He is back, and this time not just from the future, but also the past. Not to forget inhabiting parallel timelines. Something to do with “time flows in quantum mechanics”, and a “nexus point”. And He, as in the original T-800, in full muscled, in-the-buff glory, is far from the only one leaping time zones here.
But more rarely is merrier. And certainly not in the case of a franchise that started running out of steam past the first two James Cameron-helmed ventures, and was positively grounded by the time the veritable Christian Bale lent it post-apocalyptic heft in Terminator Salvation (2009). Genisys tries no such experiments, running virtually on the same lines as the first Terminator, while picking up ideas from the second, and in an acknowledgement that even Schwarzenegger may need a helping hand, letting its other characters swoosh around in a time cycloplasm allowing the film to appear to be moving when all it is essentially doing is throwing punches at the same guy/guys.
So, in 2029, the war led by John Connor (Jason Clarke) against Skynet is finally drawing to a close when the machine, the sly thing that it is, sends a Terminator back in time (Los Angeles, May 1984) to change the past and hence the course to its destruction. Connor’s trusted aide Kyle Reese (Courtney) offers to go back himself to stop this from happening, in particular stop the Terminator from killing Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). The Terminator wants to do that because Sarah would eventually beget John, who would lead the Resistance against the machines.
We know that from the previous films, but what we don’t know is that when the Terminator (Schwarzenegger, digitally created, smoothened out, muscular) and Kyle both land in 1984, the past itself has got changed from what John remembered it to be. Since one can only do time travel in the nude though, their first requirement remains laying their hands on some clothes.
In the changed past, Sarah already has a T 800 in the form of an older Schwarzenegger protecting her (presumably because the digital version is creepy to say the least) and she is herself a badass capable of wielding guns, swords, trucks and bombs to take on the machines. In one of the film’s few original lines, it is Sarah who gets to shout, “Come with me if you want to live.”
The rest should have been left to history, as Arnold 1 takes on Arnold 2, a shape-shifting T 1000 only brings to mind the far-superior Robert Patrick from Terminator 2, and the fights just go on and on, with little novelty from earlier. It’s interesting to note that while man appears to have moved from 1984 to 2017, the one understandable time frame within which the film operates, the machines have made no changes at all. That also says something about the creative imagination of Cameron, whose shape-shifting cyborg was a visual marvel then, with no attempt to better it here.
Among the actors, Jason Clarke is the only one who brings some justifiable anger to his fanatical fighting, though he too is stuck in a handful of expressions. The rest only bring to mind people who have played these roles with better zeal, though Emilia (Game of Thrones) gives it her all.
As for fun — that crucial element which allows you to sanction films such as the Terminator with its end-of-the-world walk, its fear-of-the-machines plot, and its unconvincing leap to the smartphone times — it’s left to only Schwarzenegger to show how it is done. His T 800, nicknamed ‘Pops’ here by Emilia, is fond of trying to explain the science of it all here, qualifying each such explanation with “theoretically”. He is also at pains to underline that he may be “old”, but “not obsolete”.
That should be the case with Terminator too, with machines omnipresent and more inter-connected than ever before. Theoretically. In practice, this franchise has had its judgment day.
Star Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J K Simmons
Director: Alan Taylor
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