Terminator Genisys (Review)

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Byung-hun Lee
Certificate: 12A
Run Time: 126 mins 

‘Terminator Genisys’ is the fifth instalment in the ‘Terminator’ series and is intended as the first part of a new trilogy, after the decline in quality as the series has progressed. The fourth instalment, 2009’s, ‘Terminator Salvation’ failed to resonate with audiences and critics alike and the film had many problems, particularly with its troubled production where Christian Bale lost his cool when director of photography, Shane Hurlbut, walked across the set during filming. Controversially, I really liked the film and it’s a shame audiences won’t be able to watch McG’s vision of a sequel to this film. ‘Terminator Genisys’ acts a sequel / reboot to the dilapidating franchise as it alters the timeline of events that audiences have become accustomed to in the series previous instalments. The film features a new cast, with the exception of the series’ signature star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was absent from ‘Terminator Salvation’ as he was governing California. The film has received extremely negative reviews from critics and the future for the franchise does not look too good. But is it as bad as the critics make it out to be?

‘Terminator Genisys’ has a number of big problems, but the film makes up for it in sheer entertainment factor and a couple of interesting ideas which it just about manages to implement. The film’s pacing is very uneven and clunky and the visual effects are surprisingly, in this day and age, rather sub-par. Choices that have been made by the marketing team behind this team have been, to put it simply, baffling as a big plot twist was intentionally revealed in the film’s second trailer and poster, where it is revealed that John Connor is the villain. Why this was revealed absolutely defies belief – if the plot twist was left for audiences to experience when watching the actual film, it is possible that the reception that the film has garnered would have been very different.

The film’s biggest hindrance is its director, Alan Taylor, who seems to be incapable of having any ideas of his own and instead relies on what the studios force him to do. Taylor last directed ‘Thor: The Dark World’ which was entertaining, but the film lacked a personal stamp, it felt like it was made by Marvel studio executives. This is true again of Taylor with this film, there is no personal stamp to this film – it feels like it has been churned out by the studio. Why he ever was hired for the job is again, completely bonkers as the series really needs a pick-me-up and Taylor is not a particularly safe bet to fulfil that.

In terms of pacing, the film is very clunky with a prolonged and quite frankly, awful opening credit sequence that feels too overly familiar. The film keeps trying to reference the previous films whilst feeling inferior but then about 40 minutes in, it almost feels like Taylor has a change of heart and decides to just make a straight-up action film and for the most part, the film succeeds and on entertainment factor, it is very entertaining despite feeling very familiar.

The film’s cast is a mixed bag. Arnold Schwarzenegger delivers a refreshing performance as the aged Terminator, Emilia Clarke manages to just about fill in Linda Hamilton’s boots as Sarah Connor, but the two main culprits who let the side down are Jason Clarke who plays John Connor and Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Clarke has no charisma and is very flat in his performance – Christian Bale was much better in ‘Terminator Salvation’ and Jai Courtney manages to ruin another character in another popular franchise. Why this actor gets work astounds me, he just has no charisma and no emotions and it is so hard to connect with him on-screen. J.K. Simmons provides comic relief as Detective O’Brien who helps out the film’s main characters several times and ‘Doctor Who’ Matt Smith (credited here as Matthew Smith) provides a very chilling cameo as the face of Skynet, just a shame he’s hardly in the film.

The visual effects are surprisingly poor for a film made in 2015, most notable the opening sequence in the future feels almost like a ‘Power Rangers’ episode, it’s almost laughable. The score for this film by Hans Zimmer associate, Lorne Balfe, is awful and he hardly every uses the series’ signature Terminator theme.

Finally, ‘Terminator Genisys’ is another example of a film that the studio want to appeal to mass audiences, therefore by toning down the violence and language to earn a 12A / PG-13 rating. This does not bode well in the film’s favour as the first two instalments are 15 / R and intended for an older audience. The film could have satisfied a lot more people if it wasn’t toned down so much.

All the film’s problems aside, the film does manage to provide some thoughtful questions. It’s interesting that the film draws comparisons with technology in today’s society and the idea of having John Connor as the main villain is a very bold move but a shame that it was revealed in the trailer. The film does a good job of portraying Sarah Connor’s early life growing up with her guardian Terminator, it’s just a shame this wasn’t expanded on. On sheer entertainment value, however, the film does very well and there are some great thrills in the film, despite feeling overly familiar.

Overall, ‘Terminator Genisys’ is a mixed bag – it has a number of problems but the film is ultimately very entertaining after a poor 40 minutes and does manage to pose some thoughtful questions. I realise I am in the vast minority, but I do quite like it, despite it being very familiar and suffering many problems. If a sequel is to go ahead, I think the first thing to do would be to replace Taylor with someone more original and experienced as this is what the franchise needs, it needs to be a 15 / R age certificate to appeal to the series’  target audience and it needs a better marketing strategy. However with the extremely negative reception this film has received, I am doubtful that a sequel will go ahead. This film, unfortunately for the vast majority, has put the final nail in the coffin for this franchise. It’s a shame because the film isn’t bad at all.

⭐⭐⭐ (Good)

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