During one of the many chase sequences in 'Terminator: Genisys', Arnold Schwarzenegger falls off a bright yellow school-bus on a Los Angeles freeway and flies head-first into a police car that's chasing said bus. With his head through a broken windshield, Arnie looks at the terrified cop (who must understandably have been confused to meet a former Governor of his state in such a manner) and says, "Nice to meet you," before politely adding, "Get out."
It's a decent enough Terminator moment, and were there more of these in the series' now-fifth installment, the rebooted 'Terminator: Genisys', there would be some reason to recommend this film as a one-time watch. But there aren't, and therefore, it doesn't make much sense to root for this film at all. For, as anybody who is a fan of the first two films directed by James Cameron will tell you, there has never been any reason for any film on this subject to have existed beyond the year 1991, since Judgment Day -- an apocalyptic event that wipes out much of humanity -- was said to have been averted.
In 'Terminator: Genisys', scenes and plot-points from both of Cameron's films are re-staged and referenced lovingly. The whole idea behind this film's existence seems to be 'let's pay homage to the first two films BUT subvert one of the franchise's main ideologies'. I won't reveal what that is, of course, but it isn't a bad idea -- on paper at least.
It didn't begin all that badly. It was pretty cool to see the 1984 version of Schwarzenegger reappearing -- down to that familiar "What the hell?" line, spoken by the garbage man emptying a dumpster -- in the very same alley from the first movie, the whole thing re-created with great digital effects. Watching an older Schwarznegger appear in the scene he's asking the mohawk-haired punk for his clothes and fighting his 1984 self is also a moment that holds much promise.
But then, the movie ruins it all by bringing a lacklustre Jai Courtney into the fray, as Kyle Reese, the supposed father of John Connor (played here by Jason Clarke), who is prophesised to save all of humanity after Skynet -- an advanced missile defence program -- becomes self-aware and engineers aforementioned Judgement Day. To say Courtney is not a patch on Michael Biehn, who played this part in the first movie, would be an understatement -- his acting is wooden, his character exceedingly annoying, and his facial expressions resemble those of an American football jock who's had one head injury too many.
Emilia Clarke (best known for playing Daenerys 'Mother Of Dragons' Targaeryen in 'Game Of Thrones') is somewhat better as Sarah Connor, although living up to the standards set by Linda Hamilton in the first two movies is somewhat unfair.
"Come with me if you want to rule the Seven Kingdoms!"
Several other familiar characters appear -- the T-1000 (played by Byung-hun Lee), made out of mercury; Danny Dyson (Dayo Okeniyi), the little kid who witnessed Sarah's attempted assassination of his father Miles in 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' (1991), who grows up to be a higher-up at Cyberdyne -- even though we are told that everything that was supposed to have happened in the past has now changed.
"How is all this happening?" you may ask, if you're someone who cares about minor details like conforming to the movie universe you're playing around in. Well, the film's writers -- Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier (remember their names 'coz you might want to send them some hate mail) -- come up with a simple solution for all the time-travel paradoxes that this movie leaves in its wake: alternative timelines.
That's right. So, all the time-travel in this movie -- which, as usual, is basically about saving Sarah so that she can eventually give birth to John -- apparently creates alternative realities. But unlike Hugh Everett's theory of infinite parallel universes, there are only really specific things that happen, such as Reese's premonition of Skynet becoming self-aware in 2017 via a universal operating system called Genisys instead of the previously-accepted 1997, instead of these events happening at any other point. It's a bizarre kind of screenwriting cheat which is a little like saying, "We have guns, and guns can definitely kill people, but in this movie they can only kill people if they're shot while they're on a helicopter or swimming underwater."
Par-for-the-course special effects, unnecessary 3D, and a Greatest Hits Of Hans Zimmer score by Lorne Balfe don't do much to save this movie which, by the time it rolls to a finish, has somehow still managed to find a way to leave itself wide open to yet another pointless sequel. Either that, or that last scene was self-parody. That would make the writers as self-aware as Skynet itself, which, come to think of it, is the only analogy that makes sense in the context of this film.