Terminator: Genisys follows the same story as the first Terminator with Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) coming back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from the T-800 that was sent back in time to kill her since she’s the mother of the future savior John Connor (Jason Clarke). However, he finds that he’s in a fractured timeline where Sarah knows what’s going to happen, knows who Kyle Reese is and why he’s come back, and is being protected by an aged T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Now, instead of preventing Sarah’s death, the unlikely trio must embark on a trip to 2017 to reset the future.
After walking out of the theater, I had the same feeling that I felt with Terminator: Salvation: I didn’t feel what I saw was a great movie nor was it that bad. Going back to the 1984 setting and creating a time paradox sounded fine as long as the execution was there and for the most part it’s handled very well as we see the Guardian Terminator take out the T-800 that was originally the main villain of that setting. Also, seeing the T-1000 in 1984 is great as it adds another element of danger and unpredictability even if he doesn’t serve a higher purpose in the grand scheme of things in this film. However, Kyle Reese’s role is changed and even a bit marginalized as Sarah knows all about him and is every bit the badass she was in the T2 and doesn’t really need saving or protecting. From then on, he’s kind of just there and his presence is weakened a bit. This is handled similar to Back to the Future II as we see the same events take playing out differently with different consequences. If the movie were just about Sarah and the Guardian Terminator going on their new mission, I think it probably would have been more effective because they seem to have more chemistry than Sarah does with Kyle Reese.
The twist with John Connor that happens midway through the movie was one of the more spoiled and ineffective surprises I’ve ever experienced due to the fact that the marketing team thought it best to show in the trailers and in a very revealing featurette that he was the main villain of the story and no longer the savior that he’s been portrayed as in previous films and the television series in order to draw in more moviegoers. When the twist was revealed, no one in the theater seemed to be surprised and continued watching like nothing of importance happened. This was similar to the plotline that Marcus Wright from Terminator: Salvation wasn’t a man anymore, but a machine. Also, John Connor being changed into something that’s a hybrid of a human and Terminator is very interesting, but it’s a bit of a letdown considering that the series basically hinges on his very survival as the savior of the world against the sentient Terminators. Hopefully, this is rectified in the evitable sequels.
One decision that I did like is that a seemingly new computer operating system that will basically be in the hands of everyone across the world and have access to all personal information called Genisys was unwittingly the beginning for Skynet, had a sentient character that was created to help market it and that Miles Bennett Dyson, the man responsible for the Terminator arm in the second film, was spearheaded by his own son Danny, basically repeating the sins of his father. Once the character starts to think and feel on his own, he creates chaos and basically begins to create what we know as Skynet, but is thwarted in the end because he had a vision of an alternate timeline in which his younger self knows that Genisys is Skynet.
It’s a welcome return to see Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the role that him a big movie star and he slips back into it like a glove as it’s been a dozen years since he last played the Terminator. His relationship with Sarah is very protective and reminiscent of his relationship with Abagail Breslin in the excellent Maggie. There’s no replacing him and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him in the sequels. Emilia Clarke gets to show off her impressive action hero chops, but her performance won’t make anyone forget Linda Hamilton’s transformation in Terminator 2. That’s not a knock on her ability, but Linda is just such a tough act to follow. Jai Courtney was the most frustrating for me because he fails to deliver a performance that’s worthy of the character. He’s too muscular where as Michael Biehn’s Reese was thin, but muscular struggling to survive. He also doesn’t have the charisma, resourcefulness, or the toughness to survive like the 1984 incarnation. His relationship with John is basically the best thing about him. Jason Clarke makes for an excellent John Connor and I wonder how he would have done playing John as the savior that the intense and brooding Christian Bale got the chance to do in Terminator Salvation. However, we could still see John come back since time travel is a huge part of this franchise. The supporting characters such as JK Simmons and Matt Smith are excellent in their roles, if not wasted. Matt Smith is the catalyst for John being turned into a hybrid and then is nothing more than just a hologram that antagonizes our heroes. For a person with so much talent, he should have been in the movie more, but I have a feeling he will be the overarching villain of this new trilogy. JK Simmons plays his alcoholic cop role, who encountered the T-1000, Kyle, and Sarah in 1984, very well as he is privy to what’s going. However, he’s just forgotten about in the last part of the film, but I hope that we’ll see his character again.
Terminator: Genisys is a film with some interesting ideas, but frustrating and disappointing execution. I don’t agree with John Connor being a bad guy and seemingly killed off, but this isn’t the Terminator that I grew up on and this new trilogy is forging it’s own path. Hopefully Jai Courtney will grow in to the role of Kyle Reese as he’s one of the weakest elements in the movie and should improve on the next go round. This is by no means a terrible film, but just not the one that I, along with every other Terminator fan, was hoping for.