“I’m old, not obsolete”, the T-800 ‘good-guy’ cyborg tells Kyle Reese, who’s been sent back in time (yet again), to protect Sarah Connor. And that’s exactly what the Terminator– franchise shows with its fifth instalment: that the story has not been relegated to 80s ‘relic-hood’ just yet.
In 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the Resistance against tech company Skynet, uses a time machine to funnel his friend, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke aka Khaleesi from Game of Thrones). At first it seems to be a repeat of the original plot, in which Sarah must be guarded so she can give birth to John.
However, instead of the helpless waitress we saw in the first Terminator film, Kyle finds a Sarah who already knows about the impending Judgement Day, and the infiltration of Skynet and its genocidal cyborg soldiers. Instead, as it turns out, Kyle has been sent back to an alternative timeline.
Sarah is watched over by her guardian, a reprogrammed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), whom she lovingly calls “Pops”. Kyle is suspicious of the grumpy but lovable cyborg, whose attempts to blend in with humans through overstretched grins and wry one-liners, insert some cheesy humour into the film.
With Sarah clearly not needing much saving, Kyle focuses on his recurring dream, in which a young boy tells him Skynet can be destroyed, before it’s even born. This would reset the future and erase the subsequent war.
Terminator: Genisys might not be the most innovative Sci Fi action flick ever made, but makes a brave attempt to resurrect a franchise that looked dead and buried with its 2009 predecessor, Terminator: Salvation (an insipid and ridiculous sequel that even Christian Bale couldn’t save).
Diehard fans might enjoy references to the original plot, but I found myself stuck with a headache trying to reconcile the different timelines, and constantly wishing for something just more. A clever little twist, perhaps. The film tries to do that with the explanation of Kyle’s dream, but it’s obvious from miles away. And of course, most in the audience will already know about the bombshell that will be dropped on the oblivious hero, about his actual connection to John and Sarah Connor.
Terminator: Genisys falls squarely into escapist entertainment. But eh, you can’t really blame it for its mindlessness: that’s just the kind of franchise this is. It’s about upgraded graphics (now in 3D) and cooler fight scenes, not clever storytelling or method acting. I suspect many will simply go and watch it for the iconic one-liner: “I’ll be back”.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger
South African release date: 03 July 2015.