The Terminator franchise is back with Genisys, its best instalment since 1991. Granted, this is not all that difficult considering the last two uninspired films, but the first instalment in the supposed new T-trilogy is worth the while for the sci-fi/action junkie. Read why after the jump:
Genisys opens in the ruins of Los Angeles in about 2029, in the waning years of the apocalyptic war with supercomputer, Skynet. When a Terminator is sent back to 1984 to try to stop the resistance before it is born, John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends his protegé Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), and safeguard the future. If this sounds like The Terminator, it is. However, unlike the narrative in that film, a turn of events creates a fractured timeline and pits him against an unexpected enemy, and gain an unexpected ally. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past – Sarah knows all about her destiny, is battle-hardened and knows how to wield a gun – and together they are the only hope in resetting the future.
Firstly, the two Clarkes – Emilia and Jason – are total badasses in Genisys. Jason, underrated yet terrific in Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, bears no semblance of Australian-ness while adopting the two-faced John Connor, effectively serving both as an inspiring beacon of hope in the future and an intimidating foil. Game of Thrones’ Emilia, looking puny next to her male co-stars, makes a strong claim for consideration in future action roles. She fights unwaveringly hard all the way, and does a perfectly acceptable job of upholding the Sarah Connor legacy.
No one is going to admit they are sold on Jai Courtney after this film, but the Aussie quad-franchise poster boy (A Good Day to Die Hard, Divergent and Suicide Squad) is gaining cred every day. This is despite a shaky American accent. The surprising element here is Arnie Schwarzenneger, who could have been a misfired gimmick and yet is terrific. The recycled classic one-liners aren’t roll-your-eyes worthy, but actually work well, and his comic timing (including a guffaw-worthy dick joke) cuts through the film’s maintained intensity and levels out the beat-em-up back to the now-rare fun-blockbuster levels. J. K Simmons’ character doesn’t make much sense throughout, but no one is better suited to stand-by humour duty.
This was the key for me, Genisys was fun. Colin Trevorrow with his dire Jurassic World, which was obnoxiously self-aware on blinkers, could take a page out of Alan Taylor’s book here. Whereas World was obsessed with defending its seemingly-manufactured flaws through its script and favouring jump scares and brutal kills over awe-inspiring escapism, Genisys knows the franchise it has spawned from and seems to enjoy re-tracking through the territory, playing off the franchise’s classic staples and matching its beats as a reboot existing outside itself. It satisfyingly fuses the most action-centric plot elements of The Terminator and T2: Judgment Day and the impressively staged set pieces never let up over the two-hour runtime. It is essentially a greatest hits that is all-round obviously inferior, but still pretty good. While the effects in this film cannot be compared to those achieved in say T2 back in 1991, I can’t knock what has been achieved here.
Criticism for the film could come from every which way. I get that. The 3D was completely unnecessary, the plot is over-complicated and leaves many a hole in its wake, the ‘super-computer’ (the Genisys of the title) is kinda growing old, and why the reluctance to show naked male backsides? All worthy. But, this doesn’t really hold much weight against the film’s qualities, which I found to be in abundance.
After the desirably-forgettable last two installments, no one was expecting this to be any good. Yet, it is a marked improvement. Strong casting, an unpredictable plot and a relentless pace ensures this delivers more than the average fan will expect.
By Andrew Buckle
Director: Alan Taylor
Writer(s): Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Starring: Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Runtime: 125 Minutes
Release date(s): Australia 1 July 2015