Terminator Genisys is getting absolutely slaughtered by reviewers. It’s yet another film in the franchise that fails to live up to its original release and its sequel. Die Hard experienced the same dissolution of greatness; Taken, too. Jurassic Park was following the same path until Jurassic World. A blockbuster’s cachet only reverberates so long before it inevitably dwindles. But amidst all of its problems – and they are myriad – there’s some fun to be had with Terminator Genisys.
Despite my trepidation with all things related to time travel and alternate realities, the beginning of Terminator Genisys got my attention. It is essentially a remake – almost shot-for-shot – of James Cameron’s original film, augmented (I use that term loosely) by scenes from the future. We see ‘Pops’- – the Terminator who rescued Sarah Connor when was a child, and effectively raised her – – take on the Terminator whose murderous rampage we witnessed in that first film. Then Genisys flicks into full-throttle T2: Judgement Day territory, introducing the liquid metal T-1000, who targets Kyle Reese the moment he arrives from the future, and who is dealt with in an ingenious manner. Up to that point, I was enjoying myself, despite the winks to the franchise being anything but sly.
Then the film lost me.
The moment Sarah and Kyle travel forward in time – – from 1984 to 2017 – – when Skynet has become an app (yes, really) which connects all technology, the already-questionable foundations on which Genisys stands begins to crumble. There’s plenty of action, but none of it is spectacular – – nothing iconic, nothing to excite the audience – – and the ‘twist’, spoiled in various trailers, when John Connor reveals himself as something inhumane – – part man, part machine – – leads only to a confrontation packed with pedestrian dialogue, and lacking any sort of emotional resonance.
Arnold Schwarzenegger does his best with the flimsy material. He provides some comic relief to proceedings, which is essential, as the majority of character interactions are monologues; information dumps providing the audience with backstory and explanations. And despite being portraying an emotionless machine, Schwarzenegger is essential the movie’s heart, which isn’t to undermine Emilia Clarke’s prowess; she just doesn’t have much to work with. The same goes for Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese; he’s played more as an action hero here, never short of a quip, unfazed by the nonsensical events around him. In the original Terminator, Reese’s fear of the Terminator was palpable; he confronted the machine knowing he couldn’t win – – he was effectively tasked with mission impossible. In Genisys he takes these confrontations in his stride. His appeal is diluted.
Terminator Genisys flirts with great ideas, but stumbles in its execution. It’s a messy, unspectacular film, salvaged by the appeal of seeing Schwarzenegger return to one of his most iconic roles. Definitely the third best in the series; but that’s not saying much.