“I’m old, not obsolete.”
Dir. Alan Taylor
Runtime: 126 minutes
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
OK, you know Terminator films by now, you kind of know what to expect with this one. 2015’s “Terminator: Genisys” is a soft reboot of the franchise. Why a soft reboot? Because it is based on the original film – “The Terminator” (1984), but then it goes all higgeldy-piggeldy and plays with the timeline. Sit back and I’ll try and explain…
In 180 characters, what’s it about?
Human sent back in time to save the past from a machine so that the future is different – but the past has already been changed somehow, so future he came from doesn’t exist.
I need more of a breakdown, can you explain this film a little more?
Bear with me and I’ll try and get this right….
In 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to the past (1984) to protect the future, but Skynet is watching in the shape of a covert T-5000 (Matt Smith).
When Kyle gets to 1984 it’s not the 1984 he was expecting to go to, but a different 1984 that isn’t the past that he went through as a child himself. He’s chased by a T-1000 and eventually meets Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) who already knows who he is and is accompanied by a T-800 Terminator (Arnie). The T-800 is a ‘good’ Terminator which was sent back in time to protect her when she was 9 years old (in 1973) from a ‘bad’ T-1000 Terminator.
This T-800 was sent from an unknown source, in an unknown year – unknown so that nobody in the future can prevent it from happening (or somebody was planning a sequel to this film). Kyle doesn’t know any of this, he apparently wasn’t born till after Judgment Day, but in his version of reality, Judgment Day is 2017, not 1997 as suggested in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), which Sarah and T-800 believe to be the case.
Sarah has a plan to save the future by travelling from 1984 to the future of 1997 to save the distant future (post 1997 to 2029). Kyle argues that rather than that future (1997), they travel to a different distant future (2017) to save the far distant future (post 2017 to 2029). He explains his logic based on memories of a different future than what she knows, and Judgment Day being 2017 and not 1997 (presumably because the events of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” were successful after all??).
Meanwhile, John Connor has come back from the future (2029) that did exist at the start of the film, but doesn’t exist anymore, to a past that never existed for him – 2014 – which is a future that is new to Kyle. John has been busy creating the new Genisys, which is really Skynet which will cause the 2017 Judgment Day. He’s also waiting for Kyle and Sarah – but he doesn’t know about the T-800 that first went to 1973, but got left in 1984 because it can’t travel forward in time to 2017. To add to this, John wants to kill them all because he is not the John Connor that sent Kyle back 2029 but a T-3000 instead, but still kind of John Connor.
Does any of this make sense?? Is your nose bleeding?? Does your head hurt??
While the previous film, “Terminator: Salvation“, looked to be exploring a new and exciting route for the franchise, this film falls back into old habits. Like a comfortable pair of slippers, this film dons on a lot of the cliches, one liners and time-travelling antics that you would expect to find in the other films in this franchise. The only problem is that the other films (barring “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003)) already did everything you see here and did it well. This film rehashes a lot of what went before it and almost becomes a parody or tribute to itself. As I watched it unfold it felt like the director wanted to add Terminator Easter eggs for fans of the franchise, without understanding that they did not want Easter eggs, and not caring that it alienated new audiences too. How many times in a franchise can you hear “Come with me if you want to live“, or “I’ll be back“? It is predictable, lazy, and boring. How many times can you see Arnie’s Terminator character get beaten to death only to mysterious come from nowhere to save the day again?
I didn’t particularly fall in love with the casting in this film I’m afraid. I’m not saying that they are an embarrassment to their art, more that they weren’t utilised to their strengths very well. I couldn’t buy in to Jason Clarke as John Connor; Emilia Clarke seemed too sweet and delicate to be the beaten down mother of the resistance; Matt Smith didn’t feel threatening as the T-5000/Skynet body (and his accent wasn’t brilliant!). I have to admit though, I didn’t mind Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. The real name on the box though is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Did he do the film justice, or did the film to justice to him? In my opinion, his showing as the T-800 here was better than what was given to audiences in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” at least. I think l he was used more cleverly, and where possible more tasteful CGI and effects were used to allow him to flourish. His aging appearance was added into the story too, which I think was better than just dying his hair and covering him in make-up.
The action was decent, but I didn’t think it was breathtaking or that original. Lots of it, but it’s pretty much all been done before – again, just rehashing rather than innovating. I was not surprised by anything, and nothing amazed me (God, I am beginning to sound like an emotionless robot myself now!?!). It was just another run/fight/hide/chase/fight Terminator film. Sure, it had been updated with Skynet now being software (Genisys) – Sure, there are some old and new Terminator models (T-800, T-1000, T-3000, & T-5000) – but still… it wasn’t really anything that new.
My biggest bugbear here is that due to the butchering of the franchise timeline that occurred, the plot is all over the place and actually hurts to understand if you sit down and try to map it out (I might try that in the future). Thankfully, the future “Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019) solves everything and suggests that after “ Terminator 2: Judgment Day ” none of the events depicted in ” Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” and “Terminator: Genisys” occurred. Phew!
I really wanted to like this film, but after watching it numerous times now though, it actually starts to make ” Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” more credible – and that really is saying something. It hurts me to award a low rating because of how amazing the first two films in the franchise were, but the best I can do is give this a 5 out of 10. To put that into context, the first Terminator gets 10/10 from me – this 5th film in series is half the film the first one was for a much bigger budget – maybe as a standalone film, without my investment in the franchise, it be might be epic, it has all the ingredients. Likewise though, even then it might still be a paradoxical mess – sad times 😦