With my love for sci-fi and a fondness for time travel – no matter how much it may boggle the mind – the Terminator franchise has more than enough reasons for being a firm favourite. But the second movie has a nostalgic attachment for me, because I watched it for the first time with my late brother.
Nostalgia is exactly what the fifth instalment, Terminator Genisys, taps into; although the first twenty minutes make you feel like you may have been sucked into a time warp yourself – to a cinema in 1984 watching the original Terminator.
Walking into the film with little knowledge as to its plot and none of the timeline’s reconstruction, I spent a horrifying twenty minutes feeling like I was being ripped off as the movie started with an irksome voice-over and then proceeded to play out exactly like the first one. I momentarily thought that I had unwittingly found myself mired in what was not a reboot, remake, rehash, return – or anything starting with re – but a carbon copy that was just a bit shinier.
There is a reason for this. It is still 1984, and humanity must still be rescued from Skynet; but it’s a somewhat different 1984. This time Sarah Connor knows what’s coming and is determined to stop it. She crashes onto the scene, literally, as she ploughs through the shop window where Kyle Reese has just stolen a pair of Nikes (again) and clothed himself – because apparently time travel requires arrival in your birthday suit.
The mother of John Connor is the mother of dragons, Emilia Clarke. Sporting her original dark locks and dropping her English accent to take on a flawless American one, you will fall in love with this tough lady just as you did with Daenerys Targaryen. Hard on the outside, soft on the inside, her character is not unlike that on Game of Thrones, yet Clarke’s performance in Genisys is completely distinguished from the former; and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Core characters from the franchise are firm parts of the new old story: John Connor, Kyle Reese and the T-800, again in the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger (both young and old). The nods to the original movies are handled with far greater poise here than in Jurassic World, another franchise revisited this year, although the Arnie Easter eggs are a little tiresome and best left to a cheese-fest like The Expendables.
That being said, Genisys would not have been the same without its original leading man. Arnie’s back: thankfully in a lead role and not a cameo, having joined Sarah Connor in her world-saving mission in this version of events.
The relationship dynamics, peppered with prickly repartee, are just as enjoyable as the fantastic display of visual effects. They strike a thematic note with the second film, as Arnie’s machine strives to find his humanity; while the parent-child dynamic goes from a focus on mother and son, to father and daughter, with Arnie’s T-800 becoming a father figure to the embattled Sarah Connor.
Starting in 2029, leaping back to 1984 and eventually landing in 2017 – just two years from now – Genisys does not forget to entrench its theme of paranoia, shifting it to a more relevant topic for today – from Cold War fear in the ‘80s to our current wariness regarding the rise of machines in the form of digital technology.
With the pending launch of the Skynet-in-disguise operating system, Genisys, the film taps into our obsession with being perpetually plugged into the digital space, wagging a warning finger at our oft-ignorant reliance on machines.
Of course, it is the rise of technology that enables this movie to astonish and astound with terminators of all shapes and sizes, exploding buildings, magnificent time machines, a flipping school bus, a deluge of bombs and gunfire, and helicopters playing cat and mouse. It dazzles the eye and makes the mind marvel, helping the film fit comfortably into the canon; but for all that, it’s the film’s humanity that gives it its heart.
Originally published on Dinner and a Movie.
Follow me @ClaudiaHauter