“It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever,” pleads Kyle Reese in the original 1984 Terminator film.
It would be easy to apply Kyle’s thoughts to the constant, postmodern churning of reboots and remakes that have been gracing our screens for the last few years now; but alas, he is of course talking about Arnie’s unstoppable killing machine. The latest, Terminator Genisys, presented as the fourth installment of the ‘Terminator’ series (this excludes Terminator Salvation) is perhaps the lamest and most infuriating attempt to reboot a successful franchise to date.
From the offset, the film appears to follow the same storyline as the original 1984 story, Kyle Reese, played by Jai Courtney, is sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a terminator (Schwarzenegger), also sent back from the future. Upon Reese’s arrival however, things are not what they seem, and the film follows an alternative timeline from there. The storyline is unnecessarily complicated, there are so many different timelines going on that it seems overloaded, and the narrative really suffers for it.
The main problem with Genisys however, is its pastiche, it is laced with it. There are an infuriating amount of nods and references to the original two films (it is pointless including Terminator 3 in this as Genisys basically indicates that the third film never even happened). Whilst it is good to pay homage to James Cameron’s films, director Alan Taylor simply overdoes it. Several scenes are actually painful to watch for fans of Cameron’s work, for example, Taylor decides to show edited footage of Arnie arriving in 1984 from the original film in his own work, it is so bad it’s almost funny, it wouldn’t look out of place in a Family Guy parody of the series.
Equally painful is the film’s script, the dialogue is so clunky and on the nose, the only good lines are the ones that are clearly pinched or manipulated from the original films. On top of this, Jai Courtney is absolutely no match for Michael Biehn in the role of Kyle Reese, his Reese is a shell of a hunk with the emotional range of the Terminator he seeks to destroy. The film’s only potential saving grace is Emilia Clarke’s performance of Sarah Connor, she possesses the same fire and drive that Linda Hamilton gave in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and is a fine substitute; fans of Game of Thrones will be shocked to see her so active and driven on a screen.
If you’re a fan of the original Terminator films, it’s easy to get so infuriated with this installment, it’s a shock that Cameron himself has actually endorsed it. Its constant pastiche and complete subversion of the original story that is so well known and loved is almost insulting. With a Ghostbusters reboot in the works, a Star Wars reboot on the way, and no doubt an Indiana Jones reboot soon-to-be in the news, Terminator Genisys can act as a warning sign, telling us that perhaps it’s sometimes better to leave things in the past.