Terminator Genisys: Retcon of Classic Franchise Works, Thanks to Ahnuld, Great Action

2.5 out of 5 stars (decent)

Terminator: Genisys Poster
Image from http://www.impawards.com/

The Terminator is one of my favorite sci-fi movies. It tells the story of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), an average Jane waitress who discovers she is the mother of the leader in a war against the machines.  Trouble is, there is an evil robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger in his iconic breakout role) sent from the future to assassinate her before the child can be created.  It’s a thrilling ride that fills me with suspense every time I watch it.

Six years later, Terminator 2: Judgement Day hit screens, continuing the story and taking its characters in unexpected directions while also stopping the machines from ever being able to rise, providing what should have been a great end to the franchise.

Unfortunately, Hollywood loves $, so they pumped out two terrible, unmentionable sequels, the latter of which is totally reviled by Terminator fans such as myself. I did not want another movie from this well-milked franchise, but someone upstairs did, so we got Terminator Genisys (yes, the Y in the title is stupid), a film that erases the events of the previous films, allowing for new events to shape the future.  Surprisingly, the film is a decently acted romp is fun, funny, and action-packed.  It is not the best in the series by any means, but it gives me hope for the new franchise.

John Connor (this time played by Jason Clarke of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) wants to stop Skynet, an evil A.I. and cause of the war, from launching.  That A.I., sensing its destruction, sent by a Terminator to kill John’s mother Sarah before John can be born, leading John to send one of his best men, Kyle Reese (this time played by Jai Courtney is his first good performance), to save her.

When Kyle gets back to 1984, he discovers that Sarah (Emilia Clarke, not sure if her and Jason are related) does not need help, in fact, she has been raised by a Terminator she affectionately calls “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger, still awesome at 67 years old). The trio discovers that Skynet will launch in the year 2017, so they time-travel there to stop it from happening.

This film went far and beyond my expectations. The action is fun to watch and very thrilling, giving us a sense that director Alan Taylor (the man behind Thor: The Dark World and a few episodes of Game of Thrones) knows what he’s doing here.  Taylor was a perfect director for the material, giving it the perfect tone for our times (fun, with humor, but we still are engaged in the proceedings).  I hope he stays on for the sequel this film sets up (this is supposed to be the first in a trilogy, how many times have I typed THAT in the past year?)

Most of the actors are good. I was very nervous when I saw Jai Courtney was cast as Kyle Reese because I normally don’t like him as an actor.  Courtney does very well here, providing us with a decent characterization and giving him a personality.  Emilia Clarke sadly doesn’t have much to do other than be a “strong” woman, leading us not to care about Sarah Connor as much as we once did.  Clarke is attempting to channel Hamilton in T2, but it doesn’t have the same effect because we’ve already seen Hamilton do it before.  We don’t know this Sarah Connor, and the movie doesn’t really give us enough characterization to let us.  Hopefully that will be fixed in the sequel.  As for Jason Clarke, he is a much better John Connor than Christian Bale was back in the pile of vomit that was Terminator Salvation.  He has a good and surprisingly commanding screen presence that was totally absent in Apes.  I’d follow him in a battle against the machines any day.

Now for the big guy, the reason this franchise has lasted since 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold looks just fine at the ripe young age of 67, still kicking butt and taking names with a great finesse.  He cracks a lot of jokes in the movie, and a large majority of them are right on the money.  He was the one reason I was excited to see this movie, and he delivered the goods.  I don’t really buy the father-daughter relationship he’s supposed to have with Sarah, but that’s a problem of the script, not the big A.  Schwarzenegger is having a ball playing this character, giving one of his best performances for the 2000s (his best performance to me will be the T-800 from the original).  If you come for anything, come to see Arnold.  He said he’d be back, he and he kept his promise.

As with a growing number of action movies these days, the story is why the film loses some points. Early on, the film makes numerous references to the events in the first two movies, as if this takes place in the same continuity.  However, the movie then asks us to believe that THIS story takes place in an alternate timeline because of an event that makes absolutely no sense in context with anything we’ve seen in this series before.  It’s a big logic jump, and I can see why many people are not going along with it.  Nothing feels rushed, but some elements don’t feel fully realized.  It’s so sad to me that a big budget seems to mean a decent story in the summer months.  Just once, I’d like to have a summer movie where the people making it completely thought out the story Before they started shooting it.

Overall, Terminator Genisys is a good time at the movies that has enough action and funny one-liners to make up for its somewhat perplexing plot.  See it.

Rated PG-13 for Intense Sequences of Sci-Fi Action Violence and Gunplay Throughout, Partial Nudity (as it goes with the franchise) and Brief Language

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