Thursday, 4 December 2014


This Terminator: Genisys trailer is a strange experience. It comes on strong with re-purposed scenes and ideas from the Jim Cameron entries before morphing into a full-on Marvel movie. If nothing else, it looks like Alan Taylor's film finally gets the complete future war prologue from Terminator 2: Judgment Day's tie-in novelisation on-screen. LA 2029 is a looker too. The human resistance, and their skeletal enemies, are lit like they're fighting in a city sized version of Tech Noir.

Although Jason Clarke is appropriately weathered as John Connor, Jai Courtney is a bizarre substitute for Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. Courtney has zero of Biehn's wirey, malnourished intensity, the actor instead reads as a sub-Tatum, beefy, romantic lead. Chicken breasts and protein shakes must be widely available in the wasteland. This obvious sop to demographics is leavened by Emilia Clarke's Sarah Connor immediately subordinating her new boy toy.

I wonder how screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier will handle this Sarah? The T2 fringe and ponytail would seem to indicate an all-business approach, perhaps even a character that views her coupling with Reese as a necessary transaction in the process of creating a messiah. Presumably this Sarah is fully aware for how the following decades will unfold. Clarke's youthful, bratty demeanour, not to mention her cyborg father figure, mean this characterisation will probably be closer to Edward Furlong's John Connor than any previous Sarah.

Which leaves us with The Terminators. Lee Byung-hun looks great when he's running around 1980s alleyways, less so when he's hurling his body parts around like spears. Conceptually, there's an instant pop in the idea of a T-1000 interposing itself into The Terminator. It's reminiscent of Frank Miller's Skynet from RoboCop Versus The Terminator - an elemental, God-like force that overwrites time incessantly until it arrives at an advantageous path. It's a situation here born of sequel escalation, but the idea of chaotic agents arriving unexpectedly is pure Terminator.

Surprisingly, Schwarzenegger looks like a bit of a fifth wheel. Aside from junking his youthful doppelgänger, and ticking off another aborted Cameron sequel in the process, it doesn't look like he has much to do. Perhaps it's a sign of the star's waning power? This doesn't look like a top billed role, more a special appearance. Also, a protector Terminator hurling itself out of one helicopter to detonate another is just fucking stupid. At the very least, he's just nixed his camouflage.

It's a shame that Genisys isn't designed to take place on one long night. Even in this brief glimpse there's a sense of bloat. As the trailer rolls on we get further and further into anonymous, boringly framed second-unit work. The afternoon bus flip in particular is straight out of a Marvel sequel. Kramer Morgenthau ain't no Adam Greenberg either. I can see why the cinematographer got the gig, aside from priors with Taylor, his work on the Sleepy Hollow pilot nicely tracked an undying thing through a series of night shoots.

It's hilarious though to note that a two hundred million dollar Summer blockbuster can't wring out the same level of grimey verisimilitude as a six million dollar, non-union shoot. I know it's an entirely different genre - this is Terminator as a palatable franchise proposition rather than a thriller - but threat has taken a back seat. The shot of the T-1000's cop car arrival is, despite the much higher stakes, strangely perfunctory. Compare it to a similar sequence in the original. Cameron and Greenberg signal terrestrial danger with blaring sounds and lights. Taylor and co could have at least hosed the streets down and given the film that sweaty, post-storm texture.

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