At one point during Terminator: Genisys, Kyle Reese exclaims “time travel makes my head hurt”. Truer words have never been spoken. This isn’t because the plot does anything intricate or intelligent with paradoxes or timelines, far from it; Genisys instead utilises time travel as a story convolution device. It throws multiple alternate realities at the wall to see what sticks, but absolutely fails to find an interesting path to follow, leaving nothing but a muddy brickwork and fresh disappointment.
It’s hard to know what to write as a plot synopsis for Terminator: Genisys for fear of ruining the movie with spoilers, but then its marketing campaign has already given away all of the big reveals. I’ll go with what Paramount would want potential viewers to know, using the same amount of effort that appears to have gone into the film’s storyline:
Something something, “Sarah Connor is now that girl from Game of Thrones, isn’t that cool?”, something something, “Arnie’s back! Aren’t you excited?”, blah blah blah, “oh look it’s referencing its infinitely better franchise siblings, how neat and inventive!”, blah blah blah, “check out these explosions, corrrrrr blimey this movie definitely has substance guys!”.
In order to give this review some semblance of critical balance, it must be said that Schwarzenegger’s return is more than welcome in Genisys; thankfully his 8-year spell as the Governator hasn’t diminished his talent for portraying a robot killer (if anything his political career probably allowed new insight the workings of soul-less automatons). J.K. Simmons presence is similarly appreciated as he steals every scene he appears in, unsurprising from an actor that could still be enthralling if he just lay on the ground and pretended to be a bowl of soup (“and the Academy award for Best Supporting Actor goes to …. J.K. Simmons in Goulash”). But aside from these two, basically everything else is “fried by a nuclear blast” bad.Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke (apparently unrelated) fail to convince as Sarah and John Connor, neither giving anything close to an impressive performance. Jai Courtney goes through the motions with some conviction but suffers with the rewritten Kyle Reese character. Gone is the resourceful and tough time-traveller from 1984’s original, replaced with an empty shell of his former on-screen persona, physically beefed-up but intellectually drained and diseased with irritatingly wide-eyed confusion. The entire cast is equally tarred by the sticky brush of horrendous dialogue. If they’re not starting a speech with “theoretically…” then they’re delivering tired cliches or exposition that’s so heavy-handed it’ll leave bruises (nicely complimenting the “over reliance on phones/social media” theme slapping you in the face throughout).
About now you might think, “OK sure, but what about the action? That’s what I want in my fiery blockbusters”. I wish I could tell you that there’s trademark Terminator carnage and that it’s the saving grace of a shallow film, but it simply wouldn’t be true. Frankly, most of the large set-pieces are completely underwhelming, appearing as though the CGI teams all took Friday afternoon off and said “ahhhh that’ll do, let’s hit the pub”. From the young version of Arnie that must have wandered out of Madame Tussauds, through to chase sequences pulled from bad video games, the action visuals of Terminator: Genisys are as weak as everything else.
There are small slivers of enjoyment to be found within the 126 minutes but you’ll be lucky to spot them through continuously rolling your eyes. If you truly love T1 and T2, then you should avoid seeing this desecration of their legacy at the cinema. Let Terminator: Genisys tank at the box office, because God help us all if they make this the start of a new trilogy.
Terminator: Genisys is on wide release in UK & US Cinemas now.