Terminator: Genisys Review

I remember going to see the original Terminator.  I thought it was both wonderful and cheesy, and, being a movie-loving girl,  I loved it immediately for the incredibly strong and tough female character I had rarely seen before in film.  After Alien, it seemed to point to a future filled with action heroes who looked a bit more like me.  Given the continued struggle of women in Hollywood to be taken seriously, that proved to be a bit optimistic.

Regardless of the fact that most scientists believe time travel will never be possible, for movie and book geeks who revel in classic stories like Jack Finney’s Time and Again, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, and Nicholas Meyers’ Time after Time, we need them to have continuity and make sense.  However fantastical, for fans, time travel has rules.  Stretch credulity or make too many allowances to those rules and you lose us.  That’s what happens in Terminator: Genisys.  The leaps of scifi faith and understanding required are only part of the film’s issues. That’s not to say that the film isn’t a hoot, and worth seeing for action fans, if only to reconnect with that man-machine we’ve all grown to know and love, or love to hate.

Directed by Alan Taylor, it heralds the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 cyborg, or what they call Guardian, and also stars Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, and Jai Courtney.  J.K. Simmons, who never met a movie he can’t enhance, plays a secondary character that should have had more screen time and a less thankless disappearance in the film’s last act.  Matt Smith plays a pivotal role but also has scant representation onscreen, to the dismay of Dr. Who fans everywhere.

In the bleak future after “Judgement Day” when cyborgs took over the world and destroyed life as we know it, resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) decides to send back his right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courney) to protect his mother-to-be Sarah Connor.  When Reese arrives back in 1984, Connor isn’t the struggling student and waitress he expected to find, but a well-trained fighter and weapons expert who has had guardian T-800 (Schwarzenegger) she calls “Pops” since she was 9.  Time has gone all wobbly.  Reese has to partner with Sarah Connor to try to save the future before Judgement Day happens again.

There are all sorts of reveals and surprises that won’t be mentioned here, but of course the crux is there is much chasing by more advanced cyborgs who want to kill Sarah Connor, a little romance between Reese and Sarah Connor (who are, as fans know, supposed to parent John), and interplay both dramatic and comedic between the three leads as they try to save the future together.

There are some winning elements to the film, most notably Schwarzenegger and Amelia Clarke. The heart of the story is the attachment between Sarah and her guardian, with Schwarzenegger once again surprising us, as he did with the original Terminator, with nuances and touches that allow audiences to connect with his character.  Emilia Clarke, who has already shown she can have grace and tenacity as Daenerys in Game of Thrones, proves she has the goods to carry a lead in feature films.  She is very good, shows she has comedic timing, and multi-layered believability.

Hey, Hollywood?  The list of actresses both men and women are willing to pay to see in starring role is growing pretty long.  How many do we need to support before you’ll believe they can carry the box office on their shoulders?

There are certainly some impressive action sequences, but that’s something we as audiences have come to expect.  I’d wager special effects are 90% of the reason Transformers made over a billion dollars at the box office.  Rest assured you’ll get an eye full in Terminator: Genisys, and the credit for keeping us in thrall goes to FX house Double Negative.  If you enjoy the visual spectacle in this movie, it is largely due to their work.

The downside of Terminator: Genisys is in its plot convolutions.  If fans or critics start picking apart the continuity of timeline, the veil of disbelief will be sliced through the heart as surely as if by a T-1000.  Going to see this movie means absolute suspension of disbelief in every way.  Don’t analyze.  Don’t try to make sense of things.  Don’t pause and try to put things together.  Therein lies disappointment.

All in all, it isn’t the best offering of the summer, nor i’m sure will it be the worst, but for fans of all things Terminator, and those wishing to see Emila Clarke, aka the Mother of Dragons, show she has what it takes to bring Hollywood box office bucks, Terminator: Genisys is worth your time.

Grade: C+