Overview: Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but things have drastically changed. Paramount Pictures; 2015; Rated PG-13; 126 minutes.
Follow-Up: The creators of Terminator Genisys had an uphill battle from the start. First, they had the thankless task of following two of the most beloved sci-fi movies (and their shitty sequels), and then they had to find a way around the fact that their main star had inconsiderately continued to age when his character was not supposed to. According to IMDb (and taken with a grain of salt), it was James Cameron who had the idea that perhaps the skin on the Terminators, being organic, could age. And from there the writers took a little hit of the reboot pipe, and watched J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Days of Future Past, and conceived of a way to have all of the characters we know and love (plus an aging Arnie as an aging Terminator), mixed in with some time travel, paradoxes, sequel baiting mysteries, and the prerequisite assault on a Skynet facility, and created Terminator Genisys.
So Is It Any Good?: Yes. Is it as good as The Terminator or T2? Nope. But then it’s not the same type of movie. Rather than going the Terminator 3 route of simply rehashing beat-for-beat what came before, Genisys throws in some familiar scenes and tropes, but tries to cast out as its own movie and succeeds, for the most part. Opening in the future during the war against the machines (and featuring some scenes and sequences that made me think they had read my sequel pitch), we follow Kyle Reese and John Connor as they complete the final assault on Skynet, only to be foiled when they see that 1984 Arnie has been sent back in time to rig the game and kill Sarah Connor. Reese volunteers to go back and protect the helpless Sarah, but something goes wrong in the process, – *Spoilers* Ironically caused by Matt Smith (credited as Matthew Smith), of Doctor Who fame (and my favorite Doctor). *Spoilers* – and he finds himself back in 1984 being attacked by a liquid metal terminator, only to be saved by the “helpless” Sarah Connor (who is more T2 than The Terminator in terms of character).
Time Travel: The idea of the time travel reboot (a popular trope these days) is one I like a lot, as rather than serving up a hard reboot full of awkward fan servicing, a savvy filmmaker can use what’s come before and personalize it into something potentially more interesting (I would equate it with comic book writing when a new writer takes over a title and puts their own spin on the existing history and characters). As with a lot of time travel movies, any deep discussion of the ramifications or technology is waved away, mostly by Arnie spouting techno-babble that other characters look confused about but don’t dwell on because there are Terminators to kill and or run away from (and the film doesn’t make a huge amount of sense, anyway). And I will say that a big plus of this movie is that it moves at a nice pace. Re-watching Rise of the Machines for the new release in the series this week reminded me of how much of that movie consists of conversations held while driving, whereas Genisys is more conversations held while loading weapons.
Arnie’s Back: It’s not a perfect movie by any means. While being less tonally dark than The Terminator and T2, with some of the humor being a little broad (not “talk to the hand” broad, though). Arnie’s catchphrase, “Nice to meet you,” along with his attempts to smile are comic beats that get used at least once too often over the course of the narrative. It also leaves quite a few questions unanswered, which I assume are for sequels (and we all know my stance on assuming you’ll get a sequel). My love for Arnie is well-known, and I didn’t realize the extent of my crush on Emilia Clarke until I saw this movie. She does well with the thankless task of trying to replace Linda Hamilton, but lacks a lot of the intensity that colored Hamilton’s performance in T2. Jai Courtney does what he does, but, again, in trying to replace Michael Biehn’s haunted, desperate Kyle with a cocky, self-assured beefcake doesn’t gel. Jason Clarke’s John Connor, though, is excellent; he is a doting father figure one minute, and a cold, evil, killing machine in the next, and all without missing a beat.
Overall: I thoroughly enjoyed Terminator Genisys. Perhaps nostalgia influenced my take, but who cares? I wanted something fun and entertaining, and that’s what I got. It’s not on the same level as The Terminator or T2, but I also didn’t expect it to be.