Arnie is back in soft reboot

Arnie is back in soft reboot
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in Terminator: Genisys as an aged cyborg.
PHOTO: UIP

Review Science-fiction

TERMINATOR: GENISYS (PG13)

126 minutes/Now showing/2.5/5

The story: Human military forces, led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), defeat their robot overlords after finding the time machine used to send a T-800 cyborg back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), the woman who will give birth to super-soldier John. Lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back to protect Sarah, but when he arrives, he finds history prior to 1984 changed.

For a movie franchise based on the notion of time travel- assisted assassination, the Terminator series has done very little with it as a plot device.

In films one through three, the human-hating Skynet computer system sends one or two cyborg soldiers back in time, gun battles and car explosions result, end of story.

This movie, the fifth in the series, finally gets its hooks into the time-travel angle. Some questions are addressed: Why do time travellers arrive naked? If Skynet wants to change history, why not send assassins way, way back to do some real damage?

But a plot more convoluted than Singapore's F1 track and too many helicopter smashes wreck what could have been a sleek mind-bender of an action flick.

The designed-by-committee story exists mainly to bring Arnold Schwarzenegger back, not just as the T-800 protector cyborg but also to explain why a machine should look like a man of the actor's real age, 67.

The reason given will make anyone groan, but it is only one of several squaring-the-circle attempts here.

Dubbed a "soft reboot" - studiospeak for "rebranding exercise" - it packs in references to the "good" films (The Terminator, 1984; Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991), ropes in fan favourites such as Schwarzenegger and the T-1000 liquid metal cyborg, while pretending that the events of The Movies We'd Rather Not Talk About (Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, 2003; Terminator Salvation, 2009) did not happen.

The villain, the artificial intelligence Skynet, has not been spared tweaks, either. The message: Facebook, Google and Instagram will be the ruin of us all, in more ways than one.

All this, while introducing new actors in the parts of John Connor, Kyle Reese and, most importantly, Sarah Connor.

This time, in a financially safe move, an actress with "heat" takes the role. Emilia Clarke, fresh from Game Of Thrones, one of the most popular cable television shows in the world, is fairly competent. But in a backwards move, the studio and director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World, 2013) opt to sex her up (complete with a leering scene of undressing), rather than stick to the Tiger Mum-with-bombs character created by James Cameron in films one and two.

In recalling how Linda Hamilton's Sarah grew up in those canon-setting works, fans will be struck by how stubbornly one-dimensional the characters here remain. When you are setting up a Marvel-style universe for films six through 10, something's got to give.

johnlui@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on June 26, 2015.
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