Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, Matt Smith, Byung-hun Lee, JK Simmons
Runtime: 125 minutes
Terminator Genisys is the fifth entry in the Terminator franchise, and the first since 2009's muddled Terminator Salvation. Directed by Alan Taylor, and heralding the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the iconic series that made his name, Genisys attempts to rework the timeline and move the franchise in a different direction. But does it find its feet, or fall flat on its face?
In the 1984 sci-fi classic The Terminator, an unstoppable death machine is sent back in time from the future to kill an innocent waitress named Sarah Connor; Sarah is fated to give birth to John Connor, a man who will later go on to lead humanity to victory in a devastating war with intelligent robotic computer system, Skynet. By wiping her out, Skynet hope to end the conflict before it begins; however, John preempts their attack and sends his best lieutenant, a man named Kyle Reese, back in time also to defend his mother from the Terminator.
Although that premise might sound complicated, it's actually devilishly clever. The Terminator is a film that manages to combine nuclear apocalypse, sentient technology and time travel into one neat, tightly-packaged film. It's cool, action-packed and streamlined; what's more, the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, was even better.
In 2015, Terminator Genisys undoes almost all of this by retconning the previous films and inserting new storylines into the existing timeline to the point that you'll need a seven part spreadsheet and a degree in quantum mechanics to figure it out. Simply put, the plot here is very messy, and very loopy.
Things begin as they did back in 1984; in the future, John Connor (here played by Jason Clarke) wins the war against Skynet, and sends his friend (and future father) Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) into the past to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). However, upon arriving in the past, Reese discovers that all is not as it seems; Sarah is not the meek damsel-in-distress he expected, and has been preparing for his arrival with the help of a reprogrammed T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) for nearly 20 years. Somehow, somewhere along the line, the timeline changed - and no-one knows why.
Essentially, they're looking to pull the same trick that JJ Abrams did with Star Trek back in 2009 - relaunching the series, but ensuring the cherished original films are left intact. Only, on this occasion, it's not done with anywhere near as much finesse or coherence.
It may come as no surprise, but the chronology in Terminator Genisys is all over the shop. Set across something like four different time periods, the film isn't the easiest to follow, or the most tightly-packaged affair. To be honest, I was totally lost for the first 15-20 minutes. This is mainly because the film recreates some key scenes from T1 and T2, sometimes shot-for-shot. I found that once the film left this idea behind and began to distinguish itself as something new and different, it was much stronger.
Somewhere around the halfway mark, Genisys turns the plot on its head with a twist that could've been earth-shattering - had it not been plastered across most of the trailers and posters. Seriously, what the fuck? Why reveal something so crucial to the film that would've really surprised audiences? If you've somehow been unspoiled on this film, I won't ruin it here - and hopefully you'll enjoy the film that little bit extra as a result.
Anyway, onto the performances. It's a bit of a mixed bag to be honest; Emilia Clarke doesn't disappoint as tough-as-nails Sarah Connor, whilst Arnold Schwarzenegger refrains from phoning this one in. The funny guardian/daughter dynamic between these two worked really well.
On the flipside, Jason Clarke is really awful as John Connor. Sucked dry of any natural charm or charisma, Clarke is a million miles away from capturing the essence of a character that supposedly lead an entire species to victory against Skynet.
Meanwhile, replacing Sam Worthington in the role of most boring and expressionless actor in a Terminator film is fellow Aussie, Jai Courtney; not content with ruining Die Hard and spreading his stink in the Divergent series, Courtney is merely serviceable here as the white knight who swoops in to save Sarah. There are one or two instances where Courtney trades some funny quips with Emilia and Arnie, but other than that he's not a patch on other, more naturally entertaining lead men like Chris Pratt.
Also, the action and VFX in Terminator Genisys aren't going to rock your world. The film hits its stride by the second third, but before that we're treated to some truly awful looking CGI in the form of 'young' Arnie and a liquid metal T-1000 (Byung Hun-Lee) that somehow looks worse than the one in Judgement Day.
I really wish that this film had done enough to reignite my love for this series; just hearing the iconic score gave me chills. But leaning on nostalgia for bygone films isn't enough to make Terminator Genisys anything more than just another mediocre entry in the canon.
The Verdict: 5.5/10
Terminator Genisys isn't a total disaster, but that's not really good enough, is it? To say a film is 'just okay' isn't praise or a recommendation. There are elements that work, and there are elements of this new direction that I really liked, but for the most part this relaunch is too convoluted, ill-conceived and poorly executed. Go for Arnie, and stay for Emilia - and most importantly, keep your fingers crossed for a vastly improved follow-up.