Back in 2003, when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to shelve acting and enter the world of politics, I don’t think any of us thought he would ever come back to the movies, let alone his beloved Terminator franchise. But as it turns out, he did come back, and now he is ready to return with “Terminator Genisys” – part reboot and part sequel, created with the purpose of re-igniting the series after the horrendous train wreck that was “Terminator Salvation”. In that regard, I’m happy to inform that they’ve successfully managed to revive a property that seemed to had run its course. The T-800 is at it again, stronger than it’s been in decades.
The movie opens with a monologue by Kyle Reese, play by Jai Courtney, who talks about the time before the machines. Then we cut to the future. The human resistance is still at war with Skynet, and they’re getting ready for the final showdown. They succeed, only to find out that a T-800 has been sent back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. They themselves decide to follow the act, sending back Reese to protect the woman who will eventually give birth to the leader of the resistance, John Connor. But when he gets there, everything has changed. Sarah is no longer a vulnerable waitress, but a warrior trained by an old T-800 played by Schwarzenegger. Together they travel through time to prevent Skynet from launching a dangerous app.
I’m not quite sure what people expect from a film like this. It’s not like it was intended to be a high-brow science-fiction mind-twister. The premise has always been very simple. Mankind creates artificial intelligence, which then turns on us and triggers the apocalypse. From that point on, it all is a fairly straight chase picture. Someone has to be killed, someone is sent to do the job, and someone is trying to prevent that from happening. That’s all there really is to it. Not that it’s a bad thing. Just look at how riveting the first two movies turned out to be. My point is that the execution has always been more intriguing than the idea itself, and in that sense ‘Genisys’ delivers exactly what you would expect; beautifully shot, high-octane action with lots of one-liners, warnings against excessive science, and a clever allegory to tie it all together in a clever way. Arnold is at the top of his game here, kicking ass and cranking out golden dialogue that only he can pull off. He’s also surprisingly human this time around, which the movie explains by having him absorb human behaviour through many years of living in our society. The reason for his age is also neatly presented to us, and it actually makes sense. He still is the star, giving us his best T-800 performance since T2.
As for the rest of the cast, everyone is playing their part efficiently. Emilia Clarke is a slightly more emotional Sarah Connor than Linda Hamilton was, but that doesn’t make her any less appealing to watch on screen. She perfectly portrays the toughness and the strong personality of the character, while never trying to copy Hamilton’s approach, which isn’t exactly easy considering how iconic that performance was. Jai Courtney, believe it or not, also provides a serviceable Kyle Reese, and most of the other cast members likewise do their characters justice. However, it’s kind of sad to see recognisable names like J.K. Simmons and Matt Smith being put on the back-burner for most of the film, despite initially being led to believe that they are going to have much more intricate roles to play in all the interconnected timelines.
Speaking of timelines, I guess an argument could be made that the time travel doesn’t really make sense, which is true. But I don’t think anyone goes to see a Terminator film for the scientific accuracy. I do understand, though, how someone might be a little confused at times, because you really need to know your Terminator trivia to keep up with the brisk pace of it all. Sometimes it also tries a little too hard to be smart and profound, but at least they’re trying again for the first time in 24 years. Watching it, I felt a sense of love and respect for the universe. There are competent people behind the wheel of this production, and it shows. Alan Taylor clearly understands what makes the concept so exciting, and he knows the importance of doing something new and different, even if it may not necessarily sit well with fans of the Cameron movies. He does it anyway, and so for all the problems that it might have, it still does a mighty good job of bringing the sinking ship back to the shore. I’m telling you, it could’ve been a lot worse. They could’ve just pumped out another T3, which would’ve been the safe choice. But they choose to be playful, and that is what pays off.