This is the fifth terminator movie, and you can see in the trailer it refers considerably to the first two movies. The franchise seems to have been living in the shadow of the James Cameron movies. Genisys hardly shifts gear. The target is still judgement day, and the skynet programme that (in this movie) has infiltrated everything under the guise of a super operating system called Genisys. The system is a trojan horse, once it has gone everywhere it shows itself as skynet and wipes out most of humanity in a nuclear holocaust.
The plot overall is not new. Doctor Who did a similar thing during the David Tennant era, with the episode arc known (I believe) as The Sontaren Strategem. Ironically the eleventh doctor — Matt Smith — appears in Terminator Genisys in a small role that I need not explain. He does well, although I did wish that he could have summoned the TARDIS and cleaned up the plot holes. But no-one goes to the latest Terminator flick for a great story. Terminator 2: Judgement Day made it impossible for the franchise to ever outdo itself. That film deserves to be alongside Bladerunner, The Matrix, Fight Club, and The Godfather Part 2 as one of the greatest movies. We see Genisys for the same reason that we flocked to Jurassic World. Nostalgia. To be reminded of how we felt when we first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger stomping after Linda Hamilton with guns blazing. To not feel quite so condemned by the years that have passed in between. “Old, not obsolete,” that is what Arnie says after he’s clashed with his younger self. The timeline has changed and Kyle Reese is sent back to save Sarah Conner in 1984 — except he’s the one that needs saving. In the new timeline Sarah was attacked by a T-1000 when she was 9 years old and saved by Arnie, who she names ‘Pops’. He has been protecting her through the intervening years and has grown old insofar as he has human tissue that ages normally. It is a simple yet elegant solution for the ravages of time on the Austrian Oak.
As well as plain nostalgia, we go for magnificent action sequences, and the film does not disappoint. The narrative keeps jumping along and there’s not too much down time in between fights. The age issue gets played with honestly and humorously, and Arnie seems to be dwelling on it quite a bit. He is not the Mr Universe that drew crowds in the 1980s and 1990s, so why does he still draw crowds? Well, he’s no longer in politics, so there isn’t that polarising republican elephant squatting in the room. And there is something far more honest about him than other actors of his type and vintage.
Silvester Stallone’s Expendables series is almost a strident denial of age. He’s nearing 70, but dammit Sly will still bash the hell out of far younger foes. Arnie is different. He is old, and in Genisys there is no denying the fact that he’s not as fit as a fresh T-800 (the Arnie model of terminator). He uses experience to win, not brute strength, and he relies on the backup of Sarah Conner and later Kyle Reese. This is truer to the real nature of age, and it is refreshing to see him without an ego the size of his biceps (which are still impressive btw).
Linda Hamilton does not return to the role of Sarah Conner, her age may be a bridge too far for a still sexist Hollywood to bankroll, so Game of Thrones star Emelia Clark took over the role. She plays something in between the Sarah Conner from Terminator, and Terminator 2. Emelia has a pleasing resemblance to Linda, but she is definitely softer, and certainly not what Sarah Conner comes close to becoming in the second film. A terminator herself. Emelia played the role authentically but without plagiarizing Linda.
Kyle Reese was played by Jai Courtney, who was just abysmal. I am truly downhearted that they chose a muscled lummox to play the character originated by the wiry, intense genius of Michael Biehn. There was no chemistry between him and Emelia, and no authenticity to his performance. Why would a post-apocalyptic soldier from the starving remnants of humanity have the physique of a lightweight body builder? Where did he get all the essential protean? It doesn’t serve the story because he ends up looking more like a terminator than a human, coupled with his robotic emotion acting he makes for quite a razzy nominee (that is the Oscar’s for the worst performances).
Jason Clarke plays John Conner, and gives the sold performance we have come to expect of him. He is one of the best Australian exports from recent years, and is clocking up an impressive resume of franchises. He recently appeared in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
Other reviewers are being the binary clots they always seem to be by saying that they are disappointed with Terminator Genisys. They say it is marginally better than Terminator 3, that it is nothing but a cheap karaoke run through of the hits of the first two movies. Whatever happened to so called lovers of cinema to make them hate its fruits? They say a film is good and by comparison another film is bad. Through that non-thinking method they feel a sense of power over movies. That it is for them to choose whether a film lives or dies, and they sit as Caesar in the Colosseum with an arbitrary and lazy thumb. I think they are practically unreadable, and that their critiques are unhelpful.
A film is the sum of its parts, and though the critics can often find a bad one, they lack the precision to evaluate the parts and learn to enjoy them separately. I cannot critique music as I lack the basic understanding, but I know that Beethoven’s 5th symphony is great. Yet I can only remember the first bit of it, the famous beginning. I cannot evaluate it as a whole, yet I can tell that the bars I know are good. That is what I wish film reviewers could do. Terminator Genisys is not a great film. Yet it has bits that make the whole worthwhile and enjoyable and that is why I think you should see it.
After all people, it’s just a movie. Stop pretending that it should be anything else.