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Terminator Genisys - Review

Terminator Genisys

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

TWO questions come to mind while watching Terminator Genisys. First and foremost, does it make any sense? And secondly, is it any good? Sadly, the answer to both is a resounding no.

Alan Taylor’s film attempts to breathe new life into a franchise almost killed by McG’s Terminator Salvation but ends up jostling for position with both that film and Terminator 3 for worst film in the series.

Part of the problem lies with the plot. In attempting to reboot and freshen up (while also ignoring even the presence of Salvation or T3 in the timeline), the story – co-written by Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis – feels ill-conceived and nonsensical.

The story picks up as future resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect mother-of-the-revolution Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from termination by a T-800 killing machine (Arnold Schwarzenegger). So far, so James Cameron.

But within moments of his arrival, Kyle realises that the past isn’t what it used to be. For starters, Sarah is no longer a waitress but already a warrior and she has a T-800 (Arnie, again) for a protector. Hence, plans are already in place to prevent Skynet ever becoming all-powerful.

In order to complete this objective, however, Kyle persuades Sarah to time travel to 2017, when a new threat to humanity posed by Skynet, and called Genisys, is due to go live. If they can prevent this from happening, they can re-write the future. But then no one counted on the presence of John Connor in 2017… also sent back from the future having been turned by the machines.

Make sense? Initially, perhaps. But once the explanations start to fly (mostly delivered by Schwarzenegger) and alternate timelines come into play, complete with new memories that need unravelling, matters become needlessly convoluted and borderline incomprehensible.

It’s almost as though the writers, in their sheer desperation to jump-start proceedings, are trying to bamboozle viewers with so much sleight of hand that they’ll be spending too much time trying to unravel what’s happening to care whether it actually makes sense.

And they might have got away with it if the film’s other failings weren’t so critical. Alas, there’s very little about Terminator Genisys that works. The set pieces lack the ingenuity of Cameron’s first two ground-breaking entries, or any of the excitement (save for one sequence in a school bus on the Golden Gate Bridge), and quickly become repetitive (much in the same way of so many blockbusters of nowadays) and tame (by virtue of the 12 certificate).

While the characters are largely vapid… either under-written or dwarfed by the greater emphasis on effects. Courtney’s Kyle Reese lacks any charisma, Clarke gets very little to do except deliver lines of boring exposition and chase people, Clarke is only OK as Sarah Connor and Arnie is Arnie once again, even getting to utter his “I’ll be back” line in one of the film’s cheesier and more grating moments.

Meanwhile, the emotional element that marked out Cameron’s first two movies is also absent, meaning that it’s very difficult to care about anything that’s happening. Indeed, the biggest enjoyment of watching Terminator Genisys sadly stems from seeing just how far things stray from the original path. But that’s a perverse kind of guilty pleasure and should not be taken as any kind of recommendation.

Terminator Genisys isn’t without curiosity value but, contrary to Arnie’s repeated protestations about being “old, not obsolete”, this actually feels like both.

Certificate: 12
Running time: 1hr 59mins
UK Blu-ray and DVD Release: November 2, 2015