Kyle be back
Release Date: OUT NOW! 12A | 126 minutes Director: Alan Taylor Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, JK Simmons, Matt Smith
“Time travel makes my head hurt,” yells Kyle Reese, midway through the mind- bending Terminator Genisys. He won’t be the only one. With an alternate timeline wiping out most of what you know about Skynet, Sarah Connor and those deadly Terminators, this fifth instalment is easily the most head- scratching of a franchise already built on Möbius- strip logic. But, with the welcome return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, this Alan Taylor- directed effort is a vast improvement on 2009’ s Terminator Salvation and 2003’ s Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines.
We begin with Reese ( Jai Courtney) recapping: how defence program Skynet went sentient, how Judgement Day came in 1997, how the machines took over, how the humans fought back. The year is now 2029, and trusty lieutenant Reese volunteers to time travel back to 1984 to protect the future mother of John Connor ( Jason Clarke), leader of the resistance, after Skynet sends a T- 800 Terminator ( Arnold Schwarzenegger, de- wrinkled thanks to digital trickery) back to kill her.
So far, so James Cameron – but that’s where the similarities to the 1984 classic end. When Reese arrives back in the mid-’ 80s ( naked, of course), things ain’t how you remember them. For starters, John Connor’s mother Sarah ( Emilia Clarke) is well aware of the Terminators, unlike Linda Hamilton’s Sarah in the original. She even has her own ageing T- 800 ( Arnie, again) – or “Pops” as she calls him – to protect her. Turns out he was sent back to 1973, when she was nine, to look after her, staying with her ever since.
While Sarah and Arnie’s T- 800 despatch the younger Terminator that’s come back through time, there’s another problem: a shapeshifting T- 1000 ( I Saw The Devil’s Byung- hun Lee, who’s excellent), even dressed as a cop to remind us of Robert Patrick’s liquid- metal Terminator in Cameron’s 1991 barometer- setting T2. As the trio fight off the T- 1000, the first third is relentless, playing out on freeways and in cop shops, shopping malls and abandoned factories.
But then the plot really thickens. The twist – or one of them – is that Genisys is really Kyle Reese’s story. This time, the protector of Sarah Connor – who is sent back in time by her son John to ultimately father him – is having flashbacks to a sundappled past he never knew. In this timeline, Judgement Day never happened. But Genisys will. “The ultimate killer app”, it’s a Skynetsponsored Trojan Horse, set to launch in 2017, to link all our gadgets and leave users vulnerable to attack.
Yet this doesn’t even begin to cover a plot so dense, even the trailer succumbs to spoilers – hinted at early on when Matt Smith’s mystery man pops up to attack Jason Clarke’s John Connor as Reese is sent back to 1984. Thank heavens then for JK Simmons’s detective, who brings some much- needed humour to the “really, really complicated” story. Told, in summary, that Reese and co are here to save the world, he quips: “I can work with that.”
What doesn’t work quite as well is the Arnie humour, not least a tiresome running gag where he tries to “blend in” by smiling. The obligatory “I’ll be back” line is casually used and dismissed, though this model prefers “bite me” as a signature phrase. Better are the references to his ageing appearance; explained with the idea that a Terminator’s flesh ages just like a human’s, it gives this T- 800 ( and the actor behind him) a creaky look. “I’m old,” he says. “Not obsolete.”
Schwarzenegger’s return is vital, of course, after he was all- butmissing in Terminator Salvation, and his relationship with Sarah does provide some emotional heft. Emilia
Easily the most head- scratching of the franchise
Clarke is excellent: action- adept and able to convey her attachment towards her “Pops” amid the constant rush of plot. Courtney, too, is a worthy successor to Michael Biehn from the original ( a nice touch has him dress up in the same trenchcoat and Nikes when he first arrives back in 1984).
Indeed, there are numerous points when the script by Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis feels like a Terminator Greatest Hits, as if the earlier movies have criss- crossed together like the plot’s overlapping timelines. Is it smart meta- writing? Or simply ripping off the originals? Arguably it’s both. But at least the script attempts something brave; in a franchise where the time travel element has always been a Class A head- fuck, this is the biggest of them all.
Thankfully, Alan Taylor – as he did in Thor: The Dark World – proves capable of keeping this ten- ton juggernaut of an action movie running at full pelt. Whether it’s Arnie windscreen- smashing, a schoolbus somersaulting or the Golden Gate Bridge blowing, the absorbing visuals ensure it’s almost impossible to question the timeline shenanigans mid- flow. The 3D is also unobtrusive, though hardly the film’s strongest selling point.
Sadly, the further in you get the more Genisys ties itself up in narrative knots with a story that, at times, leaves you yearning for the simplicity of Cameron’s original. The ending, in particular, has one WTF moment that lacks credibility, even in this logic- defying loopy universe. Just because time travel means you can go anywhere, it doesn’t mean you can do anything. But by then, you’ll have most likely given in and just accepted this as the barmiest
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