In Terminator Genisys, the misfiring reboot of James Cameron’s apocalyptic time-travelling saga, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cyborg assassin references his advancing years in a dystopian world of young pretenders.
“I’m old, not obsolete,” he deadpans in that distinctive Teutonic growl.
Alas, both the hulking Austrian action man and the blockbusting franchise are ready for the scrapheap.
Millions of dollars of special effects, some of them workmanlike, cannot disguise the fried circuitry of Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier’s script, which is hard-wired with the muddled concept of alternate universes to explain the tweaks to this reimagined origin story.
Released in 1984, The Terminator tapped into timely concerns about nuclear warfare to explore a bleak future in which machines have rebelled against mankind and rendered our species almost obsolete.
Terminator Genisys follows a similarly gloomy trajectory.
In the aftermath of judgment day, the last vestiges of mankind face complete extinction at the hands of the automata.
Rebel leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads the charge in 2029 Los Angeles, flanked by best friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney).
“You gave us all a future, John. I’m going to use mine,” proudly declares Kyle, who volunteers to venture back to 1984 to protect John’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) from a shape-shifting T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee).
When Kyle arrives, he discovers that he has gatecrashed an altered timeline in which the Connor matriarch is a ballsy warrior, who already has a protector: an ageing T-800 (Schwarzenegger), which she refers to affectionately as “pops”.
Sarah, Kyle and the T-800 launch an assault on Cyberdyne Systems run by Miles Dyson (Courtney B Vance) and his son Danny (Dayo Okeniyi), who will unwittingly give birth to Skynet and bring about mankind’s downfall.
However, someone knows they are coming.
Terminator Genisys attempts to mimic Jurassic World by exploiting our nostalgia, but Alan Taylor’s picture has neither the jaw-dropping thrills nor the wry humour of the rampaging dinosaurs. The multiple timelines become a tangled, knotty mess before the two hours are up, making us wish that Skynet had, in an alternate universe, infected the scriptwriters’ computers with a virus and wiped this film from their hard drives.
Action sequences feel second-hand: duels between different model Terminators were choreographed with more flair in previous films and the culmination to a chase across the Golden Gate Bridge whiffs of The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
Faltering comic relief arrives in the form of JK Simmons’ veteran LAPD detective, who is rescued by Sarah and Kyle in 1984 and drives his colleagues mad with far-fetched stories of killer robots.
“We’re here to stop the end of the world,” Sarah tells him.
“I can work with that,” grins the detective.
Unfortunately, we can’t work with Taylor’s reboot. The end - including an additional scene secreted in the credits - can’t come soon enough.