The Future Is Not Set
Directed by Alan Taylor
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
Arnie straps on the leather, sunglasses and shotguns once more for the fifth movie built around his iconic ‘80s cyborg assassin. Can a system reboot succeed where the past two sequels have failed?
The war against the machines is almost over and humanity is on the verge of victory. Leading a rag tag resistance force, John Connor (Jason Clarke) besieges a secret Skynet base that contains its contingency plan, a time machine. As Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) prepares to go back to 1984 to stop a Terminator from killing John’s mother, another Terminator strikes at John, and the timeline is changed. When Kyle arrives back in 1984 he finds a Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) that has been trained to be a warrior from childhood by an older Terminator called “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and it is her mission to protect him.
Alright, time to address the Hunter Killer Drone in the room – is it as good as the original or Judgement Day? The short answer – No. When Genisys is at its best it is trading heavily on the nostalgia for these first two films, weaving itself into the framework of the original. When it is doing this we see some interesting re-enactments of scenes from The Terminator on an almost a shot by shot basis, but with a twist caused by the new timeline. Hence at the Griffith Observatory the assault on some punks to steal their clothes (one memorably played by Bill Paxton in the original), is interrupted for a no holds barred slugfest between the original T-800 and “Pops” in which you can really feel the heft of the two cyborg combatants. Similarly Reese’s arrival gives way to an unexpected action sequence, thanks to Byung-hun Lee (GI Joe). In all the first half of the film feels very much like a retelling of the first two films, but on steroids (can Terminators do steroids? I want to say “yes”).
It is when Genisys tries to break away from this nostalgia and to make its own story that the flaws become apparent. Without that heavily blinding influence we begin to question some of the holes within the time travel plot, which as it stands now don’t make a lot of sense (although this may be cleared up in the other films of this slated trilogy). The action sequences even lose a little of their lustre, often appearing too CG, lacking that genuine kinetic impact and demonstrating physics akin to a video game. The climax suffers the worst as it devolves into a computer-animated version of Rock-em-Sock-em Robots.
A messy and obvious film, not saved by its special effects and damned by the lack of chemistry between its leads. The most fun that can be had here relies heavily on nostalgia, which is probably why Arnie is the best thing in it. It isn’t entirely awful, but in terms of a Terminator sequel it is just average. That’s a judgement day in and of itself.