WARNING: This review assumes the reader has already seen The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Because they are both awesome.
The latest instalment of the Terminator franchise sees a rewriting of previous films in the series. This should, for anyone who had to sit through Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and/or Terminator Salvation, provide the utmost relief.
Terminator Genisys is a little slow kicking off, as we are shown events we already know. In a post-apocalyptic future in which people struggle to survive and the machines rule the world, John Connor (Jason Clarke – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) rescues a young Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney – A Good Day to Die Hard). Kyle henceforth becomes John’s most committed and loyal soldier in John’s army of resistance against the terminators. The soldiers come across a time machine and John informs them that the robots have sent a terminator back to 1984 to kill his mother. This would wipe out John’s existence and thus the machines would win the war. Kyle volunteers to go back to save John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke – Game of Thrones), but is surprised to find that she is not the helpless young woman he expected, but a strong and determined warrior. Not only that but it would seem that a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is now on their side. As Sarah tells Kyle, ‘everything has changed’, and there are plenty of more surprises in store for both of them.
While Schwarzenegger inevitably receives first billing, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke all give satisfactory performances in the iconic roles they play. Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Spider-Man) also appears in the film and gives another stand-out supporting performance, which he has come to be associated with, as Detective O’Brien. Between the action scenes, family drama and trying to fit in a love story too, plenty of screen time is still given to that cybernetic organism we all know and love (who, be he hero or villain, is the one we came to see). Schwarzenegger is given plenty of sub-conscious, humorous material to work with, which somewhat makes up for the lack of violence in the film which characterises its predecessors (the film was given a 12A rating). There are also plenty of visual and narrative references to The Terminator and Judgement Day. These do not feel forced, but blend into the film smoothly as they are adoringly directed by Alan Taylor, whose previous biggest credit was Thor: The Dark World.
The many twists and turns of who is on the good or bad side should keep the audience on their toes, while the nostalgic references that characterise the action set pieces should also prove favourable. The story involves a lot of time travelling which really pushes the limits of the whole grandfather paradox – namely, how are Sarah, John and Kyle all here?? The ending also feels like a bit of a cop-out. Indeed, there is plenty one can be cynical about when approaching a reboot, but there is respect for its predecessors here, as is a genuine attempt to create a new story that can be accessed by younger generations as well as older. More importantly, Terminator Genisys is full of fun. And as Arnie reminds us time and again throughout the film, ‘I’m old, not obsolete.’