As if attempting to rival Fury Road for most relenting film of the summer, Terminator Genisys never once slows down to allow the audience, or itself, a break. Before director Alan Taylor’s name flashes up to announce the end of the opening credits we’ve sat through a thick voiceover prologue, a massive final assault on Skynet’s home turf as well as witnessing the new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) being sent back to 1984. If at first you quizzically questioned if Genisys was a remake of James Cameron’s 1984 classic, you wouldn’t be alone. Reese is sent back by John Connor (Jason Clarke) with the same mission: prevent the T-800 sent back in time by Skynet from killing Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke).
It is here where Genisys diverges, somewhat, from previous franchise installments. Reese is greeted by a fully trained Sarah Connor, accompanied by the original T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) as a personal bodyguard, as opposed to the naive waitress he was told to expect. There to stop them is a T-1000. Here Genisys becomes one of the first films I’ve seen to act as a sequel, a prequel, a reboot, and a remake all in one, carrying all the convolution you’d expect from a film holding all of those labels. This becomes even more astounding when considering the seemingly endless action set pieces squeezed into its 2-hour runtime.
Indeed, Terminator Genisys is, in terms of narrative, a total mess. Our two leads, charismatic enough but never convincing in their now-legendary roles, suck wind in between gun battles and foot chases to spit out excessive exposition in rapid fire manner. The film is ambitious, both in its concepts and its attempts to pull the franchise back together and aim it firmly at the next installment, but ultimately its reach far exceeds its grasp. Those looking for the brainy, thematic, and rich science fiction of Cameron’s first two entries should look elsewhere.
Luckily, Terminator Genisys fulfills its duties as a visually vibrant, explosive, and thrilling summer blockbuster. While the endless action sequences allow no time for audiences to emotionally connect to our new Kyle/Sarah duo, they still excite, with the now-charming and endearing T-800 kicking all kinds of ass. It’s interesting how a (mostly) emotionless robot becomes the film’s most emotionally stirring aspect. Indeed, Schwarzenegger’s inherently charismatic presence becomes easily worth the price of admission. Gone is James Cameron’s smart science fiction. Gone is a Sarah and Kyle romance that we invest in. Nevertheless, there’s something incredibly profound about watching Arnold Schwarzenegger go head to head with a naked, younger version of himself. It is in moments like those where Terminator Genisys finds its worth.
★★½ out of 5