Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke
After discovering that Skynet have sent a terminator back in time to 1984 to kill his mother, Sarah Connor (E. Clarke), John Connor (J. Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect her. However, when arriving in 1984 Reese discovers that the screenwriters intend to completely re-write the franchise’s history and so he, Sarah and the unlikely ally of the Terminator (Arnie) must now essentially rewrite the franchise’s first two films while preventing the second two films from ever happening. They must do all this while also being faced with a genuinely good game-changing plot twist that, for some stupid reason, is in the trailer.
One dead horse franchise that Hollywood continues to try and flog is of course the Terminator franchise; after Jimmy Cameron’s two iconic genre classics we were given (despite minimal actual demand) two pretty awful sequels surely enough was enough? Well, despite this we get yet another instalment, and the cynic in me suspects that this is mainly down to Hollywood’s extreme fear of trying to start new franchises from scratch.
Well the good news is that Genisys is by far the third best film of the franchise, it is of course utter vacuous nonsense, but is nevertheless tremendous fun if entered with one’s brain switched firmly off. Scriptwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have decided to essentially re-write what happens in the franchises storyline, and though the film’s plot often ties itself up in knots with exposition that feels like they made up as they went along, they do so with just enough audacity and sense of fun to just about get away with it. They and director Alan Taylor maintain enough of a high-tempo pace, self-aware silliness and big action sequences to make the 125 minutes just simply fly by, even though they never even threaten to last long in the memory of the viewer.
There may potentially be some social commentary in there about how we are letting technology take over our lives, but while I do genuinely believe this to be the case in day-to-day live, I would say that would be more a case of over-analysing as this film is about as hollow as an ester egg in terms of actual substance. While Salvation took itself painfully seriously, Genisys is happy to poke fun at itself and also throw in some playful references to the first two films. This overall playful tone is very much a saving grace as the dialogue is constantly clunky exposition and cheesy lines. It does feel that we the audience are predominantly laughing with those that made it, and this very much enhances the enjoyment of the film. However why they chose to put what could have been a great plot twist half-way through the film in the trailer (and essentially on the poster) is a genuinely baffling own goal!
In terms of how the cast fare, well they do face a very difficult task; the fact is for Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke (no relation) and Jai Courtney the characters they are playing are iconic and the past depictions of these characters in the first two films have immortal status. Therefore the added context of this (not to mention the ‘quality’ of the material they are given to work with) makes bringing their own portrayals of these characters a thankless task. It is therefore best to judge them solely on their own, as some less than subtle dialogue in the film tells us; these are not the same characters! This is indeed the case, and all three are solid in their roles, if slightly forgettable (Courtney in particular just plays the same character that he always does further demonstrating his lack of range). However the fact is that this film lacks any of the soul, heart or substance that Cameron’s films did, so not all fault can lie with the actors, the two Clarkes in particular can do better if required.
Then of course there is Arnie; he thoroughly enjoys himself, at times it feels that he cannot believe his luck that he is getting another chance to play what has to be one of his most iconic roles. The script allows him to produce a lot of the film’s biggest laughs and he does not fail to deliver, Arnie’s unique brand of comic timing is a huge element in what makes Genisys the enjoyable tripe it is.
As the seemingly made up on the hoof plot ties itself up in further knots, it is just about possible to follow, but it is ultimately best not to think about it too much anyway. In a time where so many blockbuster take themselves way too seriously, Terminator Genisys is about pure entertainment (well, definitely not logic!), and though it will not live long in the memory, it is undeniably entertaining nonsense. This is apparently the first in an intended trilogy, and while I have no idea what they are going to do next with the franchise, on this evidence neither do those involved with making it!
Utterly nonsensical drivel, but that of the most entertaining kind; Terminator Genisys often doesn’t even try to make sense in how it tries to re-write the franchise’s entire history, but the fact it does so very much with its tongue in its cheek makes it pure vacuous entertainment.