New ‘Terminator’ bangs, bams, crams and slams across the years
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke
Directed by Alan Taylor
“I’ll be back,” Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg promised in the original Terminator, back in 1984. And now Ah-nold, THE Terminator, is indeed back, and he’s the biggest, baddest and best thing in the new reboot of the iconic sci-fi franchise.
That Terminator envisioned a near future in a ruined, post-apocalyptic world run by artificially intelligent machines battled by a hearty group of human resistance fighters. Schwarzenegger was cast in his first blockbuster role as a virtually unstoppable assassin “terminator” sent back in time to kill the mother of the child who would grow up to be John Conner, the fiery leader of the resistance, before he was conceived, ensuring the opposition could never take root.
Three sequels and a TV spinoff played off that premise. And now, 31 years later, Terminator Genysis backs up and takes another run at it.
This time around, rebel leader John Conner (Jason Clarke) zaps his young protégé Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) into the past to intercept and destroy the terminator that’s already there, programmed to kill his mother. British actress Emilia Clarke (dragon mistress Daenerys Taegaryen in TV’s Game of Thrones) does a commendable job as the young firebrand Sarah Connor. But the big bang here is the return of the former two-term governor of California, with a now-familiar terminator twist: Schwarzenegger’s cyborg is Sarah’s guardian, not her killer, protecting her from other terminators.
Characters meet up with themselves coming and going across the decades, in overlapping timelines. At one point, Schwarzenegger’s terminator battles the younger version of himself, thanks to modern-day special effects, right out of a scene from the first movie. Oscar-winning J.K. Simmons plays a police detective who remembers the characters from one of their previous eras.
As they zip back and forth through time, our heroes outrun fireballs, shoot and blast shape-shifting, liquid-silver pursuers, throw around phrases like “mimetic polyalloy” and “decay algorithms,” try to shut down a “cloud”-like operating system that will eventually quash all living things, and eventually dangle over the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge in a hijacked school bus.
It’s all very complicated and convoluted, a muddled sci-fi haystack of past, present and future that looks even denser and darker—as many movies do—in 3-D. Thank goodness the characters seem to know what they’re doing and where they’re going, because not only did I get lost, I lost my patience trying to sort through all the bangs, bams, crams and slams—and the echoes and clangs of previous Terminator movies ringing in my ears and through the years.
For all its motion and commotion, however, nothing can compete with Schwarzenegger’s iconic star power, even when he’s standing still and not saying a word. The 67-year-old actor seems to be having a ball back in the swing and stride of his venerable trademark character. There’s even a running joke about the mileage on his terminator’s odometer. “I’m old, not obsolete,” he says.
Too bad the rest of this time-crunching, overstuffed, underwhelming Terminator installment doesn’t quite feel like it’s aged nearly so gracefully.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine