Saturday, July 04, 2015

Terminator Genisys

Year: 2015
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons, Lee Byung-Hun

Plot: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to 1984 to protect his mother Sarah Connor. But once Kyle arrives there, he realises nothing is what he expected to see.

Review: Like Jurassic World before it, Terminator Genisys has a herculean task of seeking its own identity while staying true to the material that has made the franchise so successful.

First, the story. Most viewers already know what this film series is all about. Machines turn on humans, it causes Judgment Day, John Connor leads the resistance to victory, machines send a terminator back in time to kill John's mother, John sends someone back to protect her. We all know this already and we see it again in the first 20 minutes of Genisys. Emulating what happened in the first original film, Genisys sees Kyle Reese going back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor, only to run into a T-1000 and then getting saved by Sarah instead. Then there's an aging T-800 that runs with her now, and the trio have to stop Judgment Day, which Kyle suddenly remembers is now in 2017 and not 1997. All this is because someone sent the T-800 back to 1973 to save Sarah as a young girl from a T-1000, and as a result, alternate timelines exist.

Confusing? Perhaps. But this franchise can't keep using the time travel story without throwing in a few new surprises, so for me, it's rather welcome. The confusion isn't really the problem here anyway. Alan Taylor, who directed Thor: The Dark World and several Game Of Thrones episodes, does a solid job of keeping the film moving briskly, even as the slightly confusing plot threatens to derail the whole thing. At the very least, the action sequences are well shot, though there isn't anything here that matches the intensity of James Cameron's work in the first two films. Perhaps it was unwise to make this film a PG-13 when a R rating would have boosted its entertainment value somewhat.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the man himself, is back in the role he's best known for, even acknowledging his age, which the plot manages to explain quite conveniently. Strangely enough, he doesn't do much more than action sequences here, leaving the acting mostly to Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney. The duo make a very different Sarah and Kyle as compared to Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn, in the sense that Genisys is a far less serious film than its predecessor. In fact, the three of them do more arguing and engaging in humour than they ought to, which works sometimes, and sometimes not.

Jason Clarke plays John Connor well enough, but as you might already know from the trailers and posters, he's not who we once knew. It might take some getting used to, and I felt that having a emotionless machine be a villain is always stronger than a human one. It's not really Clarke's fault, he did his best with what he's given. J.K. Simmons is a welcome addition as a cop who is willing to help the good guys, while Lee Byung-Hun sadly gets so little screen time as the T-1000. He certainly deserved better considering that he's well cast in the role.

Taylor wins plenty of brownie points for making many nods to the original, especially when Kyle and the T-800 arrive in 1984, right down to the shoes that Kyle steals in the department store. What's also cool is how Skynet plans on ending the world by using humans' dependency on smartphones, which is very relevant in today's world. But as mentioned, the PG rating dampens the intensity of the film, and a bit less humour than what was shown would have helped. As a result, Genisys isn't as engaging or edgy as it could have been.

Overall, Terminator Genisys is quite entertaining, though not as awesome as it would have been in James Cameron's hands. Still, I'd rather see this again than watch another minute of Jurassic World, box office collection be damned. (7/10)

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