The Terminator franchise was terminated a long time ago, but the new instalment isn’t the final nail in the coffin. (No, we’re way past that stage.) Instead, it’s the brainless zombie that clumsily clambers out of the casket only to trip and fall flat on its face. There’s no escaping the terminator because the franchise is destined to walk among us. The producers can’t be bargained with. The executives can’t be reasoned with. They don’t feel pity or remorse or fear. And so these films absolutely will not stop—ever—until you are dead. As long as Hollywood keeps up its love affair with 80s nostalgia, continuing to remake, reboot, reimagine and repackage every single movie that was ever a hit from that decade, The Terminator movies will always get a chance to say, “I’ll be back.”
Well, they may be back but I’m not sure I will. Terminator Genisys is dumb—super dumb. It makes about as much sense as its spelling. Throughout its entire duration, the film tries to explain very complicated things to an audience that, quite simply, doesn’t care. Not even in the slightest. It’s a bit like Republicans being told about evolution. Or bankers being told about the intricate struggles of the poor. Or Katie Hopkins being told how to be a human being. Wading through the endless mess of exposition in Genisys to assemble it into some sort of coherency will make you pray for your own swift termination. The homeless beggar in 1984 LA has more cents than this moronic motion picture has actual sense.
If you’ve ever watched the first Terminator and thought, “Yeah, it was good. But it would have been better if Sarah Connor had her own Arnie robot as a guardian and was aware of the whole Skynet thing to begin with and also had the T-1000 from T2 thrown in for good measure”, then I have fantastic news. News made even better if you’re into fathers standing around fully naked in front of their sons that are actually older than the fathers themselves—ah… yeah. Honestly, at this point the Connor family is just about weird enough to warrant their own reality show on MTV. Their family tree has more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan movie, and makes about as much sense as one too.
Hitchcock once said, “Exposition is a pill that must be sugar-coated.” But Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier’s script pops the cap and guzzles the whole bottle, over-dosing like a hippie at a Rolling Stones concert. The film’s insanely stupid plot is almost as dull as its leading man, Jia Courtney—a man whose on-screen charisma is only a notch or two below Marlon Brando’s off-screen charisma. Emilia Clarke is also a terrible Sarah Connor. They’ve taken Linda Hamilton’s regimental Sarah Connor from Terminator 2 and stripped her of all her authenticity, sceptical compassion and humanity. We’re left with a Sarah Connor so bland, so boring and weak you could market her as a new Australian beer.
All the “best bits” of Terminator Genisys are not the best bits of the film at all. They’re the best bits of the first two films, all mashed together like some diehard fan’s wet dream and awkwardly shoe-horned in just to make fans go, “Oh look! Sarah Connor said, ‘Come with me if you want to live.’ That’s cool. And look! There’s the T-1000 is in a cop uniform again. This is awesome!” No, it’s not awesome. It’s lazy. The film takes the original movies’ most memorable aspects and simply does them again—sometimes shot-for-shot—but without any of the flare, skill, or intelligence. It’s like a two-hour cover version of “The Terminator’s Greatest Hits” but performed by a truly terrible band. Remember when Madonna covered Don McLean’s “American Pie” back in 2000? It’s like that. (Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with this cover, lucky, lucky you. When you hear it you’ll realise that the lyric “the day the music died” no longer pertains to Buddy Holly’s death but, in fact, to Madonna’s rendition of the song. Rest in peace, music. You had a good run.)
There’s really no point in trying to summarise the plot of Genisys. There are more holes in it than the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde. The pacing is dreadful and the tone is all over the place. The filmmakers also insist on cramming cringey, incongruous one-liners into every scene—ones so bad they would make Christmas cracker wince. There’s a difference between throw-away gags and gags that should be thrown away. Sadly, Genisys doesn’t know the difference. The dialogue in the film does nothing to develop the characters or portray them in any way as human beings. It instead concerns itself solely with exposition and ridiculous scientific terms like “quantum magnetic field” and something about a “nexus” and a parallel universe—at which point I just gave up. The dialogue is made even worse by the rather amazing lack of chemistry between the two leads and the astoundingly charmless delivery of every single line Kyle Reese utters. The good-hearted, broken solider of the first film is replaced by a plank of wood with a gym membership in this one. Somehow Arnie playing a robot is more human that Jai Courtney playing an actual one.
Everything that made the first two Terminator movies great is completely absent from this new entry. And to top it all off, this movie has the audacity to wipe clean the entire history of the franchise, rendering every previous film obsolete. It blows the whole thing up and starts again. Except instead of a sleek, sophisticated endoskeleton emerging from the flames, a demented short-circuited one hobbles out in its place.