Arnie's back in a confusing reboot / sequel that fails to reinvigorate the franchise
'Time travel gives me a headache!' someone complains in this ambitious but bonkers addition to a once great, highly influential sci-fi action franchise. We’re right there with you, pal. While our narrator (Jai Courtney, as the hulking new incarnation of soldier-from-the-future Kyle Reese) goes to the trouble of re-capping the destruction of mankind by machines, the fight-back by a ragged Resistance led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), attempts by the malevolent AI operating system Skynet to remove Connor from history, and the efforts of Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), our gutsy mother-heroine, to prevent 'Judgement Day' – it’s a somewhat futile exercise. Everything we learned in the previous films collides with timelines and character histories that keep altering before our eyes. It’s no time at all before the characters are as lost as the audience.
At least we have Ah-nold. When he said 'I’ll be back' he wasn’t kidding. Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose original, iconic cyborg assassin had almost no dialogue, appears, re-appears and fights with computer-generated replicants of his naked younger self as various models of the Terminator (including one we haven’t met before, called 'Pops'), dispensing not just forgettable one-liners – 'Old! Not obsolete!' – but some exquisitely ludicrous theoretical physics lectures.
The advantage of timelines as fluid as the liquid metal of the unstoppable T-1000 (South Korean star Byung-hun Lee) is that twists you didn’t see coming keep coming. It’s almost as if they're making it up as they go along. Director Alan Taylor has a great track record in television (The Sopranos, Mad Men, Game of Thrones) yet this is solidly workmanlike, from vehicular mayhem on the Golden Gate Bridge to duelling, disintegrating killer robots. On IMAX, in 3D, it’s a modestly fun immersive session. But as a self-aware re-imagining of a genre classic it plays like a parody, not the dawn of a new era for the franchise.
General release from Thu 2 Jul.