Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Matt Smith, Byung-Hun Lee, J.K. Simmons
Release Date: July 1st, 2015
Terminator Genisys could’ve helped reboot the entire franchise. Instead, this web this fifth installment in the long-running series helps undermine it.
Director Alan Taylor knows how to continue cinematic stories that other filmmakers have started. In 2013, story he directed the admirable sequel Thor: The Dark World after taking the reins from Thor director Kenneth Branagh. In that sequel, he built on the world of Thor and helped tell a story within that world. In Terminator Genisys, he obliterates the world from the previous installments.
Six years after Terminator Salvation, Genisys is a blatant attempt to start over (in fact, it’s set to be the opening chapter in a new Terminator series). Instead of building on the previous four features, Taylor— along with a screenwriting team of Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier— has reshaped the entire narrative of John and Sarah Connor.
When the film opens in the not-too-distant future, John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading a revolution against the Skynet machines alongside his lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). After a major battle, John sends Kyle into 1984 to rewrite the future. As fans of the original film now, that time is the setting of the original film and audiences here will recognize some of the elements from that James Cameron film. Here though, Kyle’s encounters with John’s mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and the Terminator himself (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are completely different than audiences will expect.
In the movie’s first fifteen minutes, many of the facts that we know from the previous installments are completely eradicated, opening up a new world and narrative for these characters. The results could’ve been extraordinary but instead, the laborious and unwieldy plot undermine the excitement of the previous features.
Every character here feels like a watered-down version of the characters we once knew. The Terminator, who turns into a Grandfather-type figure here, isn’t as frightening or powerful as he once was. John Connor is no longer a rebellious and angry fighter and even Sarah Connor has been toned down. This isn’t the terminator you remember and it shows during every exposition-heavy exchange.
Some of the action scenes here include better special effects but those effects can’t create the dramatic tension that some of the previous Terminator movies offered. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, some of the best action scenes– the rescue in the mental hospital, the truck-bike chase scene– were smaller affairs with fewer characters at risk but they were packed with suspense. Here, more characters are at risk and the explosions are bigger but that suspense is nowhere to be found.
Even the villains here– several of whom are decimated within minutes of being introduced– are underwhelming.
In the end, Terminator Genisys offers up a new mythology for the story but one that’s lacking the intrigue and uniqueness of the previous world. There are different characters involved here— including a wasted turn by J.K. Simmons— but these people are as forgettable as this entire installment.
It’s one thing to reinvigorate a series with a few new interesting twists along the way. Termnator: Genisys does the opposite. It undermines what came before it and reshapes the narrative course of the series. But the new course it offers— the new direction we’re taken in— is far less interesting, imaginative and intriguing than the first origin story.
Arnold, of course, says once again one of his most famous lines by stating “I’ll be back.” It’s time to ask the question: “Why?”
Review by: John Hanlon