DAZE OF FUTURE PAST
Films produced with the sole purpose of allowing a studio to retain the rights to a franchise have a bad track record (see The Amazing Spider-Man and the upcoming Fantastic Four), and one can sympathise somewhat with the billionaire executives who choose to prioritise speed and flash over legitimate art. For why would you waste the effort of hiring talented filmmakers to make a project, when you could have some more efficient fellows do it for cheap? Terminator Genisys is the latest Hollywood classic to emerge from such a situation. James Cameron, director of the grippingly atmospheric The Terminator and joyfully bombastic T2: Judgement Day, will by law be delivered the rights to his baby in 2019, so Paramount are attempting to squeeze as much cash as possible out of this old beast before they no longer can. Hence, Genisys is said to be the first of a new trilogy, the next instalments of which already have release dates in 2017 and 2018. As you can see: art is a priority.
As a result of so much obvious studio interference and cynical business, it’s hard to decide whether the actual director (Alan Taylor, Thor: The Dark World) and writers (Laeta Kalogridis, Shutter Island and Patrick Lussier, Drive Angry) should be blamed for just how horrendous an attempt at cinema Terminator Genisys is. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who clearly maintains great enthusiasm for this brand despite its rapid loss of quality over the last 15 years, is wheeled in to give the film a sense of authenticity, but this is not a Terminator film. While 2009’s Salvation was arguably a worse piece of cinema even than this, at least it didn’t attempt to replicate the original films’ mood and structure, and hence got away with being “just a bad sci-fi”. Genisys, however, is a disgraceful and cheap Terminator copy. Cameron appeared in a video recently in which he praised the film. Since nobody alive over the age of 10 could possibly enjoy this film to the extent that they’d declare it publicly on the internet, it seems likely that Paramount are in possession of some very damaging photographs of Cameron. Genisys is as humourless and dead as its star Jai Courtney. Where to even begin with Jai Courtney. For reasons unapparent to us, he has been given roles in several major blockbusters over the past few years (including next year’s otherwise promising Suicide Squad, despite obtaining not a grain of talent, charisma, comic timing, good looks or family connections. There is no logic behind his career, and his casting as Kyle Reese in Genisys (which, in case you weren’t aware, we are pronouncing as GEN-EYE-SIS) is an insult to original star Michael Biehn, who seems like Cary Grant when contrasted with the stiffer-than-wood Courtney, and to the very origins of acting. He does not act. He does not tell jokes. He simply IS.
Surrounding the energetic but useless Schwarzenegger and *shudder* Jai Courtney are Emilia Clarke (excellent in Game of Thrones, very poor here), Jason Clarke (excellent in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, catastrophic here) and J.K. Simmons (magnificent in Whiplash, infuriatingly under-utilised but moderately enjoyable here). The cast are bad, but the film’s awfulness isn’t really their fault. The story alone seems to have been composed by a small child with ADHD and a confused obsession with the concept of time travel (“So we’ll go here, and then here, and then there, and then here… TIME TRAVEL!”), and is completely and utterly incomprehensible. Genisys would be bad enough were it two hours of exposition explaining the complicated plot, but of course Paramount and the writers couldn’t be bothered to even EXPLAIN WHAT’S GOING ON properly, so instead we are treated to non-stop action: poorly staged and cheaply CGI’d, and more boring than you could possibly imagine. Helicopters! Bus! It’s all in the trailers, but we get to see it again anyways! In fact, the film’s central twist was revealed not only in the trailers but bang-smack in the middle of the US one-sheet poster, so there’s literally NO OPPORTUNITY for the audience to go in unaware. What a total mess.
Two sequels have already been scheduled. We can only pray that they won’t ever be made, and that James Cameron will bury all future instalments where they belong. The Terminator franchise, with five films in the bag, is now officially 60% rubbish. Next time Arnie says “I’ll be back”, can somebody please travel back in time five minutes and kill him first?