More noise than signal

Terminator: Genisys

Repurposed from the show notes for my podcast, Fuds on Film

Or as it’s localised for PAL regions, Terminator: Megadryve. The bones of Genisys ought to be familiar enough to anyone with a passing familiarity with modern cinema. We start off in the post nuclear apocalypse world, where the remnants of humanity stand against the murderous robot terminators and, with Jason Clarke’s John Connor at the helm, are about to win. While the killing blow to Skynet happens off-screen, Connor and his trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese must take out a facility where the robots are hiding their ultimate weapon, Reese now embodied by the thus far unimpressive Jai Courtney.

They’re too late, sadly, as they find a Terminator unit has been sent back in time to kill John’s mother before he was even born, Skynet as always being a subscriber to the Great Man theory of history. To stop him, Connor sends Reese back in time with orders to track down Sarah Connor (Game of Throne’s Emilia Clarke) and safeguard her from the clanking assassin.

Immediate signs that you’re no longer in the murderous robot version of Kansas are delivered in the shape of a liquid metal T-1000-alike pretty much immediately stalking Kyle, while a freaky, uncanny valley CGI’s 1984 version of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger terminator enters battle with an aged, 2015-era Arnie, ending with Sarah Connor firing a fatal round through the young robo-interloper with an anti-tank rifle, in stark contrast to the mousy waitress we were told would be waiting for us.

And so it goes, taking a good amount of inspiration from Terminator 2, which doesn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. It’s largely a collection of chase scenes and robots clattering into each other while casually destroying the set in the process, and at least on that level of spectacle it delivers solidly. Unfortunately in a year where any action film has to be reckoned against Mad Max: Fury Road it’s going to come across as a poor relation, but that can’t be helped.

Instead, it’s merely about as good as the third installment – a definite cut below the first two, but a decent enough outing. This is actually a hell of an achievement, because the story that’s linking the impressive action scenes and, admittedly, slightly nostalgia-tinged Arnie turn, is a slice of fourth grade fan-fiction that has no business being turned into a movie.

And yet, I have to concede, it doesn’t actually matter all that much. No-one, at least no-one with an ounce of realism, was going in to Terminator: Genisys looking for a narrative masterclass. We expected a reasonably-paced, effects-driven summer blockbuster, and that’s exactly what has been delivered. It is entirely adequate, but nobody’s going to get too excited about adequacy. Meh/ten.