Terminator Genisys

Though pushing 70 years old, Arnold Schwarzenegger has proven that he still has some action movie life left in him. From The Expendables franchise to other recent work (including 2013’s surprisingly-decent The Last Stand), this is one dude not content to just ride quietly off into the sunset.

It’s the Terminator franchise, though, that gave him his stardom, and we all knew it was just a matter of time before he uttered “I’ll be back” at least one more time.

We get that (and more) from him in Terminator Genisys, and though it’s not notable enough to keep from getting lost in the non-stop barrage of big-bang-boom summer movies, the film does what it’s supposed to, and Arnold is once again the star of the show.

Half-reboot, half-sequel, half-alternate story line (yes, I know that’s three halves), Genisys drops us right back into the Terminator world, where machines have taken over the Earth, the John Connor-led rebellion is providing admirable resistance, and Arnold (as Guardian) is protecting Sarah Connor at all costs.

Once things get going, the action blasts at you full throttle– there’s an early scene reminiscent of Termintator 2’s sequence with Robert Patrick’s T-1000, and from there we get all kinds of shoot-outs and stand-offs as the Machines (in various time periods) try their damndest to prevent Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from having a kid named John (Jason Clarke).

That’s not to say Genisys doesn’t have its issues; there are plenty– namely its often too-gimmicky attempts to hark back to the early Terminator movies. Genisys is being touted as the first in a new stand-alone trilogy, but too many references to the earlier films put the kibosh on that right out of the gate. Yes, it’s pretty nifty to see a replay of the scene from the original flick when naked Arnold lands in 1984 Los Angeles, but that would’ve been plenty. There’s nothing wrong with a movie setting its own course.

Attempts at drole humor, often from John’s right-hand soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) fall flat, and Courtney himself, who has yet to prove (to me at least) why he’s a movie star, has all the spark and electricity of a dead flashlight battery. Even Emilia Clarke, who has emerged as one of Game of Thrones’ guiding forces, seems a little lost in the mayhem– you won’t for a minute think that this is the same bad-ass character that Linda Hamilton brought to life in the first two films.

Schwarzenegger, however (along with the always-great J.K. Simmons in what amounts to a cameo) is just as fun as ever, and in director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) capable hands, he keeps Genisys from landing with a dull thud.

The script by Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) is perhaps the worst offender here; it’s way too complex for its own good, often tripping over itself as the action shifts from 2029 to 1984 to 2017.

We’ll see if the franchise can make some course corrections as the two sequels arrive, but if the first installment is any indication, the filmmakers have some work ahead of them. Item #1 should be making sure Arnold is along for the ride.

3/5 stars