That threat of coming back stuck true for Arnold Schwarzenegger. Immortal lines in the past meant as iconic scores to the nostalgic many are now washed-up, groan-inducing taglines to features that fail to hit the highs of the original conception. Director Alan Taylor is at a loss rather immediately in Terminator Genisys, but it is not entirely his fault. The plot of this end-of-world and act of war between man and machine is completely unfollowable. Not just for its shoddy storytelling and lack of preparation but because of who they relied on to tell the remainder of the story. Terminator Salvation did an awful hatchet job of joining the past and present, and Terminator Genisys sees no reason to change that.
It is one of the many issues Schwarzenegger and company have. As talented an ensemble it may have, Terminator Genisys is still a bad film. No talent could haul this one over the finish line, primarily because Taylor’s work is stuck drawing on the past. A failure to remove itself from the bait of nostalgic lines delivered by new faces playing familiar characters is the death knell that calls time on Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke, who is given the unenviable task of once again telling the story of John Connor and Sarah Connor. There is no point unravelling any of it because none of it makes a lick of sense nor do the performers in any way pretend to know what’s going on. J.K. Simmons comes and goes with enough fanfare but with no reason to be there. Between this and Robocop, he was definitely feeding off of the nostalgia, buoyed by some hope that he could be the Oscar-winning face of an old franchise.
But how can a new wave of actors replace the old when the latter keep cropping up? Schwarzenegger is back to his Terminator 2: Judgment Day antics, the blur between comedy and hard-hitting action fumbled by Taylor and Schwarzenegger’s collaboration. What else are they to rely on when the action is so numb? Poor and forgettable, no standout moments come through. A shapeshifting villain that takes the physical appearance of whatever is convenient to the plot. The red herrings of the plot are wafer-thin and make the dialogue a pain to settle into, but at least a handful of the throwbacks make sense. Terminator Genisys is a sensory overload when it comes to those appraisals of the classics that preceded it.
Naturally, a feature can only get so far on nostalgia. Whenever Schwarzenegger is absent, which is a fair amount, Terminator Genisys struggles. The twist of Skynet, the implementation of Genisys and the modern foibles of technology move the trend and style of this series away from the grunge, techno darkness of the first feature and more towards a modern mockery of the past. It is a frank and sincere relief that the past outshines it tenfold because had it not done so, Terminator Genisys would be not only a horrendously ugly film but one that tries to drag the dedicated fans of the series away from everything synonymous with a good Terminator feature.