The Terminator film series has long been seen as a film franchise that has kept going beyond its expiration date. While none of the films in the series have been able to match the greatness of James Cameron’s The Terminator, all of the following films have had something to offer. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a solid (albeit dated) action film. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has one of the most surprising and risky endings in a blockbuster ever, and Terminator: Salvation was one of the first films to jump on the tracking shot bandwagon that many films and shows want to hop onto nowadays. Terminator Genisys follows in line with the other sequels. It’s very problematic at times, but it’s hard not to enjoy the top-notch visuals and fun performances from Arnold Schwarzenegger in his signature role and J.K. Simmons in one of his first post-Oscar performances.
Terminator Genisys picks up with John Connor (Jason Clarke in one of the more effective portrayals of the character) and the Resistance on the verge of achieving victory over the forces of Skynet. Skynet, however, releases it’s secret weapon before the Resistance can prevent them in the form of the T-800 and their time travel device. As the other films in the series tell us, John Connor sends back Kyle Reese (the bland Jai Courtney), but when an unexpected event occurs while in the process of time traveling he ends up traveling to an alternate timeline that no one was preparing for.
Director Alan Taylor has thus far been seen as a studio director. His last film was Thor: The Dark World, which he was brought in for to stabilize a rocky pre-production, and that was by far the weakest Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date. So his hiring for this film didn’t spark much confidence. However, his directing reveals that he is more than capable of delivering technically impressive scenes that can be fun and inventive like blockbusters should be. Taylor’s direction of the film ends up being one of the main highlights of the film as it is actually the script and some of the casting decisions that ultimately let this film down.
The script has many of the problems that the Terminator sequels have had in that it is tries to make its cake and eat it too. This film tries to find inventive ways to call back to the original films and yet it doesn’t give itself enough time to invent its own plot, which ends up as a convoluted mess. Ultimately, this film functions as a bunch of interesting set pieces that never really work together.
Additionally, it doesn’t help that some of the main roles in the film are badly miscast. Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor is a fun presence at times, but her accent wavers constantly and her performance ultimately fails in comparison to Linda Hamilton’s. Meanwhile, Jai Courtney just seems to suck the life out of every scene he’s in, and you can just listen to lines that he has to speak be really worthwhile if it was anyone even remotely more talented than him saying them. That isn’t to see all of the acting in the film is bad. Far from it as Arnold Schwarzenegger is clearly having fun, and J.K. Simmons is a great scene-stealer in the second half of the film. Even Jason Clarke does some great villainous work.
Terminator Genisys is a gigantic mess that ultimately has more good than bad.