The Future Isn’t Fixed:
Who could ever forget Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Don’t get me wrong: she was sweet and lovely in the 1984 original, but in the sequel she took the character to a whole other obsessive level. With her body sculpted into planes that left not an inch of spare flesh, she looked like a scary wet dream of a paranoid survivalist who had something to be paranoid about. She really was Sarah Connor.
Now imagine the completely depressing polar opposite and you have Emilia Clark. It turns out that if you take away her dragons, Dothraki horsemen and platinum blonde wig you lose Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones and gain a twelve-year-old girl who looks and sounds slightly puzzled to find out that she has been cast in an action film. So she should be. There had to be actresses out there who could have made at least a stab at being Sarah. Emilia’s not one of them.
Remember Michael Biehn as resistance fighter Kyle Reese? Perfect: great face; great delivery; totally believable as James Cameron’s driven future soldier. What do we get with Terminator: Genisys?
We get 80s comic actor Steve Guttenberg imitating Reese – really, really badly. Well, it’s a time travel within time travel film, so why not? In the credits, he’s changed his name to Jai Courtney. Don’t be fooled. Even the way he says his lines is pure Guttenberg, always looking as if he’s on the verge of cracking off a joke. I swear I kept waiting for him to abandon Sarah Connor, hire a fishing boat and go looking for Tahnee Welsh and some Cocoons. I wish he had done; those movies were a lot more entertaining than this one.
As for Arnold Schwarzenegger, what was he thinking? Come on, you can only go back to the well so often before it dries up. This is a major cinematic icon being reduced to a figure of fun. In The Terminator he was a symbol of unstoppable slaughter and carnage. With the sequel, Cameron’s stroke of genius was to turn him successfully into the good guy. Here?
Well, have you seen those hilarious promos where Schwarzenegger in full Terminator mode walks around Los Angeles telling bewildered bystanders to come with him if they want to live? They’re great. Very funny. But they should have kept that humour on the street and not in the film’s universe!
We are never once allowed to forget that this is a retread of far better movies. It references them all the time, not just to forward the plot but for the supposed novelty value of hearing alternate characters saying familiar (if in a couple of cases, very overused) lines.
In this 1984 Sarah Connor was first visited by the Terminator when she was nine years of age. It had been sent back to protect her until she was old enough to give birth to John Connor (Jason Clarke), savior of the human race. She has grown up as a resistance fighter before there was anything to resist. And she calls the Terminator ‘Pops’. I don’t know if I cringed more at that name or at her ‘humorous’ attempts to make him smile naturally. In fact, in the credits he is The Guardian. ‘The Guardian’ or ‘Pops’. Dear God.
So no wonder Steve Guttenberg looks and sounds confused. He has been sent back from 2029 to take care of Sarah, who was once vulnerable and defenseless; only that was a different timeline. In this one she knows from’ Pops’ what’s going to happen on Judgment Day. Or does she?
Problem is that during his time transference Steve had memories of another past – one that hasn’t happened yet. (And no, it wasn’t of alien beings charting his fishing boat.) Which actually begins to make an odd kind of sense until another complication where…oh, never mind.
Listen, I quite enjoyed some of this even if I’ll never be seeing it again, life being too short and all that. The opening half-hour is enjoyable enough as old footage of Arnie is mixed with the new and we see a slightly different take on what happened in 1984. (Hard to believe that the original was so long ago I was still married. Talk about nostalgia in a bad way. There’s something a time machine could fix, heh!)
Even that is nearly ruined with a rear shot of Arnold coming off the assembly line and so muscle-bound that he’s walking as if his hemorrhoids have hemorrhoids. I kept thinking of that scene from In and Out where Kevin Kline is listening to the teaching tape that should help him not to be gay: “And no dancing! Arnold doesn’t dance; hell, he can barely walk!”
One thing that I did like was what they’ve done with John Connor; but why the trailers were allowed to show that he’s become some kind of terminator himself, I really don’t get. That should have been a major twist.
As it happens there are a couple of others here that I won’t spoil since they do keep you watching through the confusion. And I do wish we had seen more of J.K. Simmons – I love that guy.
Alan Taylor and his screenwriters Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis breeze along with huge confidence. Every time they sense the audience is having a WTF? moment they throw in some gobbledygook about Time Nexus’ and hope we get over it. This is even funnier when Arnold is doing the explaining. But downright bizarre is when the cops pull in ‘Pops’ for questioning (God be with the days when he just shot up entire police stations) and begin referencing him as if he was Arnold Schwarzenegger. I kid you not.
In fact I kept right on wondering about this confidence straight through until this morning when I learned to my utter astonishment that this is the first part of a trilogy! If the future IS fixed, that is. Incredible. I guess he’ll be back after all.