways than one, often confusing as it appears to be a prequel, a sequel, and a reboot, often all at once. Alan Taylor, the director behind Thor: The Dark World, gives us an inconsistent new entry into this iconic sci-fi film franchise, taking contrived stabs at time travel just so he can justify faithfulness to the first two films by James Cameron while ignoring the more recent Salvation and Rise of the Machines. It’s a move which has been met with some all-important endorsement from Cameron himself, but it’s executed poorly throughout the film, held together only by some really exciting, glossy action sequences, of which there are plenty.

2029 is the year we start in, post-Judgement Day. It’s a standard package of setting the scene for post-apocalyptic human versus machine warfare, preceded by a montage of destruction shot in a way which pays service to the original. Nostalgia drips all over this, before we are fixated on John Connor (Jason Clarke) who is unsurprisingly leading a successful resistance against Skynet. Putting the pieces of Terminator mythology back together is succinct here, establishing the landscape before we are introduced to Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) who we stay grounded with for the rest of the film.

Reese grows to become Conner’s right-hand man, sacrificial and loyal enough to go along with Connor’s plan to travel back in time, using a dusty time-travel device, to put a spanner in Skynet’s big game plan. It turns out the evil tech brand has sent a T-800 (Bret Azar) back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in 1984 so that John is never born, hence the resistance is never won.

Kicking off a fairly fast-paced action romp, Reese tracks the T-800 only to discover that there is also a T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) out there who is a bit more dangerous and aggressive than he expected. Both terminators are intense, loud, and persistent, giving Taylor enough to fill the little specks of plot progression with long, fiery action that, while thrilling, lacks any tension whatsoever.

Clarke as Sarah Connor is world’s apart from Linda Hamilton and her gritty, intense portrayal of the iconic mother. While the Game of Thrones star is in fine form throughout the film, there’s that failure to capture what we have come to expect from the character over the years, but this is mostly attributed to her dependence on guardian figure “pops”, a terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has been protecting Sarah since 1973.

It’s not long before we arrive at an issue with the timeline, which has been split in two so that memories from the other are bleeding through to Reese in 1984. This makes it necessary for Reese and Sarah to instead travel to 2017 where the majority of the film takes place. Dialogue is kept simple, but the re-introduction of John Connor as a robot-created villain in 2017 complicates things a bit.

Thankfully, none of that really matters as action and nostalgia take priority over anything else for Genisys. Nostalgia mainly coming from Arnie, who brings some consistency to the film, delivering a surprisingly grounded performance that let’s Courtney, and the two Clarke’s handle the brunt of outrageous dialogue, while he just interjects every now and then with those golden one-liners.

Action ramps up even more towards the end and we are given some great material, but again everything lacks any tension and instead of edge-of-your-seat viewing the film settles for a ‘more is more’ approach to it’s action. Taylor is essentially Michael Bay for this venture, and while it makes for a very entertaining form of thrilling escapism, it relegates Terminator Genysis into an over-crowded category reserved for remakes that have little point but to make us want to watch the original again.

Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Running Time: 125 minutes

Terminator Genysis is released in Australian cinemas tomororow July 2nd