“Old, not obsolete” is an oft-repeated one-liner throughout Terminator Genisys. While it’s meant to poke fun at the oddly-aging T-800, it actually represents the franchise as it currently stands.
If you’re familiar with the mythology of the Terminator series, you’ll remember that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 was sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor to prevent the death of her eventual son, John Connor. In the future, Connor himself sent Kyle Reese to protect Sarah, which led to John’s birth. In Judgement Day, another version of Arnold is sent back to protect Sarah from the menacing shape-shifting Terminator, the T-1000.
Let’s skip right over the sequels and get to Terminator Genisys, which is directly related to the first two classics.
As Genisys begins, we spend a decent amount of time in the year 2029, right before a pivotal attack on a Skynet stronghold. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and John Connor (Jason Clarke) lead the resistance and happen upon a time displacement device. John, who knows how the story is supposed to play out, sends Kyle back in time to save Sarah (Emilia Clarke, no relation). Only, something goes wrong and the events of the first Terminator do not play out how they’re supposed to.
I want to leave the synopsis there because the trailers have ruined everything else. If you have not seen the trailers, then there can still be an element of surprise to this story. The twist does try too hard, but the events leading up to the twist are completely neutered by the marketing failure of the year. That spoiler literally drops the movie’s quality a full letter grade.
Beyond that, Genisys attempts to revisit the mythology that has been a cinematic favorite for 30 years. Scenes from the first movie are literally recreated. These scenes are worth a few smirks. The first act of the movie is spent
destroying rewriting the events of the first two movies. It’s an interesting experiment, but I wanted to see where the series could go next rather than spend time ruining two great movies.
Once we make it to the original part of the story, you just need to hang on tight. I don’t mean that it’s a thrill ride, I mean that there are plotholes big enough to fall through. There is so much time travel that Doc Brown would be jealous. Time displacement devices are almost as common as Arnold’s one-liners.
That brings us to Schwarzenegger, who is the linchpin of the series. His presence was sorely missed in the overly serious Terminator Salvation. In this installment, he manages to be the comic relief and central action vehicle. Schwarzenegger has clearly aged, but he somehow has more charisma than Sarah and Kyle. Emilia Clarke does a pretty solid tribute to the ferocity of Linda Hamilton. Jai Courtney, on the other hand, is no Michael Biehn. He often looks like he is trying to remember his lines, instead of emoting.
Strange pacing aside, the action is constant. Genisys is almost a Jedi mind trick. There is so much happening, that you don’t stop to think about how and why it could be happening. You go along for the ride. That all changes once the movie ends and you regret the poor choices the movie made in terms of plot. Terminator Genisys had the opportunity to revamp the franchise. It literally pulls a Star Trek reboot maneuver and opens up a new world of possibilities. Sadly, none of them are creative. This almost feels like a solid first draft.
Doctor Who fans will be happy to see Matt Smith, strangely billed as Matthew Smith, in the cast.
All in all, Terminator Genisys is a fast-paced movie. It’s overly complex, while being brainless at the same time. J.K. Simmons and Arnold are the two standouts. This series feels old, but there’s hope that may have life in a future installment. It’s a perfect action movie for your dad. Meaning, it’s great for someone who’s not going to overthink it. C