2015 has brought us a number of nostalgic blockbusters, many of which have found a strong balance between old and new. With Arnold Schwarzenegger officially back, it looked like Terminator Genisys might be another welcome return to form. While not as ugly or pointless as Terminator Salvation, this fifth entry unfortunately pales in comparison to the original classic, it’s exceptional sequel, or even it’s adequate threequel. Director Alan Taylor does an acceptable job at mimicking the earlier films. Unlike the people behind Jurassic World, though, he fails to recapture the heart or thrills that once made this franchise so great.
To the credit of Screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, they at least start off with an intriguing setup. It’s 2029 and the time has come for Kyle Reese, now played by Jai Courtney, to travel back to 1984. Once there, he will prevent the T-800 from assassinating Sarah Connor, now played by Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones. Unbeknownst to Kyle, Sarah and him will also conceive resistance leader John Connor, now played by Jason Clarke. Geez, from Edward Furlong, to Nick Stahl, to Thomas Dekker, to Christian Bale, John Connor’s been recast almost as much as James Bond.
The mission doesn’t go according to plan, however, as Kyle arrives in the future to find a badass Sarah waiting for him. She’s already taken out the T-800 sent to kill her with some help from a guardian Terminator that’s been protecting her since childhood. This is a new timeline and they have a chance to prevent judgment day from ever happening. To do so, they must travel to 2017 and stop something called Genisys. (No, not a Sega Genesis.)
With a premise like this, the filmmakers are given the potential to take this series in any number of directions. Instead of finding redemption like X-Men: Days of Future Past, however, they just dig themselves deeper into convolution. Without giving too much away, the story gets progressively inconsistent, nonsensical, and ridiculous, eventually throwing all continuity out the window. You thought Tomorrowland had plot holes? This movie doesn’t know the meaning of logic. It all amounts to a sappy conclusion that feels more like something out of How It Should Have Ended.
Emilia Clarke does what she can with the role, but can’t compete with Linda Hamilton. Jai Courtney, who previously starred in another bad fifth entry to a beloved franchise with A Good Day to Die Hard, just comes off as bland and whiny as Kyle. Where Hamilton and Michael Biehn had instant romantic chemistry in James Cameron’s original, Clarke and Courtney are reduced to playing a bickering couple right out of a sitcom. Worst of all, you don’t care if they get together or even if they survive.
What about Arnie? You might be thinking that he’s looking a little too old to still be playing the Terminator. They do give us a half-assed explanation for why this machine has wrinkled skin. Turns out that Terminator exteriors age just like a human’s would, which conveniently means Arnold can keep making these movies until he’s dead. Although old, Schwarzenegger’s not obsolete and has a good time in his career-defining role. Yet, he’s basically going through the motions and you could say the same thing about this entire movie.
Terminator Genisys knows what beats to hit and which iconic lines to pay homage to, but everything lacks soul. The repetitive action set pieces, supposedly romantic moments, and CGI puppets all feel like they came off an assembly line. Every good idea the film has ultimately turns out to be a missed opportunity. Maybe with a talent like Joss Whedon behind the camera, the “Terminator” franchise might see the light of day again. As for Terminator Genisys, though, this is definitely the darkest timeline.