Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned to the role that had made him famous back in 1984 as the unstoppable killing machine, but here, as it’s been since T2, he’s the hero and thanks to the ever-evolving technology of special effects in movies, we actually have a couple of versions of Arnie in here, at different age ranges to match the time-bounces shown and referred within this film.
I’ll admit, I’m a big Terminator fan and will probably see anything related to the franchise. I love all the movies—regardless of the plot-holes in Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation—as well as “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” which was the short-lived television series that had aired on Fox for about two seasons from 2008 to 2009. I’ve even read a few books that ventured into alternate timelines and collected a number of comic books based on what might’ve happened after Terminator 2.
So, you can just imagine my glee when I had heard the announcement a couple of years ago that they were going to start filming another chapter in the series. My imagination went wild, thinking about where they can take the story and what they can do to make things better. Because one thing I’ve always thought about, since the day I had seen the first movie in theaters back over 30 years ago, was how awesome it’d be to see an entire Terminator movie set in the future. Showing everything Kyle Reese talked about in the first movie would be incredible if they were to give us that vision. Well…they gave us a taste of it…a little more than we’ve seen in previous movies.
As the future war against the machines comes to a close with Skynet being destroyed, the leader of The Resistance, John Connor (Jason Clarke), has to send back one of his men, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a cyborg Skynet was able to send back in time to the year 1984. But when Reese arrives, things don’t turn out as he’d thought they would.
It seems as if continuing on from James Cameron’s story has always been an impossibility. The third part was just a rehash of part two and Salvation was just a blow-em-up flick written by someone—or a few someones—who just didn’t do their homework. I’d mentioned the comic books I’d read in the 90s, taking the story from part two and going in a crazy—yet original—direction…why couldn’t they borrow from that? For instance, the arm that the cyborg breaks off and leaves stuck in the giant gear (in Terminator 2) is discovered, not to mention the government had been watching and backing up Dyson’s work, and multiple terminators had been found, nonfunctional, all of the world, as if they were failed attempts from Skynet trying to send back a machine to kill Sarah Connor. There was so much more, so many ways they could’ve expanded the franchise, taking place both in the present and the future. But the problem was the story took place right after T2 and would’ve required Schwarzenegger and Hamilton to reprise their roles right away, before Father Time took over.
But what we’ve got here is a good flick that’s head-and-shoulders above the last two outings. Though the excuse of how the machine’s flesh ages just like a human’s is very convenient to include today’s Arnold Schwarzenegger into the cast. I, for one, would’ve been all right with a different person (or multiple people) in the role of the killing machine. Besides, the cyborg we’ve gotten in all these flicks have been the model number 101…what about all the other models? Maybe model number 96 looks like Dwayne Johnson…or 104 looks like Brock Lesnar…or 46 looks like Terry Crews...or just stick in some other body builders and have them speak limited lines throughout the movie.
Well, suspending disbelief aside, I guess you can go with this cyborg that has been around since the 70s and is the equivalent of a forty-something-year-old at the beginning of this flick to a sixty-something-year-old in the second half. So, with that out of the way, you may be able to enjoy this movie.
What the movie does, in a clever way, is to sort of make this into a reboot of the first film, but making it its own here. We get the view from the future, how The Resistance beat Skynet and was able to gain access to the inside of its workings, finding the time displacement machine and making it work to send back Kyle Reese after figuring out that Skynet sent back a terminator right before it was shut down. So, as we’re watching this, we’re still in very familiar territory, albeit with a minor surprise that comes to light later in the movie.
The filmmakers do a fabulous job of recreating the Terminator’s entrance into the year of 1984. I almost thought they put in the footage from the original movie here, but it turns out they recreated every aspect of it. The digital mapping of Schwarzenegger’s face onto a digitally-created body is magnificent and makes you want to pause and rewind here to take it all in. The monumental scene of Schwarzenegger’s naked body walking to the edge of the Griffith Observatory to take in the Los Angeles cityscape is there, although altered for a PG-13 audience, and it’s amazing. The altercation he gets in with the three delinquents begins here as well and that’s where the fun commences between the older Arnie with this new arrival.
Kyle Reese’s entrance into 1984 is reestablished just like the original film—he steals the pants from the homeless man, ends up in the department store to retrieve the Nike sneaks and trench coat, but is changed up here as well with the inclusion of a T-1000 (played by Byung-hun Lee) disguised as a cop. The tables are turned when Sarah Connor shows up to save Reese instead of the other way around.
So from here on out, it’s an original story and may take a viewing or two to completely understand how everything happens and fits into the franchise’s history. But it appears to be an alternate timeline, different from the first films we’ve seen thus far, and basically gives the filmmakers reason to get away with changing everything we know. They kind of borrow from the “Sarah Connor Chronicles” with the time jump they attempt in the film and gives them the same reason to have this film take place in the present (or near future).
So…the good: Schwarzenegger jumps right back into the role he’d made famous so many years ago with gusto and determination, giving us that grim-demeanored and robot-like performance that we’ve enjoyed over the years. Yet, he still insists (and I’m sure Arnie did) to include a little too much humor into the role. It wasn’t as much as his T3 outing, but enough to make you groan here and there (ugh...the smiles...we don't want to see the smiles).
The bad: I really didn’t see the chemistry between Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke like I had with Michael Beane and Linda Hamilton all those years ago. I know that they’re different characters in this one, reacting to a whole different situation as we see that Sarah’s already supposed to be a strong-willed fighter and doesn’t want to take shit from anyone. But even when it seems Sarah’s softening up to Reese, it doesn’t feel real.
More good: Jason Clarke as John Connor seemed to be a good fit and I’d wished we’d gotten a little more of him as the leader in the future. What we do get is credible enough and you can go with him being able to lead these soldiers into an impossible battle with machines at the beginning of this story.
My final “bit” on Terminator Genisys?
Though the film is interesting on how they handled the recreations throughout the beginning of this film—in fact, they’re phenomenal—the film just goes into the same old plot on trying to stop Skynet from forming and taking over. However, the film is packed with action and newer special effects, introducing us to a supposed deadlier cyborg—James Cameron set the bar so high with the introduction to the T-1000, there really hasn’t been anything to beat it. All in all, the movie is fun and exciting…hell, it even garnered a blessing from Cameron himself (which he’d never done with T3 or TS, so it’s definitely worth a watch. But as a diehard Terminator fan, this film leaves a lot to be desired and you’ll certainly see a lot of plot holes the first time you see Terminator Genisys. I still enjoyed it for what it was and really didn’t have many problems with it. Though, if plot holes are not very important to you and/or you’re not a Terminator extremist as I am, just sit back with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy.
Thanks for reading!