Review: Terminator: Genisys

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in a franchise that should never be terminated, says


Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke
Running time: 126 minutes

Image: Paramount Pictures

Image: Paramount Pictures

After twelve long years without a new Terminator film, it is safe to say that with Terminator: Genisys, Arnold Schwarzenegger is most definitely back! Returning to his role as the T-800, Arnie is joined by some familiar characters but in ways that you have never seen them before, both literally and figuratively. Sarah Connor (Emelia Clarke), John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) have all been suitably cast for this reimagining of the Terminator universe. Terminator: Genisys delivers everything that we’ve grown to love about these movies and serves to show that although the franchise is old, it most certainly is “not obsolete”.

There has been quite the critical backlash against Genisys and I feel that this is highly unjustified. Granted, the way that the film uses alternative pasts, presents and futures can be confusing at some points, but when you’re dealing with a plot that involves a lot of time travel, it would be very difficult to get it exactly right. For the most part, Terminator: Genisys didn’t even do that bad of a job. It was all pretty much self-contained; everybody was in the right place at the right time thanks to a logical plot progression, not because of any liberties taken by the writers. Sure, certain things like Kyle Reese having a conversation with his younger self were a bit questionable, but they we explained in the best way that they could have been and made sense in the context of the plot. In the end, the film got us from point A to point B and made it a thoroughly enjoyable experience throughout. With the Terminator series, it really isn’t worth thinking too deeply about the fine details. It is much more rewarding to suspend your disbelief for a little while and simply enjoy the film.

A large portion of the audience will be those that are already invested in the franchise and the film’s writers were very aware of that fact. Some have criticised Genisys as somewhat of a self-parody and a kind of rehashing of what has already come before it; I would argue that it is just self-aware. The self-referential moments of the film, such as the repetition of famous lines like “I’ll be back” and “come with me if you want to live”, aren’t there merely for the instant gratification of the old viewership. They are in fact part of the larger artistic direction intended for the film. These lines are repeated because they’re iconic and by their very nature draw audiences right back into a world that they’re familiar with. What made the Terminator series so well-loved in the first place were elements like the cheesy lines spoken with Arnie’s accent-heavy delivery and the gun-toting, explosive combat scenes we see throughout the film. These moments are there as a nod to all that the series’ history and an appreciation of the audience’s continual support.

Of course, Terminator: Genisys is not just two hours of references to the previous films; it most certainly has its own direction. With the franchise having such an iconic history, Genisys had to find a way to simultaneously honour that legacy as well as move forward from it. The battle between the younger Schwarzenegger and his modern day counterpart in the early moments of the film serves to allegorise this challenge. We see a shot-for-shot recreation of the original The Terminator (1984) opening moments be interrupted by Genisys’ new T-800, ‘Pops’. Their conflict represents a battle between the past and present of the Terminator franchise, with the present coming out on top. Both T-800s are instantly recognisable as Arnold, as well as both films being instantly recognisable as Terminator movies, but in the end, the past must be left behind in order to make way for the future. When faced with the challenge of creating a new Terminator movie, the writers have chosen to make reference and acknowledge their past, whilst also moving forward with something different. With Genisys, the choice to use an alternate timeline was an absolute necessity to defeat the possibility of simply rehashing old material and to give it its own direction. It enabled the writers to use familiar characters like John Connor while also allowing them to put their own spin on them. The Terminator franchise may be old, but the new direction taken in Genisys proves that it’s not obsolete.

P.S: There is a mid-credits teaser and if you’re like me, you probably missed it. In short, there’s room for sequel and it’s unlikely we’ve seen the last of Matt Smith as Genisys/Skynet.