Terminator:Genisys: Film Review
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Matt Smith
Director: Alan Taylor
"Old, but not obsolete" is a line thrown out by Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 (and meta-nod) in the latest soulless blockbuster from the Terminator franchise.
Yet in many ways, it's also symbolic of the film itself, but sadly not quite as obsolete as perhaps it should be.
This time around, at a pivotal point in the war against the machines, Skynet and pretty much any of the logical senses, Jai Courtney's Kyle Reese is sent back in time to 1984 by John Connor (Jason Clarke) to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Game of Thrones' Khaleesi Emilia Clarke). But the rub this time around is that Connor's not quite the innocent Reese is expecting and the timeline as he's remembered it has altered. (Let's not bother addressing the logic of time-travel in sci-fi, because as one character shouts at one point - "Time travel makes my head hurt")
Soon, Connor, Reese and The Guardian (Schwarzenegger) are back on the run, facing off against the might of a Terminator sent back to take them out and fighting for their survival as well as the world's.
A relentless juggernaut of unoriginal action sequences follow in Terminator Genisys, each attempting to dull your senses and defy any kind of logic or any of the laws of physics; it's all connected together with a plot that becomes more and more muddled as each moment transpires. It's not that these action moments are thrown in, more that Thor: The Dark World's director Alan Taylor has produced nothing that's memorable in their execution.
A clutch of running gags about Arnie's age, his attempts to blend in by awkwardly smiling give the Austrian Oak a chance to flex those comic muscles, reminding us that the action hero of yore has been replaced with an almost cuddly caricature (he's even called Pops throughout the film by his Connor charge). Nods to the original iconic moments from the first two Terminators including a younger digitised Arnie Terminator only serve to remind you of how good the earlier installments of this series actually were. Equally, a liquid T-1000 reminds you of Robert Patrick from T2 and again proves that this film has simply taken the best bits of the prior flicks and bundled them in with an absence of new ideas or a new direction to take the series.
It's a problem of balance in this film - there are unnecessary comic moments that take you out of the film. One such problematic scene is a mugshots inspired riff on the COPS reality series that tips way too much of a wink to the audience to make you feel you're watching a film anymore, merely a parody of what once was.
Thankfully, JK Simmons' turn as a cop caught in years of conspiracy, veers on the right side of the humour, while espousing such lines as "Goddamned time travelling robots - always covering their tracks" and injecting them with a self-deprecation that's welcome. (Less welcome is the gratuitous product placement of a certain brand of footwear)
Emilia Clarke acquits herself reasonably, even if she has none of the internal turmoil of Connor downpat, Courtney serves only to be a vessel for the endless garbled exposition and imbues his Reese with a workmanlike sheen - thankfully, Jason Clarke makes a memorable job of a scarred John Connor, even if his best moments have been ruined with the trailers for the film.
Arnie may be back in Terminator Genisys, but ultimately the machines of Hollywood have won this battle - what's transpired on screen is a muddled, messy flick that lurches through the rhythms of action, exposition ad nauseum before leaving you with a feeling that this series needs to be Terminated.