Terminator Genisys review

Needlessly convoluted reboot should terminate any chance of this franchise carrying on

The Future War is over. Skynet has been defeated. All that remains is for resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) to send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his unsuspecting mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) from the T-800 cyborg assassin (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that Skynet sent through time to kill her. But when Kyle arrives in 1984, not only is Sarah waiting for him, but she also has her own tame T-800…

For all of its popularity, the Terminator franchise hasn't had the smoothest of rides on the bigscreen. While The Terminator and T2: Judgement Day have cemented their place in cinema history (and went on to become favourites with AV-hedz around the globe), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is little more than a turgid retread of the first two films (with worse gags and a lady Terminator) and Terminator Salvation has more in common with Michael Bay's Transformers films than it does James Cameron's modern classics.

Indeed, post-T2, the only genuinely innovative addition to the franchise was TV's The Sarah Connor Chronicles – and that was terminated just as it was starting to get really good. Sadly, Terminator Genisys does nothing to set things right; instead it's the absolute nadir of the franchise to date.

To be fair, the first 15 minutes or so demonstrate some promise. Showing the end of the Future War is something that fans have wanted to see ever since Cameron dropped the scripted sequence from the start of T2. And Terminator Genisys makes a pretty good fist of giving the sequence the scale it needs as our heroes blast through armies of Endoskeletons, Hunter Killers and Spider Tanks. But then the alternate timeline kicks in and (after the novelty of watching old man Arnie taking on his – admittedly pretty impressive – 80s-era CG double) things go completely off the rails.

For a series that deals explicitly with time travel, the Terminator films have never really been about time travel. Until now, that is. What was once a fairly straightforward idea has been turned into a complicated mess of alternate timelines and paradoxes (at least when Paramount pulled the same trick with 2009's Star Trek reboot it was done as a way of ditching all of the established fan lore that was off-putting to non-Trekkie audiences).

Perhaps the finest example of the needless over-complication that runs through Terminator Genisys is its handling of Skynet. What was once the elegant notion of an A.I. defence network gone rogue has been transformed into a poorly-defined cloud-based OS of some kind. Why mess with what worked perfectly in the first place if the alternative isn't an improvement and nobody bothers to explain why the change matters?

And the problems don't end there. While Emilia Clarke is no Linda Hamilton, at least she doesn't suck the life out of every scene she's in like walking charisma-vacuum Jai Courtney (who is so wrong on every single level for the part of Kyle Reese that it's not even funny). Of the film's good guys, only Arnie emerges from this mess unscathed.

Then there's John Connor's transformation into the film's big bad. While it was already an inane use of the character, the surprise reveal may have livened the middle of the film up a little,  if only Paramount's marketing department hadn't given the twist away in the trailers, posters and even on the Blu-ray sleeve. D'oh!
Movie rating: 1.5/5

Picture: Terminator Genisys delivers a flawless 2.40:1 Full HD BD encode. With so much of the film taking place at night, colours are often muted, but brighter daytime sequences such as Chapter 13's bus chase reveals plenty of dazzling primaries. Black levels are deep and accurate at all times.

The image's impeccable sharpness can draw attention to some of the less successful CG effects (Chapter 14's helicopter chase being the worst offender), but elsewhere draws you into the movie's mechanised world with sharp edges and metallic details.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: From the moment John Connor abseils down into shot early in Chapter 1, with his weapon fire panning down the front of the vertically expanded soundstage, it's clear that this Dolby Atmos mix is going to be a lot of fun.

Indeed, the sound designers rarely miss a chance to use the larger scope of the soundstage for added ambience (the interior of the room containing the time machine in Chapter 2 is a prime example) or more object-based fun. The core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix is no slouch either, packing just as much power and raw aggression in its use of the surrounds and rears as its bigger brother.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: Bonus bits are limited to three of behind-the-scenes featurettes focusing on the cast (16 mins), shooting in New Orleans and San Francisco (25 mins) and the visual effects (15 mins). An apology for the film itself is the most obvious omission…
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: An incomprehensible and idiotic reboot hiding behind some impressive AV credentials

Terminator Genisys, Paramount, All-region BD, £25 approx