PrintE-mail Written by Iain McNally

If you haven't already seen the latest trailers and posters for Terminator Genisys, AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS! The film adds a pretty huge wrinkle to the Terminator timeline, one that could have been one of the best, most head-scratching moments of the year, if it hadn't been ruined by an over-eager marketing team. Needless to say, you won't find this spoiler discussed here.

What you will find is a film that seems to worship the canon of James Cameron's original Terminator films while simultaneously smashing it.

Judgment Day, the day the A.I. Skynet tries to wipe out humanity in nuclear fire, once again takes place on August 29th 1997, the date described in the original films (having been updated in the sequels). Those who survived banded together under the leadership of one John Connor (Jason Clarke), to fight back against the machines. After a hard fought war, humanity triumphs but not before Skynet uses the world's first "tactical time weapon" to send a Terminator cyborg back to 1984 to kill John Connor's mother Sarah before he's even born. So far, so 1984.

This time, however, when John sends his friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother, instead of finding the naive, poodle-haired waitress of the first film, a much more capable and heavily-armed Sarah saves him from a familiar foe, along with the assistance of an aging "pet" Terminator she calls "Pops" (Arnold Schwarzenegger, obviously).

How did this happen? Is the "original" timeline gone forever? What happens to the future now? How, after A Good Day to Die Hard and I, Frankenstein does Jai Courtney keep getting work?

Surprisingly, most of these questions (except, perhaps, the last one) are resolved acceptably, and in many cases quite cleverly, but unfortunately the writers take this approach with a lot of ideas; introducing an initially dumb-sounding concept, wait out the eye-rolling of the fans, and then show how clever they are by revealing it to be perfectly well thought-out and in keeping with this new version of the franchise.

For example, in what seems like an incredibly lazy way to move the plot along, this version of Reese develops prophetic dreams telling him where next to strike at Skynet. Eventually an explanation is forthcoming, and not only does it fit neatly within the new temporal rules of the film, but it's then reused a number of times, to great effect.

Despite these frequent hiccups, director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) keeps the pedal to the metal for almost the entirety of the film, only letting off on the enjoyable action to build up the central trio of Emilia Clarke, Schwarzenegger and Courtney or to take an unexpected detour to make room for an awful joke involving the old TV show Cops in the third act!

Thankfully the cast are engaging. Clarke doesn't quite fill the Polaroid picture frame of Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, but after Terminator 2 that's an insanely high standard to live up to. Clarke does as well as anyone could be expected to, whether toting massive weaponry or sharing tender moments with her surrogate parent Terminator.

Schwarzenegger settles back into the role that made him famous like a well-worn biker jacket, and despite his age (and thanks to decent special effects) he manages to be fully engaged in the action, engaging multiple Terminators in epic battles. He's also given more than enough opportunities to offer classic one-liners, most of which land perfectly on target.

Courtney is the weakest of the trio, turning Michael Biehn's intense, desperate, cool Kyle Reese into a somewhat competent but almost perpetually confused lunkhead. J.K. Simmons also pops up as an engaging witness to our heroes’ adventures and his presence, along with numerous jokes shared between the main cast, lends a pretty light-hearted tone to a movie about averting the apocalypse.

Courtney's casting, all those jokes, the rippling timeline and THAT twist all make Genisys feel like Terminator: Remix or an odd spin-off of the franchise. If you can accept this, then the film can be quite enjoyable, but many will be sure to dismiss it out of hand.

A franchise implies sequels and those clever writers again manage to create a mostly satisfying conclusion to the film, give Arnie the option to turn up again if he wants to and then provide a back door to future sequels during the credits.

Judgment Day, it seems, can be stopped. Terminator sequels... not so much.


Expected Rating: 4 out of 10

Actual Rating:


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