Terminator Genisys Review
It’s the Terminator, but not as we know it.
Genisys attempts to be the Terminator: Days of Future Past of the series, but only halfway succeeds in retconning the franchise.It was always going to be a struggle. Not only did they have to undo at least some of the damage done by the last couple of movies (merits notwithstanding), but they also had to live up to the legacy of the first two Cameron classics. Much like the Alien series, returning to this franchise was always going to be a thankless task. And, of course, getting a Big Budget Blockbuster off the ground these days without committing to the dreaded 12A rating is a near impossibility. Still, it is possible to work wonders even within those confines, with everything from Bond to Captain America: Winter Soldier showcasing genuine adult thrills all for a pre-teen rating. And if you want to see time-travel franchise retconning done properly, all under the banner of a 12A rating, you have to look no further than X-Men: Days of Future Past.Things certainly get off to a good start, with Genisys investing itself even more overtly in paying tribute to former glories than one of this year's other big franchise restarters - Jurassic World. Whilst designed to accommodate new viewers aplenty, there's a much warmer feeling in store for classic 1984 The Terminator fans, as they see Arnold Schwarzenegger's name hit the screen - pre-credits - and watch various scenes from that classic refashioned, and expanded, to largely good effect. Sure, the trailer threatens to spoil almost all the fun, but it's such an insane fusion of timelines and characters from different ages that it's almost impossible for even the most malicious trailer to give away everything. Indeed, for most, there will be plenty of fun initially trying to find out what the hell is going on.
Of course, throwing that old enemy into the mix - the T1000 - was a stroke of genius, and the first forty-odd minutes of the piece boast some of the best scenes, and -unfortunately - possibly the only moments of tension. Certainly the only moments of potential terror. It's not long before that other big reveal from the trailer however - the one that really does give too much of the game away - and from then on Genisys appears less concerned with refashioning a derailed franchise's past into a more hopeful future, than in simply being the usual sequel: bigger and noisier than those before it, with more 'splosions, more CG, and increasingly advanced opponents who can do all kinds of wondrous ninja stuff. You'll wonder how they could possibly outdo this film in that respect - something producers and hack scriptwriters are probably currently scratching their heads over - and it's a shame because the reality is that they didn't have to go bigger. They just needed to make good on the damage done and pave the way for better than those before.
It gets off to a good start but soon devolves into a series of increasingly unnecessary effects-driven set-pieces.
From the bridge sequence to the helicopter chase, Genisys didn't need all that sound and fury to make for quality action-sci-fi. But I guess for a franchise which started off as sci-fi/horror, it's unsurprising that increasing the budget was going to necessitate this kind of (d)evolution. Despite the cliched route they eventually take, which sees decent actors like Jason Clarke largely wasted, and terrible actors like Jai Courtney making you wish they'd just CG de-aged Michael Biehn instead, there's still some solid touches to the piece, which has the founding of that opening near-first-half to keep you going, and has relative big screen newcomer Emilia Clarke make for a surprisingly (or not so surprisingly if you're a fan of Game of Thrones) strong Sarah Connor. At least they got that much right and, given the casting of Courtney, it could have so easily gone horribly wrong in the Sarah Connor department too.
Then there's Arnie. It's finally great to have him back. Many have been hoping to say that ever since his first Expendables cameo. But two sequels later, and after The Last Stand and Escape Plan, even ardent fans wondered whether the man-mountain was ever quite going to be the action star he was always famous for. Arnie is actually one of the few elements of Genisys that really works. From the de-aged CG classic Terminator to the older Arnie that we see across the movie, his character makes (relative) sense within the confines of this universe, and Arnie, even pushing 70, manages to (just about) pull it off. And boy is it great to see him back.
It comes as a great relief to finally see Arnie back in all his glory, with the franchise that made him.
Those who got caught up in the glory of seeing the Park reopened with Jurassic World will undoubtedly warm to that classic Terminator music; those beats; and those glowing red eyes behind the steely endoskeleton raging across the screen. There are some nice moments (although, using the same argument, even Terminator Salvation had that impressive helicopter crash sequence) and the time-travelling ideas - whilst overcooked - do offer some hope at reheating this long-stale meal. It's nice to get some solid future-war mayhem, and some T-1000 action is always welcome. And Arnie's arthritic old T-101, despite ostensibly playing second fiddle to the story, is still - secretly - the star of the show.
With more focus on tension, threat (rated 12A for 'moderate threat' - maybe they could have upgraded that a bit) and on streamlining the overly-convoluted story to get back to some mean unstoppable-killing-machine basics, this could have been a more impressive reboot. And, even with its ratings restrictions, it could have been the Terminator: Days of Future Past of the franchise. But with the incessant desire to go bigger and louder, the series seems destined to always end in bus-flipping, helicopter-surfing CG mayhem. They say the future is not set, but it sure as hell feels like it is, and by the wrong filmmakers. At least they got one thing right: Arnie's back.
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