Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Lee Byung-hun, J.K Simmons, Matt Smith
Plot: The year is 2027 and John Connor (J. Clarke) has destroyed Skynet. He sends Kyle Reese (Courtney) back in time to protect his mother from the last Terminator, but it soon becomes clear they may have walked into a trap.
Terminator: Genisys starts off shaky. In the space of the opening credits, we have met young Kyle Reese, discovered time travel and finally defeated Skynet. The fears began creeping in. Alan Taylor looked like he could do the spectacle well enough, (as far as destructive mayhem goes, Taylor excels with Genisys), but pacing-wise, he struggles. The introduction to his movie leaves little time to savour the smaller details. Jason Clarke is the actor who suffers the most in this movie. The scene where he finds the machine that sends Kyle Reese back in time should have been up there with the highlights of the franchise. This moment is everything his entire life has been leading up to! Sadly, Taylor doesn’t realise this and dives into exposition. I resided myself to spend the next two hours with a movie that would fumble away its big ideas with an uneven tone.
Thankfully, I was proved wrong. Don’t listen to the critics who are attacking this movie. They were always going to slate this film, so anxious to write a scathing review of yet another classic’s reboot, they forgot to actually pay attention to the movie they were reviewing. As soon as the movie gets to where it wants to be for the majority of its running time, settled down with Schwarzenegger, Courtney and Emilia Clarke, it actually gets quite good. I never thought the best thing about Genisys would be the characters, but they are the fifth Terminator’s strong point. And, when we think about it, why shouldn’t they be? Sarah Connor is one of the most interesting characters in cinematic history, both Taylor and Emilia Clarke highlighting both her strengths (courage, dedication, selflessness), and her weaknesses (stubborn, untrusting), brilliantly. Emilia Clarke convinces as the hard-as-nails soldier, taught to survive from the age of nine, really well, but also allows a small peek at Sarah’s softer side, going to the original movie for help. She has also benefited from spending time with Lena Headey on the set of Game of Thrones – one eyebrow raise early on comes straight from the acting school of Headey. Jai Courtney is the surprising actor here. I forgot that I really like him as a performer. In the original season of Spartacus, he was a pleasure to watch as Varro, the kind-hearted yet tough gladiator. However, when directors began finding him movies to take part in, they looked past his talents as an actor and focused on his physique. Cue a painful turn in Die Hard 5, an uninspired character in Jack Reacher and a wasted one in I, Frankenstein. Finally, we see him do some acting again. Yes, sure, Kyle Reese has his fair share of action, but Courtney shines with the smaller stuff. In the rush of meeting Sarah Connor, we see the boy inside of him that is meeting his idol/crush for the first time. We see the pain and respect he has when faced with John Connor. This is Courtney’s best work yet, making him the star of the show for me. And we cannot forget good old Arnie. At times, he understands the tone and style of the franchise better than anyone else does. Without him, we wouldn’t have a movie and time hasn’t taken away from his performance. Here, we see a softer side to his robot, Schwarzenegger showing surprising gentleness as the T-800 and taking the father figure side of the character to the next level. He may be old, but he is far from obsolete.
Yes, there is a lot to complain about with this film as well. I am sure that those people that dislike this movie will be mostly correct in their criticisms. Jason Clarke struggles with a character that never quite finds a place in the story to fit in. I am sure when I stop to look at the plot in detail there will be gaps in logic all over the place. After all, this is a time travel movie. However, for full enjoyment in this movie, you need to enter the film in a certain frame of mind. No, this was never going to be as good as the first two movies. But, no one really asked it to be. What Genisys does is restart our expectations and manages them accordingly. This is the best Terminator movie since Judgement Day, understanding the tone better than Rise of the Machines and untangling the mess that was Salvation. Taylor has good fun with the humour of the movie, taking notes from Judgement Day and delivering a non-stop entertaining thriller. In fact, the only place I really want to angrily complain is the trailer. A lot of my appreciation of the movie was killed by a trailer that showed far too much of its hand (the mid-act plot twist, the ‘I’ll be Back’ gag), and is probably the biggest reason Genisys is doing so poorly critically. It was a stupid error and the producers really should have known better.
Final Verdict: Yes, it is flawed, but this is the best Terminator movie in a long time, understanding tone and character, creating an entertaining popcorn flick.