Thanks to Paramount Pictures Australia we had the chance to see Alan Taylor’s highly anticipated blockbuster ‘Terminator Genisys’ before its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!
After fighting the machines in the distant future, the leader of the resistance, John Connor (Jason Clarke), decides to send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to the past to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke). However, not all goes according to plan, as Reese arrives in a totally different timeline in which Connor has been trained as a soldier by a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who was sent back in time way before being tasked with the sole mission of becoming her guardian.
Now Reese must adapt himself to this new reality of working with one of his sworn enemies, a terminator, in order to stop Judgement day from happening, as humanity’s biggest threat, Skynet, is yet to be developed.
Terminator Genisys is a risky film, as it takes a beloved franchise and uses the same elements and characters to build a new storyline in order to reboot it and create what could be a new trilogy. The film has a strong beginning that will push Terminator fans to their climax: you can see an amazing take on the future and the “fall” of Skynet, similar to what James Cameron hinted at in the beginning of Terminator 2, but now with longer and more highly detailed sequences that show mankind’s struggle to defeat the machines, and why John Connor is the face of the resistance.
All of this is followed up by a revisitation of some iconic locations of the first Terminator film. Kyle Reese makes his way back to 1984 to “that alley,” and then to the store where he gets his iconic clothes (Nike shoes included). All of this takes place while Arnold’s original, younger, Terminator arrives. However, here is where things change. Reese has to face a T-1000 model. The T-100 is played by Byung-hun Lee, whose minor role does justice to that of Robert Patrick’s, which was unknown for him at that stage, while the original Terminator created with impressive CGI faces Arnold’s current, “older” Terminator in a truly epic Arnold vs Arnold fight (Nope, this is not like in 2000’s The 6th Day).
After that, you could say that Terminator Genisys begins as a new film, in which we see a young Sarah Connor, who sees a parental figure on the Terminator, and meddles with path she should follow to stop Judgement day by giving birth to John Connor and also avoid Reese dying (as seen in The Terminator). Sadly from there, the plot gets overcomplicated, as is the case of most time-travelling films. There is too much information to digest during which the timelines contradict the first three films, all in order to open the door to a new franchise.
Performance wise, Arnold does what he does best as the iconic machine, and brings a bit of that comedy back from his relationship with the teen John Connor from Terminator 2, but this time with Kyle Reese. However, for some reason, Arnold’s iconic character feels secondary in Genisys, as the film is more a Kyle Reese move than an actual Terminator, or at least it feels like it. Speaking of Reese, Australia’s Jai Courtney does a decent job taking on the iconic character of Reese, but his chemistry with Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor (who he is supposed to be in love with) doesn’t quite work, and the whole plot about them feels plain and vague. Fellow Aussie, Jason Clarke is a solid John Connor, and creates an interesting mythology around the character. From thereon in, however, timelines change and everything is blown to smithereens – we no longer know for sure whether it truly is the Terminator that is the actual threat, now that he has been modified on a cellular level and is no longer human, nor machine.
We had such high expectations of Emilia Clarke’s take on Sarah Connor; and, despite how much we love this young talented actress, we must say that her performance is far from memorable, mostly because she had some big shoes to fill. For many of us, there will only ever be one Sarah Connor: Linda Hamilton, making it impossible not to compare actresses (even if we hate comparisons). Put simply, Clarke feels vulnerable, despite trying to depict a strong bad-ass lead female, and she sometimes screams too much while being bossy. Still, she is a million times better as a female lead in the franchise than the annoying Kate Brewster (played by Claire Danes in Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines).
Special effects are great, the audio is impressive and the film gives us some memorable action sequences and new classic Arnold moments. However, the marketing campaign ruined most of it even prior to its release, as the biggest twist, showing John Connor as the villain, was revealed on the posters and final trailers, so there was no major surprise during the almost two hours of the film. Moreover, the fact that Connor is now a Skynet ally is really hard to digest, especially for die-hard Terminator fans who have witnessed four films (yes, we are considering Terminator Salvation too) that built the image of this legendary leader of the resistance and the only hope of humanity’s survival. It seems very odd, after all of this, to tear John Connor apart in just minutes.
Overall, Terminator Genisys is a fun blockbuster, but it is far from being a new Terminator 2. The idea of changing things to allow space for a new trilogy is clever, but director Alan Taylor went too far by entirely altering an iconic movie character such as John Connor, in a film that will be mostly remembered for the return of Arnold to one of his most iconic roles, and for some of the most nostalgic and well-made scenes ever made for a film’s reboot…or shall we say sequel?
Terminator Genisys opens in cinemas July 1st, 2015