In praise of Terminator Genisys

Terminator_GenisysI went to Terminator Genisys in the weekend and had a ball. While it’s not quite my new favorite film, I’m surpised by some of the criticism out in the media. I found it a fabulous, creative reinvention. It was fun and well-structured, with some great set-pieces that the genre demands, and some nicely thrown in homages and nods to the previous films.

This MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS, so feel free to skip 🙂

My movie-going companion had not seen any of the previous terminator movies so over the weeks before hitting the theatre, I did a rewatch while she had her first watch of those previous four movies. Some I enjoy more than others, but I enjoy them all. Some seem dated, some seem try hard, at least one seems “how is this a terminator film?”. It was good to refresh my mind, especially with so many reflections back on those films in the new one.

I’ll admit I delight in big-budget films where lots of stuff blows up, but I do like them to make sense. (I do love art house too – I saw Mr Turner recently, 2.5 hours of Timothy Spall’s monosyllabic grunts – and I’m looking forward to Palmy’s film festival starting in a couple of weeks). Terminator Genisys made sense to me. As with many films there were gaps and fudging and some silliness (the bus flips, getting airborne in the process), but those things felt less important than a generally strong movie.

Some critics have suggested that this new film retreads the old films. I’m not sure what that means. Maybe in the way that Back to the Future Part II retreads Part I. It seems to me that if that “retreading” hadn’t happened then Back to the Future Part II would have fallen apart as a story: revisiting the first film made sense. Likewise in Terminator Genisys. That moment where older Arnie confronts younger Arnie confronting the punks at Griffith Observatory with “He won’t need any clothes” was a clever approach (if anything it was more like a retreading Back to the Future II – Marty watching Biff confronting George again). Likewise having the T-1000 chasing Kyle Reese right after he’s arrived in 1984 cleared up any “what about the advanced terminators from T2 and T3. I enjoyed the nods to both films in those sequences.

Where Terminator Genisys comes into its own is ripping up the rules. Sure it’s easier to “reboot” when you can fool with timelines. I loved Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese – especially with his bafflement arriving to find that Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor knows more about the situation than he does. I loved how Arnie has aged into the role – his most human yet. I loved especially the twist that John Connor – whose continued existence has for the most part has been central to the plot – had become the bad guy.

This movie was an absolute thrill. For an action buff who’s become jaded by endless Transformers movies (honestly I struggle to tell them apart – which one had Mark Wahlberg? Which one did Chicago start looking like San Francisco looks in every-other movie?), and can pretty-much predict the action in the Fast and Furious franchise*, it was magic to see a strong, clever reinvention of the franchise.

I only hope that somehow the film makes its way to profitability and someone, somehwhere green-lights the sequel (or even two).

*(yes, I know F&F is a franchise that’s reinvented itself too).