Saturday 4 July 2015

Timey-wimey Terminator

First, we had Jurassic World, successfully rebooting a franchise to the tune of $1.3 billion and counting, and now it's time (no pun intended) for Terminator Genisys to revive the flagging fortunes of a once-beloved franchise and its iconic Hollywood star.

Genisys, ignoring Rise of the Machines and Salvation, plays like a remix sequel to The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day for twenty terrific minutes.

My first memory of The Terminator was on rental video in the mid-1980s. A childhood friend's dad let us watch it on a sunny Sunday afternoon. The movie's meshing of time travel, a killer cyborg and changing the course of history was terrifying, economical, storytelling. Almost a decade later its first sequel captured my imagination with a liquid metal T-1000 and, in the form of a textual analysis, earned me an unconditional offer from several universities to study media production at degree level.

Today. Genisys' attempts to reboot a franchise, bolstered by alternate timelines, seems quaint when contrasted with the lean and mean thrills of Ex Machina and the chilling alternate reality of AMC's Humans currently airing on Channel Four, Sunday nights. You see, Sundays are made for genre. Yet there's much fun to be had here. More fun than most reviews and franchise fatigue suggested.

The first twenty minutes or so are a riot of briskly paced fan service. For better or worse, I, along with the small audience who had gathered in a darkened theatre on a sultry summer afternoon, laughed and whooped with delight as director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) took us on a timey-wimey tour of The Terminator mixed with Terminator 2. From then on its boom, boom and more boom!

Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) acquits herself admirably as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger savours reprising his quintessential role as a T-800 for the first time since Rise of the Machines. Their father-daughter relationship is the movie's emotional core, evoking James Cameron's filmography, and deserved more screen time. I won't spoil it, but there's an unexpected moment that will choke you up.

Seeing known timelines erased with new ones isn't without controversy and intrigue. The orchestral score makes sparing callbacks to Brad Fiedel's themes and wouldn't be out of place in the Transformers or The Fast and the Furious franchises.

You may have wondered why former Doctor Who star Matt Smith has been missing in action (MIA) from the trailers? It's for fear of spoilers, Sweetie! Ironic, given the major plot twist surrounding John Connor revealed in the last trailer, which the director has publicly denounced. Suffice to say, Smith's role is small but pivotal. As a lifelong Doctor Who fan, I lamented his departure from the time-travelling series that tiny bit more.

There's an amusing reference to Paramount stablemate Transformers. However, if the studio wants to reboot the Terminator into a blockbuster transmedia franchise, there's more work to be done, and I suspect Genisys won't spawn a new trilogy unless it succeeds at the box office.

But, you know what, I'd gladly watch The Terminator, Judgment Day and Genisys back-to-back as a trilogy. That's something I didn't think would be possible and my teenage self would approve.

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