Survival. It's what you taught me! - John Conner
The original Terminator (1984) is considered a classic and its spectacular sequel, T2, is iconic. However, the next two sequels were forgettable. Now, 22 years after Arnold Schwarzenegger first brought the lethal robot to life, can the continuing “people vs. machines” storyline resurrect itself with the release of the fifth instalment, Terminator Genisys? Or should it have remained buried?
Cinematic rating: 3 stars
Reel Dialogue Rating: 3 stars
Genisys’ plot may sound familiar to those who continue to watch the first two films with nostalgic bliss. But it does provide a slight variation from the traditional elements. The central character of this chapter is Sgt. Kyle Reese (Australian star Jai Courtney). He was saved by charismatic leader John Connor (another Australian star, Jason Clarke. Oi, oi, oi) as a boy and becomes his disciple/soldier. After the supposed defeat of Skynet — the computer system that develops the ability to think, and decides to wipe out humanity — Reese volunteers to go back to 1984 and save John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), in another bid to safeguard the future. Yet, the past that Reese has had explained to him has changed. As a result, he must also come to terms with an altered future and work with Sarah and her “protector”, a re-programmed terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Their goal is to bring down Skynet and the new Genisys operating system before “Judgement Day”, when the end of the world happens in fiery, mechanical Armageddon.
When rebooting a beloved franchise, staying close to the original storyline can have its advantages and disadvantages. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) does not veer too far from the original dystopian adventure, but takes full advantage of time-travel twists to give this version a fresh angle. All of the standard villains and allies are back, with an added element that wreaks havoc on the core team and the multiple timelines.
Clarke and Courtney fill these shoes well as the adult versions of Connor and Reese. They are enjoyable on screen and manage to carry the weight of the extensive dialogue and outlandish action. Taylor allows Schwarzeneggar to focus on his strengths and capitalise on the role that has come to define his career. Arnold gives his one-liners and trademark steely performance, which supports the story and makes him strangely endearing. But the most noteworthy performance is Clarke, a pleasant surprise to the John Connor role. He is believable as the military leader, but his unassuming look and nature provide the depth required for how his character develops.
Director Taylor surrounds the cast with a multitude of special effects and explosions, but is reliant on this franchise’s past innovations for the visual element. As expected, the effects are good, but weighing things down overall are the many conversations which explain the space-time continuum. Additions to the already established events of the Terminator franchise were necessary to make Genisys‘ unbelievable timeline accessible, but did slow down the momentum of the action. This is a weakness, but not enough to be labelled as a failure.
However, the primary disappointment of this time-travelling tale is that Paramount allowed the vast majority of the story to be revealed in the trailers. There were a few surprises and most of the twists were minor in comparison to what is presented in the trailer. While this didn’t diminish the value of the film too much, it stole some of the potential magic. Terminator Genisys was still enjoyable and entertaining. Like many of the nostalgic franchises that have been resurrected this year, it never takes itself too seriously, but also adds enough scientific balance to make everything seem credible. Genisys provides a good conclusion to the whole Terminator story and hopefully the Connors and the Machines will not be back.
Outside of the painfully obvious title, it may be difficult to imagine the dystopian world of the Terminator providing any considerations for Biblical truth. But the meta-narrative of our existence does seep into this robotic tale. The Kyle Reese character talks about the moment when he is first introduced to John Connor. He is saved by the leader of the human uprising and says of the experience, “For the first time, I had hope.” Amid the special effects and time travel, a key element continues to weave through the human experience: the need for a saviour and hope. Even in the darkest of moments and the most desperate times, the potential for salvation provides a light to permeate the darkness. Thankfully, God provides a leader that will not fail and provides us everlasting hope.
One thing can truly be said of God’s appointed saviour: he will be back. (It had to be said.)
Leaving the cinema…
The reboots are beginning to overstay their welcome, but Terminator Genisys fills a need for fun entertainment. Enough nostalgia and special effects to appeal across the generations but, hopefully, this is the final chapter of this franchise.
Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. What can we know about creation?
2. Can we solve our own problems?
3. Why do we need a saviour?