TER­MI­NA­TOR GENISYS

Starburst Magazine - - Front Page - BY JOHN TOWNSEND

In 2007, The Hal­cyon Com­pany ac­quired the rights to the Ter­mi­na­tor fran­chise and in 2009 re­leased the fourth film to bear the pres­ti­gious name. With gen­er­ally poor re­views and badly re­ceived by a dis­ap­pointed public, Ter­mi­na­tor Sal­va­tion de­liv­ered only mar­ginal re­turns when set against the huge $200 mil­lion bud­get. Hal­cyon filed for bank­ruptcy the same year. In 2011, the name was picked up again, this time by Skydance Pro­duc­tions, who two years later an­nounced a new film. This was to be the first in a re­vamped tril­ogy that would stand alone from the pre­vi­ous films while still in­clud­ing many of the well-known char­ac­ters and re­tain­ing much of the mythol­ogy. That film was to be­come Ter­mi­na­tor Genisys. The plot of this new film has been the cause of great de­bate and some con­ster­na­tion amongst fans. The ini­tial premise seemed to sug­gest that the timeline in Genisys would em­u­late that of James Cameron’s 1984 orig­i­nal clas­sic, The Ter­mi­na­tor. In 2029, the hu­man re­sis­tance fights bravely against an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence known as Skynet, which is hell-bent on wip­ing them out. One of the fight­ers, Kyle Reese (this time played by Jai Court­ney) is sent back in time to pro­tect an un­pre­pared Sarah Con­nor from a re­lent­less Ter­mi­na­tor dis­patched to kill her. Sarah’s des­tiny, one the ma­chines hope to change, is to bear a son, John, who will lead mankind in the bat­tle against Skynet. In Genisys, this timeline would ap­pear to change dra­mat­i­cally from the mo­ment Reese finds him­self back on Earth. This time Sarah Con­nor is less the naïve vic­tim and more of a well-trained soldier, ready and pre­pared for these events with an ar­se­nal of weapons stashed away. It also seems that in this new past, so to speak, a re­pro­grammed T-800 (one of the early Arnold mod­els) raised Sarah when her par­ents were killed some years be­fore, teach­ing her ev­ery­thing she would even­tu­ally need in or­der to sur­vive. This un­likely fam­ily unit must now evade a straight-off-the-pro­duc­tion-line T-1000 on a mis­sion to kill them all, as well as one other Skynet joker card that we’ll get to later. Firstly, though, let’s deal with the changed timeline. When ap­pointed, screen­writ­ers Laeta Kalo­gridis (Shut­ter Is­land, Alexan­der) and Pa­trick Lussier (Drive An­gry) knew they faced a chal­leng­ing prob­lem. Given the re­gard in which Cameron’s first two films are held, and that in many ways they rede­fined ac­tion cin­ema, how do you pay re­spect to the legacy while still rein­vent­ing the fran­chise for a new au­di­ence? There was also the thorny is­sue that the last two films didn’t live up to this al­most un­achiev­able stan­dard. The so­lu­tion would seem to be the new timeline which al­lows them to pick the best parts from pre­vi­ous films and meld them into a new story that still re­tains some es­sen­tial fa­mil­iar­ity. It also al­lowed them the op­por­tu­nity to bring back the fran­chise’s most no­table player: Sch­warzeneg­ger. The for­mer Gover­nor has never made any se­cret of his de­sire to play what is surely his most iconic char­ac­ter one more time and ad­just­ing the timeline and on-screen history pre­sented that chance. This brings us to the rest of the cast­ing. Bring­ing the big man back could prove to be both a risk and a bless­ing depend­ing on your point of view, but they do seem to have found a way around the un­avoid­able

