Film Review: Terminator - Genisys

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31 years after the phrase “I’ll Be Back,” in that unmistakable Austrian accent, was first uttered on screen in 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger is again sticking to his promise and, with an all new cast, another well-awaited sequel to the Terminator franchise has finally hit the screens. According to Philip Attard however, you shouldn’t expect much….

Most people I know and talk to seem to forget how monumentally influential James Cameron’s Terminator films were to science fiction and popular cinema itself, and are surprised that I count the 1984 and 1991 films as two of my all time favourites. Cameron may be famous today for making a little film about blue aliens that made some money at the box office, but it’s important to remember that he also made two iconic, emotionally involving, admiringly intelligent and perfectly filmed science fiction classics which came to define the workings of the blockbuster as we know it today.

So, one can imagine the immense hype and anticipation surrounding the 2015 sequel: a chance to get it all right again, to prove worthy of Cameron’s films. And while Cameron has gone on record stating that, as far as he’s concerned, Genisys is the true third Terminator film, Alan Taylor’s sequel brought tears to my eyes not because of its narrative heft but because of the way it disregards and betrays (what was once) one of the most beloved film franchises of all time.

…half of the time I couldn’t follow what was happening onscreen, while the other half was spent witnessing special effects which now in 2015 look significantly worse than, say, Cameron’s efforts back in 1991.

Genisys starts out by detailing how exactly John Connor (Jason Clarke) did come to send his friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke). So far, so good, but when Reese does get to good old 1984, he finds out, together with the audience, that nothing is as he expected it to be, and so begins a demonstration of the Terminator’s delightful penchant of messing around with conventional time travel rules.

Only it’s not as delightful this time round, which can be said for just about everything the film does. Let’s talk about the time travel itself, which is rather mishandled by the film’s weak script. To be frank, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense; the fact that it’s just an excuse to go through the motions while erasing the timeline for the sake of unpredictability means it muddles the film and transforms it into an incomprehensible mess.

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As the film progresses, plot developments become increasingly strained at the point that they no longer remain believable (and when you’re talking about a Terminator film, that’s saying something). The writing is as disjointed as the plot, trying hard to get the audience emotionally invested but simultaneously letting it down through strained dialogue and failed attempts at comedic relief.

…the fact that it’s just an excuse to go through the motions while erasing the timeline for the sake of unpredictability means it muddles the film and transforms it into an incomprehensible mess.

If that’s not enough, don’t fret, since Taylor’s direction ensures that a film which should guarantee flawless and impressive set pieces instead contends with poorly edited action scenes and generous amounts of stale looking CGI. Action films in recent years have gradually decreased in quality due to insisting on choppy filming which denies the audience coherence and satisfaction, while forgoing effortful practical effects for cheaper ones that can be added on lazily on a computer after the scenes have been filmed. A Terminator film simply shouldn’t sink to the same lows, but half of the time I couldn’t follow what was happening onscreen, while the other half was spent witnessing special effects which now in 2015 look significantly worse than, say, Cameron’s efforts back in 1991.

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What’s most insulting about Genisys is how it fails, spectacularly, to honour the films to which it owes its name. Something which irked me considerably was the way the characters were depicted. Emilia Clarke is admirable in the role of the iconic Sarah Connor, but the Sarah of this here film is a pale shadow of the Sarah we grew to love in previous years, bereft of much personality and warmth. Arnold Schwarzenegger is perfectly fine as the T-800 but he’s given little to do except for providing laughs and utter the odd catchphrase, while Courtney fares the worst as the character we should care the most about. He’s not a terrible actor, but his Reese is a wisecracking, dutiful charmer, while Michael Biehn had given us a character whose wartime experiences had turned him into a dedicated yet traumatised soldier. A far cry, then, similar to Terminator: Genisys itself.

Verdict:

This sequel to a once spectacular franchise severely disappoints as both a Terminator instalment and a popcorn film in its own right. Genisys is a film which struggles to tell an uninteresting story coherently and skilfully, which means it’s one that’s best avoided, even if you’re a Terminator fan – in which case it should be forgotten as soon as possible.

Written by

Philip Attard

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