Arguably, Arnold Schwarzenegger was among the best aspects of the original “Terminator” films. So wouldn’t it be a great idea to bring him back for another film? Consider yourself forewarned about spoilers!
“Terminator Genisys” is a reboot for the series, rewriting most of the lore of the machines and Skynet. It feels like a prequel at first as we meet young Kyle Reese (Bryant Prince), whose life is saved by John Connor (Jason Clarke). Older Reese (Jai Courtney) provides the narration, setting more background about how heroic and prophet-like of a figure John is by 2029. As we expect, John is sending Reese back in time to save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Yet everything changes as John is attacked during Reese’s departure.
Reese encounters the T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee), the villain of “Judgement Day,” and needs rescuing by Sarah Connor and a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, nicknamed “Pops”) that already saved her life about 10 years before. The pair also made short work of the “younger” T-800 that Reese was trying to pursue earlier. It’s quite a fight between the two T-800s, rendered possible by a body double and special effects. Arnold Schwarzenegger is in top form in his return.
Indeed, there’s a lot to keep track of here and that’s the status even before the second time jump! It’s a bit of a stretch to move Judgement Day from 1997 to 2017, but it’s a plot device that is part of the effort to update the series. Reese and Sarah take the time machine, while “Pops” uses the long way. After getting arrested, the couple is rescued from custody by none other than their son, John Connor, who jumped back to 2014 following his fight with the baddie at the beginning. Do the multiple timelines at play call to mind “Doctor Who,” anyone?
To further complicate matters, everything you knew about Terminator is turned on its head when it’s revealed that John has gone evil and joined the side of Skynet. He’s both human and machine, allowing for some decent fight scenes between John and “Pops.” Having multiple bad guys is a welcome change. There’s an interesting juxtaposition of the situations of Sarah and John, who have always been strongly linked. John has long been influenced by Sarah with respect to embracing his role as savior of the world. But in “Genysis,” both display a sense of frustration and bitterness about fate and being able to control their own lives. John turns completely to evil whereas Sarah decides to choose good.
How Does “Genysis” Compare?
Perhaps without “Rise of the Machines” and “Salvation,” something like “Genisys” might have had more appeal. There were parts that could have been further developed. J.K. Simmons was a welcome addition to the cast as a more fleshed out O’Brien, but he was severely underused. Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney give good performances but I couldn’t move past the portrayals of both Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn as I watched them. Jason Clarke does remarkably well as John Connor in terms of the material with which he’s working; it’s a nice touch how he blends in brilliantly in the interrogation room, detected and attacked by “Pops” when you least expect it.
A lot of unanswered questions remain. Who sent “Pops” back in time? Undoubtedly, the most underutilized actor in “Genisys” is Matt Smith. He’s such a great casting choice for the embodiment of Skynet, which was a nice surprise! What is Skynet’s next move? Will there be another John Connor? I would caution critics against writing off “Terminator” for good. Expect Arnold to be back soon, if the international box office sales continue to rise.