Terminator Genisys

***1/2

Reviewed by: Stuart Crawford

Terminator Genisys
"The film is saved by one of Schwarzenegger's strongest performances to date."

It took seven long years for 1984's The Terminator to spawn a sequel. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is still considered by anyone with a brain and functioning sense organs to be one of the greatest action blockbusters of all time, and now, 24 years later, we finally have a third entry in the franchise.

Oh, you remember another two? Sorry, no. Both Salvation and Rise Of The Machines have been purged from this timeline, presumably because neither of them were any good whatsoever. Terminator: Genisys isn't really a straight sequel: it takes something of a Back To The Future Part II approach to the time-travel aspects of the plot, while in terms of how it deals with existing continuity the closest reference point is probably the 2009 Star Trek reboot.

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We open with an introduction from Jai Courtney's Kyle Reese, as he struggles to get to grips with not being Michael Biehn. It's a plight that non-Michael-Biehn audiences should find sympathetic, as we pause briefly to wonder if we even have a credible Michael Biehn substitute in 2015. There's a swift recap of the war against the machines: the humans have won, Skynet's defence grid is smashed, but it still has one trick up its homicidal-computer-network equivalent of a sleeveā€”a time machine. A terminator has been sent back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor before she can give birth to the leader of the resistance, and Kyle Reese volunteers to go back and save her.

So far this is just the plot of The Terminator as seen from the other side. It's when we get back to 1984, however, that nothing's quite the same. Far from being a wet and helpless waitress, Emelia Clarke's Sarah Connor has a firm grasp of the finer points of arse-kicking, along with her own T-800 companion. She's essentially John from T2 if he'd gotten to grow up with the terminator, and Clarke carries it off with aplomb. She's justifiably furious that the fate of the world rests on her uterus, that her cosmic destiny is to be somebody's mum. Her relationship with Arnie's surrogate father cyborg more than makes up for the lack of chemistry with Courtney.

The remainder of the plot doesn't bear close examination. There's some more time travel and a handful of lacklustre fight scenes before a building is destroyed in a climactic explosion. It's a pity that the film's so packed full of references to the previous instalments, as it only serves to highlight how weak the original material is by contrast. None of the dialogue really stands out, the plot needs tightening and the direction of action veers between uninspired and difficult-to-follow. The film is saved by one of Schwarzenegger's strongest performances to date, lending proceedings the feel of a Terminator movie that was so sorely lacking in Salvation and Rise. JK Simmons puts in a brief scene-stealing performance, and will hopefully have more of a role in the inevitable sequels.

The ending is weak, and the scene with the street punks from the first film where Bill Paxton has been replaced by a rubbish ersatz Bill Paxton feels like going to see the Dead Kennedys and ending up with Green Day instead, but it's worth it for every scene that leaves you with the feeling that you're watching the terminator. Or at least something rocking his clothes, his boots, and his motorcycle.

Reviewed on: 06 Jul 2015
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When Kyle Reese arrives in 1984 to save Sarah Connor, nothing is as he expected.
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Director: Alan Taylor

Writer: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier

Starring: Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, JK Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee

Year: 2015

Runtime: 126 minutes

Country: US

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