Review: Terminator Genisys (2015)

Scrap the third and fourth films and just watch this - it's one for the original fans.

It’s been 31 years since the first Terminator film came to our cinema screens, with our favourite man Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film’s namesake role. Six years later came Terminator 2, followed by two further films and a spin-off television series. However, the Terminator series ended at the second film for me; I just couldn’t get into the story after Terminator 2 and I didn’t want to. They felt like unwanted sequels, buying time until they made the perfect third film. Terminator Genisys is that film, what the third movie should have been.

The basic outline of the story follows Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). Humankind is threatened by extinction at the hands of the Terminators, robots who view humans as something that the world needs rid of. But humankind isn’t going to go down without a fight. John Connor (Jason Clarke) is the leader of the human resistance and in a desperate bid to counterattack, or prevent, Judgement Day from ever happening, he sends Reese back to 1984 to protect John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). But some unexpected events occur, creating a fractured timeline and Sgt. Reese is in a completely new and unfamiliar version of the past which could change his whole mission. In this alternate version of the past Reese makes dangerous new enemies, unlikely new allies, including the Guardian (Schwarzenegger), and a whole new mission. A mission to reset the future.

So, Terminator Genisys is not only a sequel, but a rehashing/reboot of the Terminator series. So many films are now filling this scenario of using time-travel to completely change the directions of their movie franchises. X-Men did it, Star Trek did it, and now the Terminator is doing it. It’s a completely viable solution in the movie business, keeping the same beloved characters but changing the directions and making new possibilities for their futures – I can see the appeal. The thing that we lose when this happens, usually, is the concrete stories of their original movies. But with Terminator Genisys the multiple timelines, twists and displacements fit in. Time-travel was included in Terminator from the beginning, which makes this step a natural progression. It doesn’t necessarily fit the same bill as the other franchises who play with time-travel, because it’s something that was always there in the background.

Some may think that because of the alternate timeline it makes the previous films redundant; I disagree. Yes, you have moments in the movie that are reminiscent of the previous ones, but that’s something which is bound to occur in such convoluted time-travel stories. The film is contradictory in its storyline, but this itself isn’t anything new. All Terminator films have contradictory storylines because of the time-travel essence. I find the tips to the previous movies charming, needed, and a perfect top-off for the new feature film. The film is fast-paced and full of action, leaving you hanging off your seat and willing Sarah, Reese and the Guardian on in their efforts against everything they come up against that is trying to stop them. The fight scenes are brilliant, sometimes humorous, sometimes worrisome, but always entertaining and even awe-inspiring sometimes.

What wowed me about this film were the graphics. I remember as a kid watching the originals and thinking nothing could beat the robotics and the graphics shown there, but what did I know? This film features none of the actual animatronic Terminators from the original movies, due mainly to the death of special effects artist Stan Winston. The replacements are all CGI and are incredible, specifically the CGI they used to recreate the young Terminator. Now, when it comes to recreating a face through CGI, I am sceptical. It’s been too often that I find this cringe worthy when done and wish I hadn’t been exposed to it, but with this bout of CGI exposure to a young Arnold I was pleasantly surprised. He looked just like I remember, and I suppose what adds to this and gives a slight leeway when it comes to the movement of the face is the fact that it is indeed a Terminator, a robot, and therefore a slightly false looking face works completely in its favour. In any case, I was won over for the first time. I was sat there, mouth agape, staring at the screen. And the fact that the movie was in IMAX with the beautiful images and sound reverberating through my body just added to the experience. It is definitely a movie that deserves a big screen to really immerse yourself.

Now let me get down to the acting. So Arnie can play his role of a Terminator in his sleep, he knows the role inside out and it shows. Although his name is different in this (he isn’t named a Terminator, but a Guardian), in essence the role is the same and he plays it with ease. What else can you add? No-one but Arnie can play the Terminator, and I wouldn’t want to see otherwise. Courtney as Reese was a fine choice for me. I have never watched him in any role before, so I went in with an unbiased opinion and I think he held his own really well against the cast. The real standouts for me were the roles played by Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke, who I also have never watched (at least knowingly) in a movie before. Emilia completely embodied the role of Sarah Connor and even bore a striking resemblance to Linda Hamilton. I could completely believe they were one and the same person, so this was a perfect choice for me and she is an amazing actor. And Jason Clarke stole the show, as he completely enhanced the character of John Connor and blew away all expectations I had. I had no faults with the main cast and particularly enjoyed seeing J.K Simmons in the mix.

What made the original Terminator movies brilliant were the main themes; time-travel, complicated storylines and the fight of survival between man and machine. Terminator Genisys has all of these themes and has brought them back to the big screen. I was literally biting my nails off (no, seriously, they are quite sore) and completely blown away. I loved the original movies as a child and was nothing more than disappointed with the third and fourth films, which helped to kill the franchise for me, but Terminator Genisys has renewed my faith in the series. It gave me all my nostalgic feelings, as well as brilliantly encompassing everything that the Terminator is supposed to be and that was loved by fans. Terminator Genisys’s premise may be lost on movie-goers for the mere fact of the reused themes, but that is precisely what the Terminator series is about; a groundhog day of trying to save the world, doing so through time-travel, and trying to do it right this time.

Overall, this film surpassed my expectations, albeit low ones. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and it has reinforced and rekindled my love for the series, renewing my hopes for the future of the Terminator film series. It is full of action, and a dash of humour. The main downfall for me, though, was the trailer. When I watched the trailer in wait for the release, I was hit with the biggest spoiler of perhaps the biggest plot twist of the movie, which left a sour taste in my mouth. I would have enjoyed the film a lot more if the wow-factor from the reveal wasn’t so harshly snatched away from me.

Discussion feed
  • Finally got round to watching this and although I did like it and thought it was a good film...I did find it a bit unnecessary. I would have preferred a continuation of Salvation (which I actually rate as a film) rather than a sort of rehash/reboot that Genisys is. Enjoyable enough though!

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