This Fourth of July weekend you have many movie choices. You could take the family to enjoy Inside Out, or run from dinosaurs again with Jurassic World. Hell, get your girls or guys together and go watch Channing shake his ass once again in Magic Mike XXL. Or, what you should do, is go fight for the future once more with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys. The new trend is the reboot-quel, the awkward new movie creature that resembles the movies we’ve loved. Resurrecting characters, catchphrases, and plots to lure us in. This new iteration annihilates all previous story threads with a bit (or a bunch) of time travel, so it can weave its own stories, unencumbered, and adding younger, sexier stars. Some are good, most are really bad, but for Terminator Genisys, it is a great welcome back to the franchise, giving it new life, kicking ass, and blowing everything up along the way.
The movie begins in Los Angeles in the year 2029, where the battle-worn John Conner (Jason Clarke) leads the human resistance to a major victory against Skynet, only to discover he’s failed to stop the Terminator, from the 1984 original, from going back in time to kill his mother. So (as you probably know), John sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from certain destruction.
When Reese arrives in the past, Sarah isn’t the clueless warrior-in-the-making he’s expected; the timeline has been altered. In this new time she’s not only well aware of her role in the war to come, but also has been protected since childhood by “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a reprogrammed Terminator. Together, they set out to take down Skynet once and for all, yet again. But, this time they use time travel against Skynet, leading way to a semi-puzzling plan that, by the end, makes sense and uses more gunfire than probably any other summer movie….ever.
It’s fun, action packed, and a damn good time. But lets get right into it. Lets focus on the elephant in the room: Arnold Schwarzenegger. As we know, he’s older. But they work that into the story so seamlessly that it makes sense for the plot they have provided. They could have re-cast, or just left him out altogether, but as the box office showed with the terrible 2009 Terminator Salvation, without Arnold, these movies just don’t make as much. So, yes, it seems forced that he is still in these, some 30 years later. Any indication of his popularity ending soon was crushed when his name came up in the beginning credits and the theater burst into cheers and applause. So his reign as the biggest action star in the world may be coming to a close, but he’s not done just yet.
Filmmakers have re-cast Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese for the new timeline. It’s unfortunate that Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney will be under the microscope in comparisons to their original counterparts from the original series: Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn. And I don’t want to it do either, but Linda Hamilton made such an impact on pop culture with her portrayal of the character, that it’s hard not to think of her during the movie as you’re watching the new version of her. But, props to Emilia Clarke, who nails it. She is great. Just as strong as we’d expect Sarah Conner to be. She comes in shooting and never stops being a badass. Now, lets be clear, she is no Linda Hamilton, but she is a great new addition to a franchise that can continue in good hands with Clarke taking the lead.
It’s hard to compare Biehn’s Kyle Reese to the new one, because Biehn was really only in the one movie. A different actor in each flick has played Kyle Reese, making it hard to get to know someone or their character. But, Jai Courtney does a good job. We get to see Reese’s backstory, which is actually very interesting, knowing that John Conner sends his own father back in time without telling him. Here we see John Conner basically raised by his own father from childhood, slowly, over time, telling him stories of Sarah Conner, allowing Reese to already have a thing for someone he’s never met. It added a lot of depth to a character, that was never considered more than a plot point, who now feels like a real person for the new franchise.
Someone who didn’t work, was new actor to the role Jason Clarke as John Conner. Conner is the leader of the future resistance, who has also been played by a different actor in each movie, giving way to the same issues. How can he be a hero in the movie if we, as the audience, are continually having to relearn who the character is each time? That isn’t the problem here, because this time around John Conner is the bad guy. For this new version it doesn’t matter if he is the hero in the future, it is more how to deal with him as a villain of today. And frankly, Clarke isn’t that great of a villain. He isn’t bad in the role, but just seems lacking. He plays it like he wants to be the big, bad guy in a James Bond movie, but comes in more like a Bond villain’s henchman at best. It works for the movie, and by no means pulls you out, but the over-arching sense of dread of Skynet is always a bigger and better villain than any one actor can be.
The special effects are remarkable! We really have come so far in effects technology that the CGI terminator exoskeleton robots now have a fluidity about them that makes them so real and scary. At one point, Schwarzenegger must wait and destroy the T-800 from the original movie, thus having two CGI motion capture Arnolds beat the crap out of each other. Some reviews may say this looked cheap or not real. I personally disagree. I found the CGI Schwarzenegger to look astounding! As far as this reviewer is concerned, they went back in time and just used that Arnold to fight currant Arnold. Yes, it’s CGI and you can tell, but for me it was some of the best. And, as a fan of Schwarzenegger, seeing him fight himself, well that’s just a fan dream of awesome.
The film moves along at a decent pace and really stays true to the original story, but adds new elements as we are now in different time stream. The bounce between timelines gives you time to rest but keeps the plot going, giving you the right amount of action and character drama that is needed. There are some great references to the original two movies using certain themes and characters jokes. Any fan of the franchise will be really pleased with some of the new themes added.
Overall this movie was fun. It’s has great characters, fun action, humorous Arnold lines (as always), and is just a good, popcorn, summer sci-fi flick. If these movies have taught us anything, it is that they always come back. It works as a sequel, but also as sets up a new series of movies that could go on for a few more, or not. If this was our “ride off into the sunset” Terminator flick, then it was a good one to ride off to.