Director: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Lee Byung-hun
Plot: When Kyle Reese (Courtney) is sent back in time to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Clarke) only to find himself on an alternative timeline were Sarah is already a capable warrior and even has her own terminator “pops” (Schwarzenegger) while the threat of Skynet remains ever more present than before.
Review: Since the release of the phenomenal “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” the Terminator franchise has found itself for the most part floundering and in dire need of some kind of direction to drive the franchise forward. True these attempts have meant that we got to see Judgement day happen (Rise of the machines) as well as a disappointing attempt to set an entry in the post apocalyptic future (Terminator Salvation) whose scripts from its troubled development promised more than we ultimately got, but then what can you expect when you allow McG to direct the movie.
Now rather than doing the logical choice of just driving a dump truck of cash to James Cameron’s house and beg him to return to the franchise instead this time Alan Taylor steps up to direct who is best known for directing TV with his most noteworthy film credit being “Thor: The Dark World” which now the fans of the Marvel cinematic universe have gotten over the initial shine of getting comic book movies and proclaiming their love for everything the studio puts out regularly rank it as one of the worst films to come from the studio. So hardly the most reassuring credential going into this film, but hey Arnold was returning so that’s a postive….right?
Knowing what the fans had made of this entry ahead of time my expectation was kind of at a low, especially when the trailer had hardly done anything to grab my attention. Of course it was a big suprise when 40 mins into the film I found myself really enjoying myself as we got to see the final battle against Skynet being won and Kyle being set back in time, all things we’d heard about in the previous films and only now were getting to see actually happen. Even when we get into the alternative 1984 and see an older version of Arnold’s terminator battling his clone I was digging the homage, especially when so much care was being taken to replicate the scenes from the original film. And then we time travel again to 2017 and things started to become unglued.
For some reason once we take that leap forward the film really starts to fall apart and almost feels like the first half was directed by someone else and that Taylor was brought in by the studio to finish the film as its almost jarring how suddenly the quality of the film drops and all we’ve done is make one jump in time.
One of the biggest issues comes with the latest Terminator development which this time sees John Connor being replaced by a nanobot Terminator the T-3000 which might have worked a lot better as a plot device had the trailers not given away this major twist and as such it ends up coming off flat and devoid of any kind of emotional response that might have been there. As a villain though he brings nothing new to the table outside of having some slightly different abilities and when the end game is to blow up Cyberdyne again you can’t help but feel alittle frustrated to see the franchise still going in circles.
On the plus side Arnold is still as fantastic as ever in his iconic Terminator role even bringing a few new elements to the role this time as this time he plays Sarah Connor’s guardian Pops, perfectly working in the fact that he is much older than the last time he played the role, as its revealed that the flesh covering his robot exoskeleton can age, a concept which came from James Cameron when the producers approached him about rebooting the franchise. This is further added to by Pops showing signs of old age as his joints start to seize and give out and it really adds to the character while proving to be the one thing to justify all this timeline hopping madness.
The action is fun as always with Arnie showing that despite his age he can still throw down with the best of them as we get plenty of terminator on terminator violence with Pops saving the pair from a variety of terminator models including a new version of the T-1000 played here by Lee Byung-hun who even mixes things up slightly by including the ability to throw metal spears which makes for a nice touch especially when so much of his scenes feels like we are watching a rehash of Terminator 2 which also rang true during the helicopter chase. The T-3000 meanwhile gets old quick especially not having any real powers compared to the previous terminators we have seen. Yes he’s good as the unstoppable presence, but compared to Byung-hun he just falls flat when you compare the two.
The other issue here is that Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney have zero chemistry together which is already supposed to be akward from the start seeing how they are destined to be together which certain parties know from the start with Pops amusingly asking Sarah if they’ve “bred” or not. But looking at this pair you can see them never getting together, while the introduction of the adult John Connor on their timeline just comes off confused and akward with a stupid plot idea only seeming the worse as this pair attempt to interact with their adult child.
Its frustrating as this film certainly has its moments with the first 40 minutes really being promising. It’s just a shame that it all falls apart from there. While it might be an improvement over parts Rise of the Machines and Salvation this really could have done with a stronger script let alone not feeling like it was borrowing from the second film so much. As such approach with caution.