08th Jul2015

‘Terminator Genisys’ Review

by Ian Loring

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee, Michael Gladis, Sandrine Holt, Wayne Bastrup, Gregory Alan Williams, Otto Sanchez, Matty Ferraro | Written by Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier | Directed by Alan Taylor

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In a summer which has felt a little light on truly “wow” blockbuster spectacles, Fury Road very much excepted, Terminator Genisys has had a particularly rough time of it. The film’s marketing certainly didn’t help, publicity stills of grinning Terminators and Matt Smith and Jai Courtney shouting into the air while firing guns set off alarm bells fairly early and the main trailer which spoilt one of the film’s pivotal moments immediately let those paying attention know that faith was not strong in the film. Upon release, word has been fairly noxious so it may be with lowered expectations in mind but while Terminator Genisys fundamentally lacks “wow”, it still does enough to make it a fun ride which far from pisses over James Cameron’s future-ashes.

One of the key elements of interest is that there is a sense that they aren’t just trying to do what has been set up before. There is introductory material set in the time of the War but we don’t get the almost black and white world McG showed us in Terminator Salvation, instead a time-hopping plot pretty successfully justifies a rebooting of the world allowing different paths to be taken and a reason for us to actually give a crap. The opening act concerning what is essentially a mash up of the first two films is admittedly pandering fun to fans of the series but not entirely dependent on knowledge of those films and after this we escape into pastures new with most of the questions brought up answered, the narrative leaving fewer doors open than expected); despite this being what is hope to be the first of a trilogy, one question aside, it leaves us with its threads sewn up.

Story is not so much of a problem here though unfortunately the performances are a distinctly mixed bag. Jason Clarke has a face which you can see as being good or bad almost instinctively but he wears it well for a role of two halves despite having less engaging material as the film reaches its end. JK Simmons has a good line in paranoia fuelled comic relief during his brief time on-screen, his character being a part of future instalments being something its easy to get behind. Arnold Schwarzengger does his usual late-phase Terminator thing with a mix of badass and broad comedy, the role fitting him like a well-worn glove but the effort is certainly there. The central pairing of Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney are more troublesome however.

Clarke paradoxically feels like more of a threat to others while not exerting physical force in her role in Game of Thrones, her glass sharp, at times almost monotone delivery implying a great deal of threat there. Here, she uncomfortably wears the baggage of a woman who knows her future and can’t do anything about her but the struggle within herself comes through in dialogue but not in performance. She also exhibits no chemistry at all with Jai Courtney, these two star-crossed lovers falling in love more through contractual obligation than any will.

The hashtag #notmykylereese has proved somewhat popular online and its easy to see why. The musclebound hunk of wood here is little to comparison to Michael Biehn’s troubled, physically stretched thin portrayal and he has little of the personality Anton Yelchin brought in the previous film Salvation. He’s not uniformly terrible and in the more laid back moments he exhibits some warmth but nonetheless it’s a severe misstep.

Alan Taylor’s handle of the film’s pacing is well done, he keeps us going with exposition quickly leading to action throughout and while the air comes out of the balloon a little towards the end, for the most part the energy of the film’s momentum sustains you despite action sequences which while in the moment are engaging, are somewhat hard to remember after the fact.

Terminator Genisys is not a great film and it probably isn’t a “worthy” successor to the original Cameron directed films. However it is also an enjoyable couple of hours at the cinema and if it’s the worst thing out this summer, that’s a bit of a win.

***½  3.5/5

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