Terminator Genisys

Terminator-Genisys_superbowl-online-art_01Terminator Genisys
2hrs 6mins/ M: Violence and Offensive Language

Ahunld’s back!

In this massively explosive entry in the hugely popular franchise based on the 1984 smash hit classic, The Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the fray doting in his unique robotic way on Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) as she tries to reconcile her life and future motherhood with her grown-up son John (Jason Clarke – no relation) and father of her child, Kyle Reece (Jai Courtney). All while the rumbles of war are rolling down various alternate time-lines, threatening their lives and the existence of mankind.

If you’ve seen ANY of the trailers for this in the lead-up to release, then you’ll probably want to stop reading this and go see another movie… every single plot point has been spoiled for you already. You’ll know where it’s going every step of the way, the details don’t really matter at all.

But if it’s details you want me to describe, then sure, I’ll oblige.

We’re treated in the early stages of the film to some neat re-renderings of the first two films of the franchise including a near perfect re-staging of the “give me your clothes” scene from Part One, albeit from a slightly different angle, in a slightly different context.

This clever effects work brings us nicely into the world, but it soon becomes apparent that it’s more to service fan expectation of the series than it is to drive the story. Effects, plot-points and characters are cherry-picked from all over the previously established universe to placate us into thinking this is adding anything new.

This leads to a weird kind of pacing for much of the movie, as scenes that had been powering through the action skid to a halt abruptly to point and smugly notice how clever the current reference is – be it the blades on the relentlessly stalking T-1000 cop (Byung-Hun Lee) or oddly placed cameos from actors from both within and outside of the series.

The Terminator films have always been about their action set-pieces though and this entry completely ramps up the drive of the earlier films. Huge extended fight sequences spill over into massive explosions, gun battles and chase sequences. Unfortunately, there’s no real sense of tension or decent stakes built into situations of the central action, so it all falls out a bit repetitive after a while. It could be that establishing of these highly-charged sequences are either too brief or non-existent, so action isn’t really built up properly – just characters shouting at each other or posturing a lot until it all boils over into a new crazy sequence of one person punching another through a wall or blowing up a huge facility.

There is plenty to recommend however in the individual performances of most of the core cast.

TerminatorArnie’s being Arnie here, enjoying milking his age as Sarah Connor’s doting Guardian – it’s cleverly explained how a cyborg can age and he, as well as the scriptwriters, have fun joking about character’s (as well as a little of his personal) history. And of course, he’s mostly there for his one-line throwaway quips, most of which we’ve heard before. He seems to be having a lot of fun here, that’s super clear.

Emilia Clarke is a vividly solid core as Sarah Connor, giving the role a strength of conviction and honesty that keeps the whole film from entirely falling off the rails – the sort of questioning everything you’d expect from, say, a Doctor Who companion, only with a more practical, feminist outlook on life. Within the world of the film, she’s in the 1984 timeline, but looks much younger than Linda Hamilton did in the role in the first movie, so she struggles with some credibility, even when the idea of alternate universes are brought into play.

Jason Clarke makes for a very determined, domineering, driven yet charming John Connor. He relishes the action that’s given to him and manages the gear changes to his character well. A shame about that make-up in close-ups though.

I really can’t say Jai Courtney stood out for me at all, being a pretty pretty dead-eyed Kyle Reece throughout. I found him to be really too smug, rather than the central protagonist we really should have been cheering for. But I guess he’s been cast for his action movie fighting chops and good looks while delivering a roundhouse or holding a massive machine gun, so he certainly manages himself well in that respect

However, for all of the good-to-watchable performances here, the actors strangely don’t seem to connect with each other on an emotional level, which is the pivotal thing that made Part One so great. Is it the way they’ve been directed, bad editing or the script making them all seem like they’re from different movies entirely rather than different time-zones? Or was that maybe the goal here?

There’s a bit of distracting casting of some smaller roles that doesn’t help with the confusion. Matt Smith is cast for his science-fiction credentials it would seem, but he’s both under-used and a bit limp in his performance. J. K. Simmons is terrific, as always, but pulls us into a different style with his shambolic, drunken, constantly dazed, conspiracy-spouting Detective O’Brien. Byung-Hun Lee is excellently poised physically and gets some of the best action moments as the T-1000 cop stalking Connor.

The musical score is bombastic and the sound is mixed way too high, to the point where the whole film isn’t much more than a thunderous rattle at times, even in the ‘quieter’ moments. Special effects are laid on with the usual over-use of computer generated laziness and, like with the performances, seem picked arbitrarily from various points in the earlier entries in the series. The 3D uses a lot of silver hand-blades and way too many rolling fireballs into the audience’s faces!

The whole movie really fails to gain much interest early on for me and is extremely vague in its time-lines and messy in its time travel theory and general science – techno-babble abounds and everyone looks a bit ashamed to be spouting it. So we’re left with a ridiculous, confused plot lurching between the obvious and the wildly incomprehensible. I just found myself glazing over much of the time – not confusion, more disinterest – which is sad, because I have a sincere fondness for the first two films which could easily have stood me in good company if the story here had been told better.

To paraphrase one of Arnie’s jibes, it looks like the Terminator franchise is “Older, but now obsolete”.

2 Stars
– Steve Austin


Steve Austin
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