Terminator Genisys is at times viciously violent, features masterful special effects and a story that is confusing and convoluted. Further, it makes good on a catchphrase – “I’ll be back” – that became one of the most recognisable after it entered our lexicon when the first movie in the series was released in 1984.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, more recently “the Governator” returns as the Terminator and I, for one, am pleased that he has. The film revolves around an attempt to reset the future, which is looking dire. John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sergeant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). But an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sergeant Reese finds himself in an unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with dangerous new enemies and unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Schwarzenegger).
Terminator Genisys features a series of breathtaking confrontations between man and machine, and machine and machine. Technology has enabled the liquid metal special effects that were ground-breaking in the ‘80s to be not only updated, but ratcheted up several notches. The best of those involves the ultimate villain in the piece desperately trying to “peel himself” off an MRI machine as the strength of the magnetism threatens to obliterate him. Schwarzenegger’s trademark, humourless “wooden” approach to protecting Sarah Connor is a real crowd pleaser. Dare I say, it is positively heart-warming. But this time Connor has “trained him” to produce a disingenuous smile in an endeavour to introduce greater humanity. It is, indeed, a nice comic touch.
Jai Courtney has done his career no harm by tackling the role of Sarah and John Connor’s son, Kyle Reese. He is passionate, sincere and credible. So, too, Jason Clarke, as the yin and yang of John Connor. J.K. Simmons, the man who won an Oscar for his fearful portrayal of a music conservatory conductor in Whiplash, makes the most of a small role as an empathetic cop. British actress Emilia Clarke assumes the pivotal role of Sarah Connor, and although starting out with a no nonsense kick-ass characterisation, exposes a softer, more vulnerable side. I felt she lacked the gravitas of Linda Hamilton.
While travelling back through time to rewrite history is hardly a new concept, the way it is played our here is anything but straightforward. On occasions I found the storyline downright perplexing. As to the time frames, we have references to 1984, 1997, 2017 and 2029, the latter being the so-called present day, where the movie starts.
Less than compelling too, Arnie reverts to technical explanations or gobbledygook from time to time. Clearly, this was meant as a comic device, but I felt it was unnecessary and didn’t work, especially as it was repeated. If you stay on until after the credits, you will see that filmmakers have left open the prospect of a sixth instalment of Terminator.
Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), Terminator Genisys scores a 6½ out of 10. It’s available now on DVD, Blu-Ray and on-demand.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television