Movie Review: Terminator Genisys

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Kyle Reese goes back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor, but he finds that the past is not what he expected.

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Alan Taylor, 2015

Oh crap, I have to recap the plot of Terminator Genisys. Um. So in a future overrun by robotic terminators, rebel leader John Connor (Jason Clarke, for some reason) decides to use the robots’ newest weapon, a time machine, to send his bud Kyle Reese (inexplicably Jai Courtney) back in time. His mission? To save John’s mother Sarah Connor (the baffling Emilia Clarke) from the humourless killing machine, the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger. This one is fine). Just as Kyle enters the machine, he sees something disturbing and starts having strange memories of a life he never lived. When he returns to 1984, he immediately gets himself into serious trouble, and is saved by someone unexpected. Rather than being the weak waitress he was expecting, Sarah is a bad-ass fighter, kicking metal butt and taking names along with her buddy, an aged T-800. Kyle tries to solve the mystery as he teams up with Sarah and her robot friend to once again save mankind.

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If that plot summary is confusing, you ain’t seen nothing yet. That’s only the first part of the illogical time-jumping plot of this collection of poor choices that they call a movie. The best thing that can be said of Genisys (yes, it hurts my soul every time I type that) is that it’s better than the Terminator movie before it. It’s not quite as bad as you might think it will be going in. They’ve assembled some entertaining scenes, particularly in the moments when they allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to Schwarz up the screen. The script is…well, terrible, mistaking the deceptively simple writing of the original with boring tropes and recycling old lines wherever it can shove them in. However, the scenes set in the post-apocalyptic future are pretty cool if you ignore the strange casting, and the early fight scenes are blisteringly hard. Watching terminator on terminator action is always fun, but it’s also entertaining to watch Kyle Reese walk, run, duck, and crawl the fuck away from the relentless killers. Aesthetically, director Alan Taylor has tried hard to match the original’s neon noir look. The 1984 scenes are very nicely shot, and they’re fun even if they don’t make a whole lot of sense. Sadly, not all the action is contained in 1984, and another time jump makes thing start to fall apart – particularly when the bizarrely cast John Connor reappears (I’m not going to spoil here, but let’s be real, you all know what’s up with John).

And the casting is really where everything goes pear-shaped. I am all for Emilia Clarke, Action Star. She acquits herself nicely in the fight scenes. But there is no world in which she is up to the task of playing originally badass Sarah Connor. Similarly, Jai Courtney lacks the sensitivity to play the soft-hearted Kyle, and Jason Clarke (no relation to Emilia)…well, he’s just creepy. I mean, John Connor isn’t a character with a whole bunch of defining characteristics – we’ve seen him as “whiny teenage boy” and “shouty rebel soldier”, and that’s about it. Even when the script calls for Kyle to talk about what John’s like AS A PERSON, he can’t come up with any actual personality traits apart from “I’m the only person who ever saw him smile”. Meanwhile, Jason Clarke is smiling all over the place. Matt Smith fans are going to be disappointed, as he’s barely in the film, but he’s working his butt off to make his role work when he does show up. Only Schwarzenegger is comfortable in this world. The years have given him a sense of grizzled humour about himself that works nicely for the older T-800, and Schwarzenegger has terrific comedic timing. He and JK Simmons rescue the film from the doldrums and keep it entertaining enough to get through. Watching this movie is not the worst way to spend your cinema money, and that’s the best I can say about it.

Terminator Genisys on IMDb

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