The Terminator franchise is one that is built on a solid framework. A simplistic idea of two time travellers, one machine and one man, with opposite objectives. The machine wishes to annihilate a woman named Sarah Connor to stop her giving birth to a rebel leader, John Connor, who stands against a complete takeover of the world. The man (named Kyle Reese) has been tasked with protecting Sarah Connor at all costs to ensure a fighting chance for mankind in the future. As far as narrative time travel stories, it is quite easy to digest even for the least experienced science fiction movie-goers. Complications arise as the story progresses in each sequel. They hit gold with T2: Judgement Day as it spun the idea of the machine being the villain to becoming an anti-hero.
We are 30 years on from the first iteration in the franchise and this year has brought us a reboot. To say that this reboot is a let down is to be generous. Terminator: Genisys is a full system shut down. It is rare to find an experience quite as baffling as this visual interpretation of creating a mountain out of a mole hill. From its relatively humble beginnings, the story has ballooned into a grand scale string of nonsense that contradicts itself regularly.
We start off hitting the ground running with an action sequence that precedes the moment of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) being sent to the past to rescue Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). The tension of the machine titled the T-800 being revealed is nicely paced. These initial scenes show promise, mainly thanks to the effects department. There is a gradual ease into the story we are familiar with from the original movie. Where it goes off the rails is when they travel to the past. The T-800 is utilised via a stunning visual effect that is hard to complain about. His usual path taken in the first terminator is interrupted by an older version of the unit played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. On the other side of the city, Kyle Reese finds himself pursued by a T-1000, a liquid terminator; an event that was never supposed to happen. During the pursuit, Reese meets with an officer and a fully-equipped Sarah Connor who witnesses the attack happen. Schwarzenegger, who is referred to as Pops, was a machine sent to the past to recruit Sarah as a young girl. She has been learning to be ready to fight since she was a small girl. This is a plot thread that never reveals who sent Pops back, which is bothersome, but not problematic due to the fact that it gave us more Schwarzenegger. The events following on from this see Kyle and Sarah travelling to the future to stop Skynet (the company creating these machines) on the day it is supposed to launch. Cue action set pieces that are accompanied by exposition that waves away any semblance of logic.
The reason Terminator: Genisys doesn’t work is that their defined rules of time change to suit the narrative. Kyle Reese can remember two different timelines of how he grew up, because he saw a critical moment in time before he traveled. This is the full insight we get on this matter. T-800s like Pops are apparently hardwired to know how to build time devices, even if they are secluded in a time like the 1980s, where basic functioning computers are only just becoming available. Two people can travel in this device, additionally. Which asks the question, why only send Kyle the first time?
The original addresses it by stating that only one can travel. Plot-holes are rampant throughout this confused fan-fiction that looks upon its predecessors with starry eyes, wanting to be noticed. It isn’t just the story that is fundamentally flawed. There is zero on-screen chemistry between the two leads, Clarke and Courtney, which is disappointing as Kyle and Sarah being dismissive of the fact that they are supposed to fall in love is actually a great idea. It is a real shame when the two leads are more lifeless than the person supposed to be playing a robot.
Incidentally, Schwarzenegger is, to great surprise, the best aspect of this film. His delivery is sharp and his pseudo-fatherly role fits perfectly with the idea of an older terminator. He is stunted by the dialogue, story and his co-stars, but he gives a cheesy and decent performance.
Truthfully, when a movie can’t deliver a coherent story, an engaging lead or intelligent dialogue, you might believe it to be completely devoid of value. This is untrue to a degree. The special effects are truly a marvel. Full credit goes to the team behind this that made the most realistic version of the terminators to date. I cannot emphasise the need for this as there really isn’t anything here to get you excited about. Salvation could have happened with an interesting villain twist in the latter half, but it was squandered by being advertised in the trailers before the movie was released. The villain himself is additionally miscast and underwhelming. As a positive person and a lover of movies, it pains me to be negative about a series that I love.
I genuinely struggled to find redeeming qualities in what amounts to probably one of the worst written blockbusters I have ever seen. Terminator fans, sorry to say, but this is best to avoid!
Stellar effects let down by radically inconsistent story-telling.
Have you seen the movie? Do you agree? Let us know in the comments!