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Terminator Genisys review: New Terminator has Arnie but not the vision of its iconic predecessors

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator GenisysEven if reduced to a 'relic of a deleted timeline,' Schwarzenegger is easily the only attraction of this wishy-washy sequel, prequel, reboot, offshoot, whatever.

But that’s no reason to overstay one’s welcome even if it’s an iconic character, says Sukanya Verma.

Ramming bullets into a pile of magazines, suddenly the rickety movement of his old metallic arm breaks the flow of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mechanical rhythm.

In an attempt to fix it, he knocks his prosthetic limb across the table a few times and continues the task.

The idea behind the scene is to drive Arnie’s 'old but not obsolete’ credence but it brings to mind the lumbering state of the Terminator franchise, unabashedly relying on its ageing action hero to draw nostalgia-ridden crowds.

Whether or not a story wishes to go further, its success not ingenuity dictates its exploitation. Goes without saying that even after three feeble attempts to match the original Terminator's glory, the likelihood of more is unavoidable.

Without doubt, director James Cameron created two milestone science-fiction movies, one better than the other. Both -- The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991), fully and fabulously realised on all fronts, gave us characters, catchphrases and chase sequences worthy of popular culture reverence.

Moreover, that masterstroke of Schwarzenegger switching from hostile to heroic, halleluiah! 

So it’s nice when director Alan Taylor pays tribute to both in an awe-inspiring face-off and finest scene of Terminator Genisys, where the merits of age-defying CGI are truly stupefying. All the same, Terminator 2’s more than two decades old technology is even today unrivalled in slickness and thrill. 

Brimming with quotes and references, Terminator Genisys is the fifth one in the series, but expects you to be well versed with only the first two. As if daunted by the original’s extraordinary accomplishments, the first hour plays like a star-struck replica in bland 3D imagery sans the blood or brutality.  

In the familiar, Resistance trailblazer John Connor (Jason Clarke) teleports Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time, year 1984 to contact his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and protect her from a Skynet cyborg out to kill her. Only this time Sarah is better equipped thanks to the Terminator she addresses as, ugh, Pops (Schwarzenegger).

Almost akin to an Interstellar parody, a painfully convoluted discussion on fractured, parallel timelines follows with moments of comical déjà vu for added effect. The only purpose it serves is getting Sarah and Reese to shed their clothing, hop onto a time machine and, voila, Happy 2017.

Thirty-three years go by in a jiffy and a grey-haired Pops (luckily he’s too much of a cyborg to whine about the wrinkles or the wait) joins the party and the troika discover the truth about this installment’s brand new antagonist.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll already know.

The moronic marketing mind behind Terminator Genisys thought it’s imperative to announce all its big twists in the promos itself depriving Taylor’s take on the only bit of advantage it really had.

Truth be told, the direction Terminator Genisys means to head in is fairly exciting. Audacious too. But Taylor’s flat, full of loopholes filmmaking and a bunch of lacklustre actors saying shabby lines in crucial parts prove to be its biggest hurdle.

At some point, a bus does a double somersault and dangles dangerously at the edge of Hollywood’s favourite site of destruction -- Golden Gate Bridge. But forget fracture, there’s not a scratch on Sarah or Reese; it’s akin to watching a cartoon in live action, think Tom and Jerry against a liquid metal Mystique all over the place against ear-piercing industrial sounds.

As someone prepping for combat for over a decade, Emilia Clarke can’t even hold a gun convincingly. The Game of Thrones star is fairly decent with her American accent though. There’s also Oscar winner J K Simmons wasted in a random part unworthy of his calibre.

Jai Courtney’s drab presence and Jason Clarke’s overall phoniness puts all the weight on a reliably humourless Arnie to deliver. He does what he does best and has fun with it. It’s not nearly enough.  

What made Terminator 1 and 2 epic is the scale of Cameron’s sophisticated imagination, the menace, panic and unpredictability surrounding his storytelling along with cyborgs, we’d care for, cry for. Devoid of any wizardry, Taylor’s Terminator Genisys is no better than what was churned out afterwards (Rise of the Machines, Salvation).

Even if reduced to a 'relic of a deleted timeline,' Schwarzenegger is easily the only attraction of this wishy-washy sequel, prequel, reboot, offshoot, whatever. But that’s no reason to overstay one’s welcome even if it’s an iconic character. Rather especially if it’s an iconic character.

Like an old colleague of his said to him in another movie, 'You’ve been back enough.'

Rediff Rating: