"How can Arnie play the Terminator at his age?" asked movie fans when news of a fifth film in the franchise broke. It's a valid question which Terminator Genisys answers, and that answer somehow winds up being the only part of this complete wreck of a movie that makes any sense.
Everything else is complete nonsense, and not in a bamboozling 'join us for the ride and everything will be explained' way, but the way that indicates complete incompetence on the part of the people who made this laborious and cynical assault on the memory of two classic movies.
It's miraculous even James Cameron managed to make a sequel to his own classic sci-fi horror work, so the lesser directors who followed him never really stood a chance.
This time round Paramount has employed the same tactic that JJ Abrams and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman used in their 2009 Star Trek reboot/prequel. Time travel shenanigans are utilised to reset timelines and give the series an excuse for more movies, all while paying homage to what came before. Where Star Trek handled that excellently however, here it's nothing short of a complete shambles.
We start with John Connor (Jason Clarke) leading the human resistance against Skynet's android forces. We see the events leading up to the original film's Terminator being sent to 1984 and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) soon after it. Only when Reese turns up, nothing is as John told him it would be. Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is battle-ready and waiting for him with an ageing Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) at her side.
Each of the three new actors named above are horribly miscast. Courtney is a bland and uncharismatic actor in the same mould as Sam Worthington (who unmemorably stank up Terminator Salvation) whose similarities to Michael Biehn's original portrayal of Reese extends only to a similar jacket and the fact they're both white dudes.
Emilia Clarke meanwhile tries but never convinces as a battle-ready badass heroine like Linda Hamilton did so well in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. There are flickers of that superior Connor in Clarke's performance, but nothing more.
As for Jason Clarke, he benefits from the fact that adult John Connor has always been the stuff of legend in these films - a great hero whose very existence the protagonists of the films are fighting to preserve. His actual character is never really explored. When Christian Bale played Connor in Salvation he basically just shouted a lot.
The only real movie star among the main cast is of course Arnie, who is so inherently watchable he is easily the best thing about the movie. However, his Terminator has been reduced here to little more than a cuddly toy, with the fatherly traits exhibited in the second film taken to even more ridiculous extremes.
Despite my complaints about the lead actors, I do have some sympathy for them. They're clearly trying to make the best of an awful script - it's just beyond their capabilities. Making anything of this mess would have been a monumental task beyond even actors well-suited to these roles.
Awful doesn't really do Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier's script justice actually. Imagine an 8-year-old retelling the whole Terminator story immediately after suffering a concussion and you'll be half way to understanding the level of nonsensical stupidity. Time-travel plots are known to cause some paradoxical plot holes, but Genisys takes that to another level and throws in a few massive regular plot holes for good measure.
Alan Taylor's direction too is a perfect match for such a lifeless script. Genisys is as cold and distant as a metal endoskeleton, which fails to convince anyone despite wearing a skin of references to previous films. Arnie says the line! The T-1000 does the thing! All of it already seen in trailers.
Films like this are why people hate the idea of sequels so much. There's room for reinvention and originality within sequels, but when so many are churned out with the least amount of effort and such clear sequel-churning motives, it's no surprise people cry "originality is dead" so readily.
The rights to the Terminator franchise revert back to James Cameron in 2019, so Paramount sorely wants Genisys to succeed and spawn two sequels in quick succession. Odds are this will happen, and that's so sad it makes me want to travel back in time to the early 80s and stop Cameron from ever making a Terminator movie at all.
In robot terms, if the original movie is a near-indestructible robot killing machine, Terminator Genisys is one of those back-flipping toy dogs you find worn and ragged in a basement one day, with just enough battery life left in it to attempt a final flip - before landing flat on its face.