Review: Terminator Genisys

Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Lee Byung-hun
Released: July 2, 2015
Grade: B-

Terminator Genisys
Terminator Genisys is set in 2029 and follows a guy who travels back to 1984 to tell someone to travel forward to 2017, as opposed to 1997, so as to save the human race.  Make sense?  It’s a head scratcher reminiscent of Inception or Predestination... but not quite as interesting.  Writers Laeta Kalogridis (Night Watch) and Patrick Lussier are trying to put their creative spin on a time travel movie.

The earlier Terminator flicks were based on the premise that autonomous robots took over the world in the not-to-distant future.  Billions of humans were killed as the robots considered them a threat to their own existence.  Those that survived were forced into hiding.

The good news was that the humans would win the war.  A man named John Connor would lead them to victory.  The bad news was the robots weren’t done.  They sent a cyborg assassin back in time to kill John’s mother, Sarah.  That way, he would never be born, he would never lead the human resistance, and the future would be altered in the robots’ favour.  This was the plot for the original Terminator, released in 1984, and it was followed by three more films in 1991, 2003 and 2009.

Terminator Genisys is an innovative cross between a sequel and a reboot.  It assumes that all of those previous events occurred… but it takes us back to 1984 for an alternate timeline.  Let me try to explain.  The cyborg went back in time to kill Sarah Connor.  Kyle Reese then went back in time to kill the cyborg.  This changed the future… but not enough apparently.  The robots have decided to have a second crack and have sent another cyborg back to 1984 to get the job done.  It forces Kyle Reese (from the updated timeline) to again travel back in time to protect Sarah and the fate of mankind.

As a friendly Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only returning cast member.  He’s catchphrase in the film is that he’s “old but not obsolete.”  It sums up both his character and his acting career.  Added to the cast are two Aussies – Jason Clarke (Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes) and Jai Courtney (Divergent) – along with Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones) and recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash).

The film is confusing at times.  It will help if you’ve seen the earlier Terminator movies (at least the first two) as there’s not much here in the way of background or character reintroductions.  The villainous activities also feel half-baked.  There’s an Apple-like company that has developed an operating system that will link all your electronic devices.  The government is even using it for its military program.  That couldn’t end badly, right?

The action sequences are decent.  It’s repetitive but it’s still cool to watch the cyborgs shot with heavy artillery and then regenerate.  The visual effects artists have earned their salary.  The same can be said for the sound technicians who have created some freaky audio effects during the battle scenes.  Director Alan Taylor is no stranger to the genre given he made Thor: The Dark World two years ago.

I don’t know if there’s quite enough here to reinvigorate the franchise (i.e. make a truckload of money) but the door has been left open for sequels should they be required.  A glimpse of something is provided midway through the closing credits but it’s obscure and adds no value.