The sci-fi/action sequel “Terminator: Genisys,” available on Blu-Ray November 10, is the latest installment in the successful franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in his iconic role, now as Sarah Connor’s fatherly protector. It’s just one of several nifty twists in this intermittently entertaining but ultimately flawed film.
“Genisys” sidesteps the most recent Terminator sequels, with a focus on capturing the spirit of the first two films. The first act of the film succeeds, with exposition interwoven between the massive battle which would result in the (seeming) destruction of Skynet. However, another Terminator (played by a dodgy CGI version of a young Schwarzenegger) leaves to change the past, with Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) hot on his trail. Soon, alternate timelines enter the fray, leading to some fun twists on Terminator lore . . . at least in theory.
Frustratingly, a lot of the twists are clever in a fanfic sort of way, playing off what we know about the Terminators and doing interesting spins on iconic moments throughout the first two films (a different character saying “come with me if you want to live,” etc). Alternate realities and timelines are often groan-worthy, but “Genisys” plays with these in a way that could be fun. Unfortunately, the film is held back by its painfully miscast lead characters.
Emilia Clarke is horrifically miscast as Sarah Connor, baring a slight resemblance to a young Linda Hamilton and little else. Sarah Connor, especially in T2, is a battle-hardened badass, and none of that comes through in Clarke’s performance. This version of Sarah is alternately glib and whiny, much like this film’s iteration of Kyle Reese, played by Jai Courtney. The second act finds Kyle and Sarah engaging in an extended meet-cute, dropping lines which seem to have been created by some sort of terrible banter generator. Clarke and Courtney have zero chemistry during these scenes, and all of the dialogue in “Terminator: Genisys” is terrible, with dull exposition, stupid jokes and awful action lines which sound even more ridiculous coming out of Clarke’s mouth.
The main attraction for many fans will be the return of Arnold to one of his most famous roles, but even that is off. Arnold’s fatherly Terminator (who Sarah calls “Pops” numerous times, which never gets less annoying) is mainly a one-liner machine, occasionally showing up to punch stuff and blow things up. It’s keeping in line with the film’s numerous decent ideas undermined by bad execution.
The Blu-Ray looks and sounds strong. The film tries to match the action of previous Terminator movies, although too many moments feature CGI and greenscreen, a sharp contrast to Cameron’s use of practical effects and action. It’s cool to see a school bus flip multiple times down a bridge, but it’s so transparently unreal that the effect is diminished. Ironically, much like the CGI Schwarzenegger in the early scenes, “Terminator: Genisys” is a subpar copy of something iconic.