Film Review – Terminator Genisys (2015)


A couple of flagging sequels have pretty much robbed the Terminator series of its status as a superior sci-fi series and the bandwagon trundles on in incomprehensible style with Terminator Genisys. An exercise in desperation, and just as much stupidity, this fifth big screen instalment is so lacking in punch that one suspects it may be a sophisticated marketing ploy to shift vast quantities of Nike high tops. It’s delivered in the laboured, unintelligible style befitting of a film whose name itself gives rise to a moment of semantic concern. And even the joy at seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the driving seat of a Terminator movie can’t help shake the feeling that this may be the lowest point yet for the series.

Alan Taylor’s film promises much in the way nostalgia: a returning T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and the aforementioned shoes; but delivers little in the way of satisfaction. With a script that ties itself in knots vainly trying to separate itself from previous narratives while simultaneously taking every chance to reference the previous films, it’s a tedious, unintelligible let-down.

The opening salvos play out like a straight enough remake of the first Terminator movie, with the T-800 and Kyle Reese being sent back to 1984, albeit viewed from a slightly different perspective. But then a disruption in space-time, and a contrivance in narrative terms, sees another Terminator and a tooled-up Sarah Connor dropping in to aid Reese and set them off on an alternative time-line to destroy Skynet’s all-seeing Genisys app to avert Judgement Day.

For much of the time it appears that Terminator Genisys is relying on the audience’s collective sense of nostalgia. References to the first two films come in scattershot fashion, aiming to key you into a thematic sense of place. As characters repeat familiar lines and action set pieces are wholesale robbed from the James Cameron films, it has the unintended consequence of merely reminding you of a time when these films used to be very good.

The screenplay, which can be reasonably credited to five individuals, heaps upon the viewer vast quantities of techno-babble, then brushes it aside with an airy “don’t worry about the specifics”. Quite why some of the characters show up when they do remains somewhat of a mystery; such is the Swiss cheese nature of the plot-hole-ridden script.

Alan Taylor has some degree of pedigree in the blockbuster arena, bringing his Thor sequel experience to the project, but his style here is languid and uninspiring. The almost low-budget charm and physicality of James Cameron’s original seem worlds away, as you suffer yet more perfunctory CGI disappointment. A late helicopter chase resembles a cartoon.

This feels like a Terminator film that found its way into the world for dubious reasons associated with coin. I’m not convinced anyone involved took the time to think this through.

The spark of invention, of nasty sci-fi brutality that once seasoned the series has been washed away in favour of a glossy, forced saunter down memory lane.

Chris Banks

dir.Alan Taylor, USA, 2015 | Sci-fi | Distributor: Paramount Pictures | Release Date: 2nd July 2015 (UK) | Rating: 12a | Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Matt Smith, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons

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