Sunday, 5 July 2015
Genisys of the Terminators
This is one I've been preparing all week to see. I made a point of re-watching both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day plus I started watching Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles to help get into the right mood. I probably would have even watched Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation if I could. It seemed to make sense to compare it to the first two films at least. The big question is how well does it hold up, and the answer is actually not all that bad.
At first, it looks like Terminator Genisys is going to go the route of the original The Terminator even going as far as to use some of the original footage from the beginning of that movie. In the future John Connor (Jason Clarke) has led the resistance fighters in order to win the war against the evil computer system known as Skynet (played by Matt Smith of Doctor Who fame). Said computer system resorts to drastic measures by sending the T-800 back in time to kill Sarah Connor and prevent her from giving birth to John thus erasing the human resistance fighters. Meanwhile, John takes control of the system and sends Kyle Reese back in time to stop the Terminator. However, before Kyle is sent John is attacked by a Terminator and the former begins experiencing memories of things that never happened to him.
Kyle arrives in Los Angeles in 1984 where he begins looking for Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), ready to protect her and teach her to defend herself. He is subsequently shocked when a T-1000 shows up and he is saved by Sarah herself. It turns out the timeline got a little wonky and now thanks to some confusing wibbly-wobbly timey wimey stuff Sarah has actually been preparing herself since an encounter with a Terminator at the age of nine, and now she has one who accompanies her under the nickname of "Pops" (played by an ageing Schwarzenegger). After easily destroying the T-800 and narrowly escaping the T-1000, this group of characters finds themselves travelling in the near future where they discover a computer system called Genisys that will become Skynet once it is operational. Now comes the mission to destroy Skynet before it is born, a task complicated by the reveal of a new, even more powerful terminator from an unexpected source who will stop at nothing to protect Genisys.
Basically, Alan Taylor is doing here with The Terminator franchise what J.J. Abrams did to Star Trek. Instead of directly picking up where the films left off, he is branching off into a separate timeline. By creating a whole alternate series of events he can have full creative freedom without being burdened by the troubles of sticking to what has already been established in canon. To be fair, this is probably the biggest issue with the film, as its timey-wimey paradoxes are not very well explained. For instance, they finally stop Skynet from existing, so how does "Pops" still exist?
One thing I can give credit for, however, is that Emilia Clarke is actually not all that bad as Sarah Connor. For one thing she definitely looks a lot more like her character than her Game of Thrones co-star Lena Headey (who previously played the same role in The Sarah Connor Chronicles). She is still a reasonably strong character who has to take part in most of the action. If anything, her relationship with Kyle Reese is basically a role reversal of how it played out in The Terminator. Instead it is Sarah who understands what is going on and has to protect Kyle while explaining everything to him. This certainly leads to some peculiar twists and turns, not all of them expected.
The visual effects are also amazing for the most part. Most of the designs of the terminators (at least of the T-800 and T-1000) are on par with what Cameron envisioned in his first two films. There is never any point at which the machines seem to appear fake. The attention to detail is quite impressive in the earlier scenes, though it is hard to tell where the scenes that were shot for this instalment end and the reused footage from The Terminator begins. Even Schwarzenegger does okay and it was an interesting choice to try and take advantage of the fact that he has aged a lot since 1984.
As for how Terminator Genisys compares to the Cameron films, there is not much point in doing so. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day are still the best in the series. That said, Terminator Genisys is flawed but still an entertaining movie. There is plenty of great action and suspense plus a few shocking twists in the narrative to keep audiences on their toes. Admittedly, it is somewhat painful to see everything we had come to know and love about The Terminator wiped from existence (and extreme fans of the series might have trouble handling one particular reveal that changes everything that has been established about the future, those of you who have seen the film know what I'm talking about) but as a simple action film it serves its purposes and makes for an enjoyable experience.