Terminator Genisys Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
I can say with certainty that nearly everyone has heard of the Terminator franchise. It’s one of those cult sci-fi franchises that is simply iconic, similar to Star Wars, Aliens and Star Trek. Who can forget Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brilliant line ‘I’ll be back’ along with the memorable character that goes with it: the Terminator. It’s fair to say James Cameron knew what he was doing when he created this franchise, delivering to us the first two instalments. Sadly the two sequels that came afterwards weren’t fully up to scratch for different reasons (though Terminator Salvation wasn’t as bad as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) and left the franchise less than what it once was. We needed a sequel that felt more like the original two films and finally this has happened.
Terminator: Genisys went back to the franchise’s roots and decided to retcon the events of the third and fourth instalment, starting afresh in many ways to deliver a whole new exciting, action packed story. Cameron has even gone on record to say that he actually considers this new instalment the official sequel to his own two films. The makers of this film wanted their new film to be as much like the original two films as possible, even mimicking the lighting and style of certain sequences, such as the war in the future and the return to 1984.
The narrative was what made this new instalment such a success in my eyes because it tried something new, adding to the franchise, whilst also cleverly referencing the past. It actually became a daring project through it rewriting the entire franchise. As a somewhat die-hard fan of the Terminator series I should’ve been upset by this but honestly I wasn’t. I enjoyed the notion of the narrative standing on its own feet and declaring to the world that the franchise wasn’t dead and could be continued through a unique combination of continuation and rebooting. Also due to the film’s heavy time travelling elements it is easy to assume that the events of the first two films still happened, simply in another version of history.
We started off with the future war in which John Connor fought to aid the Resistance in defeating Skynet, an event that was referenced in the original film. The final victory came to past but what was quickly placed in jeopardy after the super-computer sent the Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor. This all linked nicely with The Terminator and showed how Kyle Reece was volunteered into the role of being Sarah’s protector. However, upon returning to 1984 Reece came across a Sarah that was ready for his arrival and was combat trained, despite being told she would be helpless and working as a waitress by John. This all leant towards the notion that time had been altered and the whole narrative from then on was about trying to revert things back to the way they were.
This was an interesting choice for the new film and did make sense, leaving a lot of speculation throughout as to what had happened and how things can be changed back. The thing I liked also was that we had the original formula returned to us, i.e. the relationship between Kyle and Sarah. This time, however, it was far more challenging as Sarah knew what was going to happen, right down to them being together, Reece being John’s father and him also dying to save her. Reece this time round felt more in the dark and wasn’t the one with all the answers like he did in The Terminator. The one flaw I felt the film had was Sarah’s bratty attitude from time to time which didn’t feel like Sarah’s characteristics at all. Overall though her character was good to watch but my concentration was more on Reece and John Connor.
John, for the first time, was made the enemy. This was an extremely bold move on top of many bold moves thrown into this already complicated narrative. I just loved how this all worked and Jason Clarke really blew me away with his fine performance. Every scene he was in really showed off his talent and I think they couldn’t have cast better when it came to John if they tried. Obviously he wasn’t bad because he was bad. It was in fact Skynet that changed him, attacking him prior to Reece travelling back in time. John became a whole new Terminator, becoming a killing-machine that was superior in every shape and form. It looked great and really stood out, especially since it was an original idea that brought about a whole new concept and threat. One of my favourite scenes with John was where he revealed to Reece that he was his son. It was such a lovely moment because we got to see Reece see his family and be aware of his own legacy.
For those who are fans of the T-1000, don’t be alarmed because it makes an appearance and once again is a badass. Sadly it was pushed to the side because of the newly designed John Connor Terminator but in the meantime it did serve as a challenging force, especially with its new technique of controlling machines that it touches. Sorry for the spoilers but I can say, without a doubt, the T-1000 gets the best Terminator death through being killed with acid. It was such a brilliant idea and the special effects were outstanding as we saw the machine slowly melt away. It was like the fantastic moment in Terminator 2: Judgement Day when the T-1000 got frozen with liquid nitrogen.
Of course the crowning achievement of this film was the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was something that Terminator Salvation lacked and although that film did make a lot of bold moves of its own, establishing a new direction for the franchise to take, I believe Arnie will always be a core aspect to the franchise. Despite his age now Arnold doesn’t miss a beat and brings all the same charm and love to his iconic role. Once again he was brought back as a protector but this time round his role was more developed, similar to his appearance within Terminator 2: Judgement Day. A great aspect was him becoming Sarah’s guardian since she was a child, with Sarah nicknaming him ‘pops’. Also the film went about to explain Arnold’s age by adding in the element that the cyborg actually ages over time like a human. This, I found, was very plausible and clever.
The Terminator once again gained character development and even had a few funny scenes or two, particular in his demonstration of human behaviour. The connection between it and Sarah was another element to the film that drove the narrative, creating another unique bond between man and machine like we’d seen before between the Terminator and John. Another reoccurring comedy element was the Terminator’s parenting nature towards Sarah, constantly referencing breeding patterns between her and Reece. I suppose another unique element about Arnold’s character this time round was him being credited as ‘The Guardian’ instead of ‘The Terminator’.
As to be expected, there were a lot of fantastic action sequences throughout. The Terminator’s entrance was outstanding through it facing the original Terminator upon its arrival. This scene is perhaps a fan-dream and it really did pay-off. The infamous line, ‘I’ll be back’, returns just before the Terminator throws itself out of a helicopter to attack John’s helicopter. Then the film builds up to the final fight between the Terminator and John Connor which is just a monumental scene, similar to their fight together within Terminator Salvation. This time, however, it is John who is the villain. The film really turned everything we knew and come to love on its head in the most unique way possible and delivered a fantastic experience that I can’t wait to re-experience.
One of the crucial story-arcs was Kyle’s acceptance of the Terminator. This reflected the original film in which Kyle tried protecting Sarah against the machines, knowing too well from horrific experiences just how deadly they were. Now he had to face the reality that the creatures he had been fighting his entire life had the capacity to be human. This can be seen also as a reflection of Sarah’s feelings within Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Strangely enough though Arnold’s presence did get pushed aside quite a bit in order to allow the three main characters, Kyle, Sarah and John, the main attention and development which sometimes made Arnold’s return somewhat underused. There were times throughout the film were I forgot that Arnold was the leading role which wasn’t entirely a bad thing. This just meant that Arnold wasn’t the centre of the franchise anymore but simply a part of a bigger picture amongst the other characters. It made the narrative and its characters well balanced.
Finally we come to Matt Smith’s appearance. Sadly he wasn’t in it that much, but when he did appear I was nearly geeking out. The best part to his appearance was him being the villain. Matt was an embodiment of Skynet and proved to be very threatening. It’s fair to say I’m looking forward to his progression in the following films.
A lot of people could probably see from this review that I enjoyed this film and I have no shame in praising it for both its greatness and attempts at bringing the franchise back to life. I honestly don’t know why a lot of people hate this film so much, making me feel alone with my opinion. However, this doesn’t change my mind in how I think and I would like to go on record to say this was a great movie. I enjoyed watching it and can’t wait for its blu-ray release so I can enjoy it all over again.
Unfortunately due to my minority thoughts I fear that Terminator Genisys will crash and burn and that the already planned sequels will not happen because of this. I really hope that Paramount Pictures goes ahead with the trilogy and doesn’t leave the franchise hanging in limbo once again like with Terminator Salvation. This new trilogy has so much potential, and from what I saw from Terminator Genisys, along with its interesting arcs and intriguing twists, I am very happy with where it’s heading and would much appreciate seeing what happens next.