Terminator Genisys 

There have been a number of series reboots in recent years: Planet of the Apes, Superman, Spider-Man, Ninja Turtles and of course most successfully Batman and Bond. Then there is Star Trek which did something different in that it was both a retelling, going back to the start, and an effective sequel, following on from all of the events we’d seen before. Clever!

The last X-Men film took a similar route, linking the prequels and the original trilogy, and now they are trying the same trick with the fifth Terminator movie. This particular franchise always lent itself to this kind of idea with its circular time travel story but actually it isn’t as successful in this respect as it could have been. 

The problem is that in trying to tie things together it totally trips over itself. The story picks up at the point in the future that set everything going in James Cameron’s original film; the moment when the first terminator is sent back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese is sent back to save her. The narratives adds a new aspect to this telling us that this event was actually the machines’ last stand in the war against humans; a final plan to be put into action at the point of its imminent defeat. It’s a nice idea but it’s drivel. If Skynet had at this point been beaten and put out of action then where did all those nifty more advanced terminators in the other films come from? There is even a new super tech deathbot in this film that comes from the same year as the basic skin job they’ve just dispatched to the 80s. If you’ve got the capability to make one of these why send back an older model? That’s like trying to quickly cut through a piece of rope with nail scissors when you’ve got a lightsaber in the other hand! It just doesn’t make any sense.

There are other moments in the film that seem equally ridiculous. At one point, for example, when they find they have just thirty precious minutes to save the world one of the heroes pauses to put on a cassette tape and listens to some old tunes. Then there is the time when a school bus is flipped, bounced and rolled along the Golden Gate Bridge like dice in a game of craps but the people inside get out completely unharmed. Seriously, it makes the moment in Casino Royale when the Aston Martin does seven barrel twists look like a careful parallel park but both the heroes walk away with little more than ruffled hair. These are the three things that bothered me the most but there are others.

If you are prepared to let this stuff go though then there is fun to be had. I mean that bus crash is pretty impressive providing you don’t question the implications for the passengers. It easily eclipses the truck flip from The Dark Knight (which interestingly imitated a similar stunt from Terminator 3). 

I’ve not yet read the reviews for this film but I’d been unable to totally avoid star ratings and tag lines and the impression I got from these is that it hasn’t been well received. With this in the back of my mind while I was watching it I kept expecting the movie to suddenly turn bad. I liked the start but sooner or later I suspected there would be a sudden dip in quality. Any moment now, I thought, any moment now it’s going to nuke the fridge but, possibly because I kept expecting it to turn bad, it didn’t. Not when it turned out the 1984 timeline had been rewritten and Sarah Connor was already a tough Terminator killing survivor, not when an ageing Arnie Terminator showed up, not when a liquid metal T-1000 randomly joined the party without explanation and not when they jumped to 2017. I just went with all of it and the whole thing was consistently entertaining.

It clearly isn’t anywhere near as good as Terminator 1 & 2, put that hope out of your mind right now, but like parts 3 and even 4 it has some cool stuff going on. The new super advanced Terminator they have in this one is pretty impressive and unlike the female robot in Terminator 3 it actually appears to be a major technological step forward from the model that came before it. 

The other Terminators look great too. It would be impossible to make the shapeshifting T-1000 as breathtaking as it was when we first saw it in 1991, so new where those special effects back then, but they do manage to do something different with the concept and the bot’s fighting skills and tactics are interesting to watch. The original T-800 also holds up well and the effects they have used here to bring a younger Arnold Schwarzenegger back to the screen are excellent. I don’t know if they digitally de-aged Schwarzenegger himself or if they mo-capped another actor but they have managed to create a photo realistic and convincing computer generated human being. This is something SFX houses have been striving for for years, it’s been their Holy Grail since the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns and now they’ve done it. It is nice that the Terminator films continue to push the boundaries of CGI. This is easily as significant a development as the morphing was on T2, it’s just not as visually arresting.

Terminator Genisys also has some great action sequences. There’s that bus flip I mentioned before and we also get an exciting helicopter chase around the city streets. 

On the one hand it is great that people expect more of blockbuster movies, and I can see why this has disappointed some, but occasionally it’s okay to just enjoy the ride. This new Terminator film confuses rather than deepens the mythology and it isn’t a return to the form set by the first two films but that’s a high benchmark. Jurassic World and Fast & Furious 7 from earlier this year were both flawed but have made huge amounts of money at the box office because they are also highly enjoyable. Well I thought that, taken as a whole, Terminator Genisys was flawed but highly enjoyable too. 

The Ripley Factor: 

This is interesting because Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is a truly great female role model. She is strong and independent, she is tough, she is formidable, she is an easy match for any man and yet she is not macho, she is flawed and in the sense that she has no superpowers she is relatively realistic. Under the direction of James Cameron who also made Aliens she was a proper ancestor of Sigourney Weaver’s iconic character. In fact only Ripley herself better demonstrated the Ripley factor.

As played by Emelia Clarke in this film she is a little different. She is still strong and fearless and she is a little less intense and manic but she is also dependant on her tame terminator guardian, a male figure who was sent by some mystery benefactor to protect her when she was a kid. This clearly fits with the narrative, in this new time line she had been raised by this robot and has never had to fend for herself, but it does rewrite and lessen one of modern cinema’s strongest and most iconic females figures. The film seems to be addressing this at one point when Kyle Reese tells her that him cracking open a set of handcuffs shackling her to a bed (symbolic at all?) does not show her to be weak. Yes she could do it herself but he could do it quicker because he has both hands free. It seems to be saying that a woman can be strong and self reliant and still accept help from a man.

It is good that the famous ‘come with me if you want to live’ line delivered by Kyle to Sarah in the first film is switched around in this one with her saying it to him.

I have to say as well that Clarkes’ undoing of all of Hamilton’s hard work is nothing compared to how Jai Courtney’s bland performance insults the memory of Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese.

Is this one for the kids?

Twenty years ago the idea of a 12A Terminator movie would have seemed indicative of the watering down and neutering of a raw and violent story. It’s a different climate now though. This film has some swearing, including at least one use of the F word, and there are shootings and stabbings throughout. None of it is particularly bloody. It’s upper end but fairly standard fantasy violence. 

There is a very small amount of nudity as clothes can’t travel through time but none of it is graphic or explicit. 

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