Terminator Genisys

Yes, Skynet is real...

So this is what happens when Hollywood takes hold of our memories and remorselessly trades off them. Jurassic World, Ghostbusters, Star Wars and the latest Terminator, all risen from the ashes, each throwing us a meta-wink as they attempt to drag their respective franchise into the modern age. The studios are anticipating an easy pass simply because they've packed in a roll call of cheap self-referential moments, each cynically targeting our sentimentality in return for big bucks.

The dog ends we are thrown on this occasion are built on a decision to take the easy way out by severing the timeline of all the previous films, whilst still attempting to merge together their plot lines. That contradiction is apparent from the very start as we are given the backstory of Skynet and Jon Connor, attempting to cover the base points for any newcomers. Then before we know it, we are thrown back to 1984 and the first film, although not exactly, more an alternate version, where any continuity can be discarded while still holding out nostalgia hostage.

The director behind this farce is Alan Taylor, who had previously worked on Game of Thrones and the last Thor movie. Both of which are apparent in an opening act pumped up with heroic action and pompous dialogue aiming for an epic tone that is nothing sort of laughable. Walking muscle Jai Courtney is the epitome of this steroid-filled approach, barking out his testosterone injected lines with all the subtlety of a T-101's headbutt.

Even though we are meeting these characters again, it is from a different perspective, so there should be some consideration given for us to understand or empathise with their cause. The opening monologue seems to be in place for newcomers to quickly be brought up to speed, yet this is followed by forty minutes of relentlessly limp action. This seems to assume that we don't need to get to know the characters after all, that merely watching them in conflict is enough, as we should already know them from the previous films. This is despite the fact we are on a new timeline, watching new actors and are given an introduction that sees fit to remind us of the series history. It is a clumsy contradiction that ruins the flow of the film, constructed by a director who wants to have the best of both worlds, transferring the boorish style of his previous work into this franchise.

An ageing Terminator also works perfectly as a metaphor for Schwarzenegger's career, a one-time God amongst men who could now do with a hip replacement or two. Seeing his T-101 grey and wrinkled over the 30 years spent waiting for Sarah and Kyle to arrive in 2017, you can't help think of how his recent return to the screen has been similarly underwhelming, especially when compared to his heyday of the 90's. Alongside him Emilia Clarke takes on the Militant Mum role well enough, despite her strength being undermined on occasion so Jai 'White Label' Courtney can assert masculine authority.

James Cameron managed to hoodwink us brilliantly with the first two in the series, which are essentially chase films, distracting us with great FX, perfect pacing and well rounded characterisation. Since then it has gone from bad to worse and when you also take the TV series into account, you have to wonder what exactly is left to explore in this universe. As the trio merrily skip off at the end philosophising over fate, or rather the uncertainty of it, we can be assured that the end of the world will be back on again, as the sequels continue to tumble off the production line.

Steven liked this review