There’s a brief moment toward the start of the film, during the scenes of the future war, where we find that after Judgement Day humans were rounded up and imprisoned in extermination camps. At hearing the voice over announce this you immediately wonder why round them up, and why the machines didn’t just shoot them all (especially as we are shown the terminators stood with huge guns). Then it dawns on you… The reason they do this is because the screenwriters didn’t have a clue, and thus the level of intelligence that went into the rest of the film could be ascertained. Suffice to say, the rest of the film didn’t disappoint – it was every bit as bad as you would expect.
A brief synopsis to start us off…
When John Connor sends Kyle Reece back to 1984, something happens that changes the timeline. He arrives to find Sarah and her pet terminator already prepared for the fight. In addition there is a T-1000 in the mix, and before you know it another new design of terminator (which anyone who saw the trailer will already know the plot twist of…great marketing campaign there) which is, effectively, a T-1000 but with little solid bits and a weakness for magnets. The team set about stopping Skynet from going active by way of a plot the screenwriters stole directly from the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series. Cue chases, explosions, and lots of sequences of terminators throwing each other against walls.
Much like the recent trip back to Jurassic Park, this new entry to the Terminator franchise relies heavily on nostalgia for the original film, even copying the arrival moments from that film, whilst also hopes that you have forgotten the later films which it then proceeds to blatantly rip moments from to present to you like it is fresh cake. The result is a series of sequences that seem like a mash up of key moments from the earlier films, only done by some bad cosplayers. The one interesting segment is the early moments of the future war (if you ignore the aforementioned plot contrivance), as we get an extended look at that future in a much better way than Salvation spent a whole film on. Sadly, once we are into the past/present (and anyone who says ‘spoilers’ at that point clearly didn’t watch the trailers) it all feels very humdrum and formulaic. The action set pieces would have thrilled more if we hadn’t seen the same moments done better previously, and also if there weren’t some baffling moments where scale of objects goes a little haywire (especially with a school bus that flips unrealistically, and seems to grow in size from shot to shot as it does).
It’s not all a loss though. The ever amazing JK Simmons adds so much to the sparse few scenes he is in that you hope he will come back for the next film, and actually be the lead actor. He is the one member of the cast who seems to actually have a screen presence. Even Arnie seems to just be going through the motions, much as he did in T3.
But where the film really fails is in the writing. Unconvincing moments, contrived storytelling, and so much ambiguity that it seems clear they are trying to force further films out of the gaps in the script. I always have a dislike of films that assume that their audience are brainless, and so play to that element (hence my dislike of a certain Michael Bay), as I feel they are treating the audience with disdain so why should I treat the product with anything else. Well, this is one of those films. It doesn’t ask you to leave your brain at the door, it expects you to leave your taste at the door too.
Not quite as bad as Terminator 3, but not a patch on the rest of the franchise, Genisys serves as nought more than a ‘greatest hits’ by an obscure cover band.