Review: Terminator Genisys

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There’s a moment in (the commonly underrated yet wholly unnecessary) Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines in which John Connor asks his Terminator guardian just how on Earth the apocalyptic judgement day could take place after having been prevented in franchise days gone by. “You only postponed it,” is his protector’s reply, “Judgement Day is inevitable.” That moment – from a movie most fans wish had never been – seems to be the defining statement of the Terminator franchise. Break it down and Skynet is Hollywood, Judgement Day the Terminator franchise itself. But, like the plot of this fourth sequel, this time there’s a new addition to the franchise bag of tricks – a conceptual fusion of the alternate timeline antics of JJ Abrams’ Star Trek and the all-star team-up shenanigans of last year’s rompingly fun X-Men: Days Of Future Past. Terminator Genisys though begs a question entirely of its own, for can a franchise that definitively concluded over two decades ago continue to thrive in the aftermath of two disappointing sequels when it’s only trump card is ostensibly a mash-up?

The answer is unfortunately nothing more than “sort of”. With Jai Courtney’s Kyle Reese venturing back to 1984 to discover that Skynet has altered the status quo and created a new timeline, the stage is set for a new Terminator franchise in which there are no predetermined rules. Where the whole venture falls flat however is in failing to make good on the potential that set-up allows, with yet another explosion-filled chase movie and a visible effort to craft a pre-ordained franchise above all else. The franchise building is a particularly awkward point; with what should be a big reveal inadvertently ruined long in advance purely by stunt casting, a rebooting of the Schwarzenegger role somewhat groan-worthy in its eventual execution, and a new timeline which makes next to no sense but exists purely for the inevitable Terminator 6. “The future is not set” we’re told over and over, yet Terminator Genisys itself constantly strains under the noticeable weight of three-picture deals for those involved.

On a visceral entertainment level, Genisys is disposably enjoyable; though the enjoyment is sapped by a disappointing overuse of sub-standard computer effects that render entire action sequences (such as a third act helicopter chase) lifeless and inert even in a premium format such as IMAX. IMAX incidentally seems to draw the most life from the movie, with early “future war” sequences in particular engagingly flashy and action-packed, though as usual the artificially-added extra dimension is ineffective and simply an annoyance.

As for the cast, Schwarzenegger has his fun – as is always the case – and Jai Courtney at least manages to surpass the “I really don’t want to be here” performance of Christian Bale last time around; but it’s Emilia Clarke who stands out as the movie’s oddity. Too endearing to be taken seriously, yet simply too good an actress to say she’s merely impersonating Linda Hamilton. Meanwhile, the movie’s other Clarke (no relation), Zero Dark Thirty’s Jason Clarke, does the best he can with a limited role, but his John Connor is ultimately nothing more than a smiling zombie take on the old T-1000 archetype with really nothing new to add to the series’ pantheon of (spoiler alert) cybernetic villains that hasn’t already been done to death.

Terminator Genisys may well revitalise the series in the eyes of the audience, but it’s new form is now so far removed from the gritty horror-inspired movie that began it all that what we’re left with is ultimately just a rather bland sci-fi chase movie. Not quite as goddawful as McG’s Terminator Salvation, nor as doggedly admirable as Mostow’s Rise Of The Machines; Genisys feels like nothing more than it’s own hypothetical marketing remit: a watered down go at an established franchise intended to churn out a new trilogy.

Terminator Genisys is in cinemas from Thursday, July 2nd; rated 12A. Check out the trailer below.

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