9 July 2015

Terminator Genisys review

I don't think anyone will be surprised to find out that Terminator Genisys is a bad film - no one can have expected good things from the fifth film in a franchise that should never have been a franchise in the first place. But it is the way in which Terminator Genisys is bad that really stings, its determination to reset the Terminator universe getting in the way of the (very few) good ideas that it contains, wiping the slate clean of two quite rightly classic science fiction movies and replacing it with... well, this shit.

Set in an alternate timeline to the one seen in The Terminator, Terminator Genisys has us following Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor and a T850 model Terminator known as "Pops" as they attempt to stop Skynet (known here as Genisys) from being activated and causing Judgement Day in 2017.

Like the equally poor Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys feels like it was filmed using the very first draft of the script, resulting in a jumbled and incoherent mess of a film that fails in a vast number of ways, the most obvious of which being the convoluted and exposition heavy nature of the central plot. You have absolutely no chance of understanding this film without having seen at least The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and even then I'd be lying if I said the film was easy to follow, particularly during the part where they try to explain (or more aptly, try and ignore the reasons for) how and why Sarah Connor is the badass from Terminator 2: Judgment Day at the time of The Terminator.

Or at least, she's meant to be the badass from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It's clear that the main pitch of this film was "What if Sarah Connor said 'Come with me if you want to live.' to Kyle Reese instead?", but Emilia Clarke simply isn't up the task of replacing Linda Hamilton, her attempt at an American accent completely getting in the way off her being able to deliver lines while shouting and making her come across as whiny rather than commanding. She isn't awful in the role when she gets a chance to do some actual acting, but I can think of a number of actresses that would have fared significantly better.

Equally as miscast is Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, who doesn't even come close to matching the world weary and battle hardened version of the character that Michael Biehn gave us in The Terminator, and it doesn't even feel worth talking about Jason Clarke's bizarrely aggravating version of John Connor - although it should be noted that the script doesn't help any of these actors out, least of all Jason Clarke, who is saddled with some truly awful dialogue as the film attempts to set up the relationship between John Connor and Kyle Reese.

The only person who seems competent in Terminator Genisys is, you guessed it, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who seems to be the only member of the cast (other than a very out of place J.K Simmons) who is enjoying themselves, and the only part of the film that can actually be described as entertaining or fun. Even in silence, standing perfectly still as a soulless killer robot, he is still orders of magnitude more charismatic than either of the other two leads and out classes them in every way imaginable, reminding everyone that he is a true, bona fide movie star, and deservedly so.

The action scenes are as bog standard and unexciting as you can possibly imagine thanks to the fact that no one can possibly say that they actually like any of the characters. Film makers really need to learn that in order for action to work well, you need to want the characters to win - it's the very basics of setting up stakes here, and Terminator Genisys fails just as hard as Man of Steel does in that area, although admittedly in a less obvious way thanks to slightly better action pacing of Terminator Genisys. But it's still gratuitous and dull, and when combined with the unacceptably shoddy CGI that frequently takes you out of the moment results in action sequences that are entirely forgettable - I think the T1000 may have looked more realistic in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and that came out in 1991.

If Terminator Genisys does have anything that can be classed as a redeeming feature, it's the way that the relationship between Pops, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese is portrayed - as if Kyle is Sarah's new boyfriend and Pops is her over protective father. It's a little obvious, sure, but there is a pretty entertaining scene in the middle of the film that sees Pops and Kyle Reese get strangely competitive while stocking up on ammunition that goes someway to justifying the dynamic. But it isn't used well enough at any other point to really matter in the long run, failing to add anything emotionally or thematically to a film that is desperately in need of both.

Terminator Genisys is everything that you can expect from a film that no one asked for, most likely created as nothing more than a nostalgia-based attack on peoples wallets with all the craft and quality that comes with that. The unnecessary call backs, inconsistent internal logic, poor writing and a pandering need to keep with canon all make Terminator Genisys feel like a piece of particularly poor fan fiction, and I think we may all be better off treating it as such. As far as soft reboots to beloved 80's action franchises go, Mad Max: Fury Road this ain't.

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