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Review: Terminator: Genisys


After the forgettable misfire of Terminator: Salvation which sought to reboot the saga, fifth Terminator film, Terminator: Genisys, reunites us with Arnold Schwarzenegger's much-loved T-800. The veteran action star's return proves to be one of the saving graces in this chronologically confusing and generically crafted addition to the series.

After the Judgement Day battles with the Skynet terminators, resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Upon his arrival Reese discovers that he has been beaten to the job by Sarah's Guardian, the T-800 (Schwarzenegger). The three must race through time to stop the launch of Genisys, a new operating system that will lead to judgement day.

Screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier appear to have crafted a timeline that they understand for this latest entry (which appears to erase Rise of the Machines and Salvation) from chronology), although viewers are likely to grasp it. We hop from the future (post Judgement Day - the event, not T2) to the same ground as the 1984 film to 2017 (pre-judgement day). If you're trying to incorporate these narrative events into the established Terminator timeline, well, good luck.

If willing to put aside attempts to grasp the timeframes, there is some fun to be had in Lussier and Kalogridis's return to the 1984 setting. Here we see the current "old - but not obsolete" T-800 tackle the original Terminator (Old Arnie vs. Young Arnie in a sense), whilst there is additional threat from Lee Byung-hun's shape-shifting T-1000 (no longer in the form of Robert Patrick). Proceedings grow convoluted when Jason Clarke's John Connor turns up in the 2017 and as the trailers have given away, is indeed an advanced Terminator himself and plotting to speed up Judgement Day by launching corrupt operating system, Genisys. In this now-chaotic action-heavy narrative, we lose the thematic depth of Cameron's original films, and are left with something that feels like a soulless mishmash of previously established moments from the Terminator universe. 


There's a real forgettable quality in director Alan Taylor's action scenes - a Terminator film should be raising the bar, not lowering it. Most of these sequences lack the originality or significant enough peril to genuinely engage us. The eighties set action-pieces and a Golden Gate school-bus pursuit are a couple that standout, given the odd moment of ambition - but the rest, including the chaotic conclusion set in the Skynet labs prove generally forgettable.

The rock holding these shaky proceedings together, however, is Arnold Schwarzenegger who glides back into his most iconic role with complete ease. There's an exciting nostalgia in seeing the actor back in the Terminator universe - whilst writers Lussier and Kalogridis provide some interest in the ageing machine dynamic. Schwarzenegger remains convincing as an action star, and brings his welcome comic chops to the fold. I personally know that I'm not interested in a Terminator film without him.

The new recruits are more of a mixed back. Courtney is impressive as Kyle Reese, bringing a raw charisma and welcome hunkiness to the proceedings (thanks to some skin-heavy teleportation scenes). Emilia Clarke may not be as naturally convincing in her toughness as Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor. but she packs the role with enough energy to engage. Jason Clarke proves the weak link of the cast, feeling robotic in his performance of both John Connor the human and machine.

Terminator: Genisys is sporadically entertaining despite its muddled chronology and lack of the narrative depth. Several moderately impressive action scenes and a welcome return for Schwarzenegger help elevate the proceedings - as well as showcasing some potential for the two planned future instalments.

★★★

Director: Alan Taylor
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Lee Byung-hun & JK Simmons
Terminator: Genisys 817308262405420731
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