Review: Terminator: Genisys
Terminator: Genisys (M) Directed by Alan Taylor ★★★½
Here's a confession. It's about 8.45 on Tuesday night. I've just come out of the preview screening of Terminator: Genisys and I'm seriously considering running back up the road from the noisy and warm little cafe I'm writing this in to go and see the damn film again.
Not because it's a great film, or because I loved it (there were long stretches of Terminator: Genisys I enjoyed very much. It's just that there are other, equally long stretches where I could barely keep from growling like a deranged bear at the screen).
Nope, I'm thinking of watching the film again tonight, just to try and work out if it makes any sense.
READ MORE: Critics pan Terminator: Genisys in first reviews as 'past its expiration date'
Time travel films are notorious for being tough to decipher. Whenever your average hard-working and conscientious film-reviewer shouts "plot hole!", you can guarantee there'll be a gloating chorus of dissent in the online comments, pointing out whatever ridiculous contrivance it was that allowed the hole to happen.
Heads Up: There's a few mild spoilers in the next para, but nothing that'll alter the way you see the film.
Try this. Terminator: Genisys begins on that much referenced night in 2029 when John Connor sends his best mate and future-dad Kyle Reese back to 1984 to save his mother Sarah Connor from the original Arnie-model Terminator. When he gets there, the past is not what it was. There's a T-101 there, sure. But also a Terminator 3-style "good Arnie" and a liquid metal T-1000. And all of this is happening because we are in an "alternate time line", in which another Arnie was sent back to 1973 to protect Sarah when she was only a nipper. And that has altered the world so that the events of Terminators One, Two and Three never happened.
Now, I can accept all of that. I've watched every episode of Doctor Who made in the last 40 years and my tolerance for time travel nonsense is legendary. But, if you change the past, then you can't have a whole set-load of characters spouting about what would have happened if you didn't. And that's exactly what Terminator: Genisys is full of.
"The future you remember never happened," says Sarah to Kyle at one point. "Well how do you bleedin' know?" I muttered back. And don't tell me that Arnie told her, that simply doesn't work. Think about it.
But, with that not inconsiderable whinge out of the way, we are actually left with a sporadically very enjoyable film. Director Alan Taylor (Thor:The Dark World) is a deft hand at both action and drama, and he brings his best game here. With the complexities of the plot, there's a hellish amount of exposition to plough through, but Taylor continually stages the chatter within action scenes. It stretches credulity, but at least you'll stay awake. And when the film careers into one of its several mega-scale set pieces, it really delivers. I'd watch the film again just to see the helicopter dog-fight sequence a second time. Even with the constraints of 3D, these scenes look great. In proper 2D, with the screen brighter and all of it in focus at once, much of Terminator: Genisys will be a complete knock out.
Or at least, it will be if you can overlook the fact that leads Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard) have less chemistry together than something you might find down the back of your fridge, despite the fact that the entire franchise is predicated on these two making such momentous whoopee within a week of meeting each other that they conceive the saviour of the entire planet. While Schwarzenegger – surely the most famously bad actor of all time – raises more laughs, affection and emotion than Clarke and Courtney can between them.
So, Terminator: Genisys, in many ways a completely lousy film. And in many other equally important way, an hellaciously enjoyable night out.
A few good jokes, one twist I didn't see coming, and a cameo from the always adorable JK Simmons were just enough to make me a fan. You may well feel different.