"Come with me if you want to live."
By now studios are routing through all of their old properties to see if they can bring one back to cash in on the franchise trend. This has now happened with Terminator series, despite many wanting it to end with ‘Judgement Day’, then wishing it had ended with ‘Judgement Day’ by ‘Rise of the Machines’ and then begging the studio executives to put it out of its misery with ‘Salvation’ here we have a new one that is aiming to launch a new trilogy and make Terminator a hot topic again.
As we’ve seen in the first Terminator, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back in time to protect Sarah Conor (Emilia Clarke), mother of future resistance leader. But when he gets there Reese finds that everything is different, with Sarah Conor being a hardened warrior, well aware of her future thanks to a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) training her from a young age. Together they aim to travel forward in time in order to stop Skynet once and for all.
First of all, it’s spelt G-E-N-E-S-I-S. But in order to avoid confusion with the video game ‘Robocop vs Terminator: Genesis’ (yes that actually exists) I shall refer to Terminator 5 as ‘Genisys’. It seems particularly desperate to let fans know that this is not a direct reboot, paying homage to various scenes from the original and recreating others with a fresh twist added by the altered timeline. That is an interesting concept as well, a timeline that has become so convoluted by the war between man and machine it eventually crumbles under its own weight and resets. Fans of ‘Doctor Who’ would refer to it as wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey.
But while this concept is interesting ‘Genisys’ fails to come into its own and really has the feel of merely hanging onto the coattails of its superior predecessors rather than ever reallystanding apart from them. It also bombards viewers with references that range from the obvious to the tediously obscure. This one should be aiming to draw in new viewers, possibly ones that have never even seen the original (if that is you, watch the original, after reading this obviously) but of course if that is the case then they won’t understand the significance of certain scenes to appreciate or understand why they are present and given attention in the film.
The film also has to juggle far too much at once. For starters there are four Terminators present within this film (excluding the non-time-travelling ones) and is set within three different time zones, as well as flashbacks to a fourth and the result is a rather uneven tone, with several plot holes that the makers seem to have merely gone ‘we’ll fix that in the next film’. Something so convoluted and messy is not a good platform from which to launch your new franchise.
Now there’s the marketing issue, giving away the film’s biggest twist. Many have pointed out that ‘Judgement day’ also did this by spoiling whether Schwarzenegger or Patrick was the good guy. But on that occasion even when you knew the truth the build up to the reveal was still stressful enough, not knowing who would get to young John Conor first, his protector or his killer. Also one may have worked it out from the fact that rather than the T-800 killing anyone to obtain clothes and transportation as he did in the first he simply incapacitates them, whereas the T-1000 instantly murders a police officer to do the same.
Arnie is probably the best part of the film, doing what he does best and surprisingly the T-800 on T-800 fight is pretty good. Jai Courtney lacks the necessary grit to play Kyle Reese here, even his clean-shaven, muscular image contradicts the idea of a man who has been fighting his entire life, in constant fear and living on scraps of food. Emilia Clarke offers a slightly different take on Sarah Conor, taking a hardened yet still vulnerable and slightly bitter over her decided fate portrait of the character, for most of the time it works just fine.
There’s some decent humour, especially from Arnold’s older and weary T-800. The action set pieces (which are all spoiled by the trailer anyway) are decent but very by the books and certainly not memorable. You know it’s a bad sign when the effects are not better for the T-100- here in 2015 than in 1991.
It may avoid following the formula of the others in the same extent that ‘Rise of the Machines’ did and has more flair than the dull ‘Salvation’, but ultimately this is yet another disappointing Terminator sequel.