By Thomas Simpson
Terminator Genisys kicks off in 2029. The resistance led by John Connor (Jason Clarke) is about to launch an assault on Skynet, an AI with a hatred for humanity, that will end the war against the machines. Aided by Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the humans are victorious and rejoice. Their joy is short lived when they discover that Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to 1984, its goal to kill John’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and prevent the savior of mankind from ever being born.
John sends Kyle back to save her, briefing him of the kind of woman he can expect to meet. As the past looks familiar to fans of the first film, something isn’t quite what it seems as Kyle is attacked by a T-1000 (Leo Byung-hun). His mission is to save John’s mother, but it is Sarah herself that comes to Kyle’s aid. She isn’t alone, she has her own appointed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that’s been assigned as her guardian. 1984 isn’t as we remember it, but when it comes to time travel one thing always remains constant…Judgment Day.
The timeline may have been altered but Skynet must be stopped. This is a set point in the Terminator franchise so director Alan Taylor can be forgiven for treading familiar ground, even if he is heavy on his homages to previous installments. Like the 2008’s Star Trek, Genisys has created an alternate timeline to bring the series to a new audience.
Fans will inevitably approach the reboot with caution, but if they’re willing to leave their precious nostalgia at the door they may find themselves enjoying this entry. The first act in particular is strong, with adrenaline filled action that cranks the tension up from the start.
The pace of the film doesn’t slow down but the plot becomes convoluted at the midpoint as writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier attempt to cram everything but the kitchen sink into the story. The twist (unless you’ve seen the spoiler filled trailer) presents a novel idea but it feels forced and doesn’t give the characters enough time to be emotionally invested in the shocking revelations.
Jai Courtney does his best to fill Michael Biehn’s shoes without trying to be him. He is fine as the action star and plays Reese with a fresh naivety, this time around he’s the one that’s in the dark. It is up to Sarah Connor to educate Kyle, played this time by Emilia Clarke. Her youthful looks compliment the younger Sarah but she doesn’t come across as the battle hardened warrior of this timeline despite her best attempts.
The star of the show is always going to be Schwarzenegger who returns to the series after skipping Terminator Salvation. His aging looks are explained in the script and offer the opportunity for some comedic moments. The humor hits the right beats for the most part, but Taylor relies too much on the same joke which gets less funny with each telling.
The heavy reliance on CGI damages the film. A couple of the action scenes look like they’ve been thrown together just because they could be with no thought giving to the logistics of the stunts. There is a difference between suspending disbelief for something that looks great, to something that is ridiculous. Genisys treads that fine line at times.
For the most part though, Terminator Genisys is a fun action film that is very entertaining. It’s a victim of modern filmmaking and as such shouldn’t be judged too harshly in respect to the first two films. It’s disappointing that the previous two films were ignored especially given that they’ve reset the timeline, but with an unknown road ahead of them, this could be the kick-start the series has been crying out for. Early box office returns have cast doubt on a sequel but with so many unanswered questions, let’s hope Genisys doesn’t indicate the end.
Thomas Simpson is a writer and filmmaker based in Glasgow, U.K. Find him on Twitter:@Simmy41.