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Terminator Genisys – film review

July 2, 2015

TERMINATOR GENISYS

The future is not set. But apparently Marvel-inspired generic finales are.

Reviewed on Wednesday Ist July 2015

emilia clarke terminator genisys

Directed by Alan Taylor. Written by Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, and J.K. Simmons. Running time: 126 mins.

In a future war against the machines, human resistance leader John Conner sends soldier Kyle Reese back to the year 1984 in order to protect Conner’s mother Sarah from a unstoppable cyborg meant to kill her. Once Reese arrives in the past, however, he is surprised to learn that Sarah is not the person he was expecting to     find. It appears the timeline has been altered with the arrival of another Terminator     in Sarah’s past (sent to protect her) and Sarah is now a seasoned warrior with full knowledge of future events – hellbent on bringing down Skynet and averting Judgement Day once and for all.

Although I went in with zero expectations (the muddled trailer after all did nothing to engender any confidence that this would be a worthwhile experience), this is perhaps the most frustrating of summer blockbusters released this year – as the potential to fashion a unique and interesting addition to an existing franchise is clearly evident in the film’s admitedly strong first half (which I really quite enjoyed) – only to be derailed by shoe-horning blatant audience-chasing comic book sensibilities more akin to the current onslaught of PG-13 Marvel kiddie fare we are currently experiencing.

And this is perhaps the biggest issue I have with the film. While the integrity of the Terminator mythos is nicely maintained during the film’s initial future war sequence and subsequent (albeit, alternate) 1984 setting which follows (with Kramer Morganthau’s cinematography beautifully recapturing the frosty steel blues of the Cameron originals), this adherence to the mythos is ham-fistedly jettisoned half-way through, with the arrival of the characters in 2017 – so the film ultimately ends up feeling less like Cameron and more like the lame third installment Rise of the Machines; especially with the sudden introduction of a brand new Terminator – more Marvel supervillain, than anything which feels like it should be a part of this universe.

But having said that, relative newcomer Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) is beautifully cast as a young Sarah Conner; bearing a remarkable resemblance to Linda Hamilton who played her in the first two installments. And it is the casting of Clarke as Sarah and her nuanced performance which is absolutely the best thing in the film. Schwarzenegger, on the other hand, with high hopes of making a post-Governator Hollywood comeback quickly fading, is seemingly slumming it with a distinct lack of craft and enthusiasm; delivering a performance which may well rank as one of the least convincing of his career – in spite of the fact he has been given more dialogue than usual (although the dialogue he is given is tediously expositional). And its surprising that despite his above-the-title billing, he is essentially side-lined as a supporting character, allowing Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney to take center stage. But it is undoutedly Jason Clarke’s ludicrously hammy, over-the-top performance     as John Conner (particularly in the second half) which is by far the worst thing in Genisys. He appears to be in a different movie entirely and continually took me out     of the film whenever he appeared. I don’t blame Clarke for this, as he was clearly instructed by director Alan Taylor to pitch his performance at this ridiculous scenery-chewing level.

While tonally this film is much less dark than previous installments; even less so than T2: Judgement Day (which Genisys clearly aspires to resemble more than the original) – the jokey banter between Sarah and Reese is amusing at times, but it     also detracts from the sense of menace and high-stakes threats the characters     face – which again ventures into comic book territory.

The overly convoluted screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) & Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry 3D) promises to offer a clever new take on well-worn time travel conventions (recalling the far superior Back to the Future II) – only to end up muddled and confused and ultimately generic – lazily reverting to yet another paint-by-numbers CGI-heavy race-against-the-clock super villain slug-fest – much like every Marvel movie ever made. And, clearly aping the Marvel formula, a mid-credits coda threatens yet another installment – which will no doubt steer the series even further into dumbed-down comic book heroics. Me? I think I’m definitely done with this series from here on in.

2 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, July 1st 2015.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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2 Comments
  1. Ouch!

    This does seem to be getting bad reviews. Fury Road really does seem to be a shining example of how to relaunch a franchise. This one appears to have gone the Prometheus route.

    • gregory moss permalink

      Yep – FURY ROAD and GENISYS are such polar opposites! I’d definitely be up for another MAD MAX from Doctor Miller! This one – and PROMETHEUS … mmm … not so much.

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