ef­fects of the age­ing process. Cameron him­self claims to have ‘ad­vised’ that although the skele­ton and work­ings of the Ter­mi­na­tor are en­tirely syn­thetic, the skin it­self is or­ganic and would age as nor­mal. Un­for­tu­nately, while a big ro­bot still kick­ing around with more than 30 years of ex­em­plary ser­vice un­der his belt was now fea­si­ble, new ac­tors would be re­quired for the other main roles. Game of Thrones ac­tress Emilia Clarke has stepped into Linda Hamil­ton’s for­mi­da­ble shoes as Sarah Con­nor, and early footage seems to show her chan­nelling her pre­de­ces­sor’s Ter­mi­na­tor 2 pe­riod, work­ing the all black, gun-tot­ing look rem­i­nis­cent of that film. Jai Court­ney, who seems very much at home in fran­chises (The Di­ver­gent Se­ries is on­go­ing, although it would be rea­son­able to sus­pect that A Good Day To Die Hard may have killed off that par­tic­u­lar se­ries), steps into Michael Biehn’s stolen Nikes as Kyle Reese (ru­mour has it the sports­wear gi­ant has made some ex­act repli­cas spe­cially). This im­pres­sive cast is rounded out by Jason Clarke as John Con­nor, Byung-hun Lee as the T-1000, and for­mer Doc­tor Who Matt Smith in an as yet un­known but re­port­edly key role. In the di­rec­tor’s chair is Alan Tay­lor who, although be­ing most renowned for work on Game Of Thrones, demon­strated the abil­ity to de­liver on the big­gest scale of all by helm­ing Thor: The Dark World, and is there­fore no stranger to pres­sure from fans and stu­dios alike. All the com­po­nents would seem to be in place to make Genisys a suc­cess then. What ap­pears to have fired up the de­bate, both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive, is the last trailer. In it, Jason Clarke as John Con­nor ap­pears in the present, says hi to mom, and then pro­ceeds to try to kill her. The footage then shows Con­nor as a Ter­mi­na­tor him­self, a newly man­u­fac­tured hu­man-cy­borg hy­brid, or a T-3000 ac­cord­ing to the amended cast list. This rev­e­la­tion throws up some un­avoid­able ques­tions. Firstly, which timeline is the Con­normi­na­tor (apolo­gies) ac­tu­ally from? If it is the same fu­ture that saw Kyle Reese sent back to the present, then why would a Skynet min­ion be try­ing to aid the re­sis­tance? And more im­por­tantly, which fu­ture does he orig­i­nate from? Se­condly, and more in­ter­est­ingly, why re­veal what is surely the main plot twist in the trailer and then show­case it for over a minute? Does this mean the pro­duc­ers are not en­tirely con­vinced by the film’s pre­views and are show­ing their hand early in the hope this draws in the au­di­ences? Or do they have some­thing else even more shock­ing to re­veal when the film is re­leased? What­ever the an­swers may be, and as­sum­ing there ac­tu­ally are some, this trailer has had the de­sired ef­fect of get­ting peo­ple talk­ing about the film. Whether the film­mak­ers can pull off what now ap­pears to be a com­plete re­boot rather than sim­ply an amended timeline is some­thing that will be­come clear in the com­ing weeks. One other thing to con­sider in all this is that Skydance Pro­duc­tions have set re­lease dates for Ter­mi­na­tor 6 and Ter­mi­na­tor 7. Although listed as still at the ‘pitch’ stage, May 19th, 2017 and June 29th, 2018 have been pro­vi­sion­ally re­served for the new tril­ogy’s other two films. The in­ter­est­ing foot­note to this now com­mon prac­tice of an­nounc­ing re­lease dates be­fore a script has even been con­sid­ered is that ac­cord­ing to copy­right laws in the United States, the rights to the Ter­mi­na­tor se­ries will re­turn to their spir­i­tual fa­ther James Cameron in 2019, some 35 years af­ter the first film was re­leased. Although clearly a

good busi­ness move by Skydance, as the public’s ap­petite for more Ter­mi­na­tor-based prop­er­ties would surely be wan­ing af­ter three films in four years, it was said by the screen­writ­ers Kalo­gridis and Lussier that Cameron gave his bless­ing to the new film, al­beit from a safe dis­tance. Given that he is also some­what pre­oc­cu­pied with Avatar and an abun­dance of se­quels for the fore­see­able fu­ture, it is ex­tremely un­likely he would ever con­sider a re­turn to the fran­chise. Per­haps this is noth­ing more than a show of con­fi­dence from a com­pany used to han­dling tent­pole pro­duc­tions, be­ing be­hind both the Star Trek and Jack Reacher films. It does make an in­ter­est­ing by-line though. One thing for cer­tain is that Ter­mi­na­tor Genisys faces a chal­lenge to es­tab­lish it­self as one of 2015’s big hit­ters, and also to pro­vide a sound base for those planned se­quels. With Fu­ri­ous 7, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road al­ready lead­ing the way at the box of­fice, and Juras­sic World still to come be­fore Genisys is re­leased; plus Ant-Man, Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble – Rogue Na­tion and Fan­tas­tic Four wait­ing in the wings, the com­pe­ti­tion is fe­ro­cious. Will to­day’s cin­ema­go­ers still turn up for a fran­chise that be­gan 30 years ago, and has been tar­nished by the last two ad­di­tions? So very many ques­tions to be an­swered. It is re­as­sur­ing that from the cast through to the head of Skydance David El­li­son, the right peo­ple are in­volved and share the same goal; to recharge a se­ries that had flat­lined fol­low­ing 2009’s Ter­mi­na­tor Sal­va­tion. Who could have fore­seen that when Sch­warzeneg­ger ut­tered that fa­mous line in his mono­tone, slightly awk­ward English, that he would be de­liv­er­ing it again some 30 years later? Once again, he’s back.

We look for­ward to the fifth in­stal­ment of the TER­MI­NA­TOR se­ries and try to ig­nore that ridicu­lously spelt ti­tle...

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