It seems like the 2010s is the decade of the franchise. We’ve got the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Bourne series, more Mission Impossible coming up, Star Trek and Star Wars, Mad Max, Jurassic Park…and now more Terminator.
Like most people, I adore Terminator and T2. I’m also a huge fan of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – basically, I’ve seen a lot of Sarah Connor. So I was excited for Terminator , while retaining a healthy dose of skepticism. While there have been some knockout franchise revivals – Mad Max comes to mind straight away – there have also been plenty of duds, or at least films that are really nothing special, riding on the very old coattails of popular franchises.
Terminator Genisys is the latter. There’s nothing particularly terrible about this film – it has great actors, plenty of action, and some time travel theory to have the audience scratching their heads a little. But it just can’t match the originality and panache of the two early films, or the dramatic intensity and legitimately intelligent concepts of the TV show.
The film jumps straight into our nuclear future, with John Connor (Jason Clarke) as our hero and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) as our protagonist. As in the previous films, Reese goes back to stop the Terminator (our beloved Arnold Schwarzenegger) from killing Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), thus wiping John Connor from existence. However, there’s a mishap and an alternate timeline is created: in this one, Sarah was attacked by a Terminator at age nine, and with the help of her own friendly Terminator, Pops (also Schwarzenegger), she is well-versed in survival. There’s a lot of supposed tension between Connor and Reese as they attempt to stop Skynet from launching and starting a nuclear apocalypse, with Pops serving as muscle and comedic relief.
I came into the film not really seeing Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, and while this is a different timeline, and I didn’t dislike Clarke, she just doesn’t have the same intensity or stature in this role as Linda Hamilton or Lena Headey (another Game of Thrones actor, interestingly). Jai Courtney is similarly alright, while Jason Clarke oozes evil in his role as John Connor turned machine. The stand-out actor is without a doubt Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose charisma and star power is obvious. Even with relatively few lines, his character is far more interesting than any of the others, and he nails both comedic and serious scenes. There’s also a great fight scene with current day Arnold versus 1984 Arnold.
Thematically, it’s far weaker than the original two films and the TV show, the script is clunky and obvious, and there is not a lot of chemistry between the two leads. There are loose ends that aren’t properly tied up (probably because this is meant to be the first part of a new trilogy), and the action sequences, while big and loud, feel sort of strung together. The best part of it all was Arnold Schwarzenegger.
When it comes down to it, this alternate timeline is mildly interesting, but my heart still belongs to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.