Director: Alan TaylorCast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the man. And he’s most definitely back --a little clunky, getting on in years but still the best ‘Terminator’ this franchise has seen during its chequered history spanning over three decades. He has Game of Thrones’ Khaleesi, Emilia Clarke, with him as one of Hollywood’s most resilient action heroines, Sarah Connor.
As director Alan Taylor (Thor The Dark World) reboots this classic franchise, there are questions galore over whether he can revive the myth-making and seat-of-the-edge experience of the first two films in the series (Sorry folks, Judgment Day and Terminator Salvation just don’t cut it).
There are two parts to the answer. Terminator Genisys is everything you expect from a summer popcorn cruncher: It is two-hours of sci-fi fun with self referential jokes, a nostalgia trip to the ’80s cult film directed by James Cameron, cool CGI effects which make even the apocalyptic world inhabited by John Connor and his lieutenant look better, and a whole lot of action. We even get to see Arnold’s famous money shot from Terminator 1 as he flashes the city before wreaking havoc on it. And then, it gets better when an older Arnold, with the body still looking like a mini-bus, shows up and an Arnold vs Arnold battle ensues.
But does the new film add to the Terminator mythology, does it tickle your brain cells and offer something new to the plethora of Terminator fans? The answer is a resounding no. In fact, the time travel-ridden story has enough wormholes to fry your brains. At times, even characters find it difficult to keep a track of who’s who and whether they are man or machine. At one point, we get to hear this priceless dialogue, "Are you... you?"
So, if you are in for the thrills and some camp humour, welcome aboard. However, if you want the film to have enough intelligent thematic elements to keep your brain occupied, you are looking at the wrong film, soldier.
The year is 2027 AD and the leader of human resistance, John Connor (Jason Clarke), is at the cusp of winning the war against machines. But the malevolent Skynet is not giving up so easily. He sends a T800 to 1984 to finish off Sarah Connor, John’s mother. To protect himself, John sends his trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to the past. The film strays from past films when Reese is faced with an unexpected twist when he reaches the now-familiar back alley and is stealing clothes off a local drunk, a T1000 shows up and tries to kill him.
His unlikely saviour is Sarah, in flesh, and a cyborg she calls Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger). A tad weather-beaten (it is still a kill machine but flesh must age), Pops informs Kyle that he may be old but he is not obsolete. Kyle and Sarah decide to time travel to 2017 where Skynet is getting ready to take over the world in the form of an OS called Genisys. Only when they reach there naked -- oh, the vagaries of time travel -- they have not-so-pleasant surprise waiting for them. Their son is there but he’s not the man they thought he was.
With John’s legendary heroism taken away from him (a uniform theme running through the franchise), the film loses its intensity and lurches from point to point. Why bother about saving the world today when anyone can travel to yesterday and change today entirely? It is fault lines such a these that trip the re-imagined Terminator universe.
The film has little humour and all of it comes at the expense of Terminator-turned-Disney father, Schwarzenegger. While he still kicks some serious backside, it is a serious comedown from the lethal cyborg who made the first film such a nail-biting boom-athon. However, he is clearly the best thing about this reboot and even gets to mouth a new catchphrase: ‘Bite Me’.
Emilia is competent as Sarah but she’s not a patch on Linda Hamilton. Gone is the naive girl-next-door who blossoms into a hard-as-nails fighter, what we have now is a badass who often pouts about not having any choices in her life. The same can be said about Courtney’s Kyle -- earnest and does his job but fails to show that vulnerability and machismo which Michael Biehn brought to the franchise.
Suffice is to say that Terminator Genisys will keep you entertained, as long as you don’t ask too much of it. Oh yes, don’t forget that bag of popcorn with a generous dollop of cheese.