‘Terminator Genisys’ is a film which James Cameron says has “reinvigorated” the franchise and calls it “a renaissance.” He also said that, in his mind, this latest offering IS the 3rd movie. Let’s face it: ‘The Terminator‘ and ‘T2: Judgement Day‘ were epic. While ‘Genisys‘ doesn’t quite live up to the first two films, it certainly does help cleanse the awful taste of ‘Rise Of The Machines‘ and ‘Salvation‘ from my mouth.
The movie opens with the same scenario from the first film: John Conner, leader of the human resistance, sends back his lieutenant, Kyle Reese, to 1984 to stop a Terminator that Skynet just sent back through time to kill his mother, Sarah Conner. In the original, John Conner was not seen but Kyle Reece was played by Michael Biehn and Sarah Conner was played by Linda Hamilton. In this latest installment, John Conner is present and he is portrayed by Jason Clarke while Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke play Kyle and Sarah, respectively. The film does a great job of revisiting the old storyline from the original film but with a twist. When the Terminator Model T-800 (a role which cemented Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Hollywood icon) arrives in 1984 to begin hunting down Sarah Conner, he is met by another T-800 and it’s Arnold VS Arnold. Things get even more divergent from there as a liquid metal T-1000 (famously played by Robert Patrick in the 1991 sequel) is waiting for Kyle Reese when he finally does arrive in 1984.
Needless to say, changes to the existing timeline then change the future which leaves the outcome in flux. I don’t feel that some of the harsher critiques of this film which are already floating around out there are particularly fair. (I’m looking at you, Scott Mendelson.) Sure, it’s not as good as it possibly could have been, but seldom does anything live up to our lofty expectations when it comes to something that we all enjoyed as part of our younger days (Does the 4th ‘Indiana Jones’ movie ring any bells?). My main critique would be that this is definitely one of those movies where you need to have a fairly good grasp on the preceding films in order to have a hope of understanding what is going on in this one. (Other sequels released this year such as ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Ted 2’ didn’t really suffer from this problem.) But that’s perhaps an inherent problem when you are dealing with movies that involve time travel. While I’m generally a fan of Jai Courtney, I didn’t really think he had the same lure to his character that Michael Biehn possessed in the first film. I do feel that Emilia Clarke was a very capable Sarah Conner even though it’s hard to see anyone besides Linda Hamilton in that role. The standouts for me were Arnold, back as perhaps his most iconic character of his career (the way the story justified his aging was perfectly palatable for me) and, of course, J.K. Simmons. While Simmons may not have been quite the scene-stealer in this film that we’ve come to love, he still lights up the screen when he does appear. My other main complaint would be that I didn’t feel that sense of impending doom and urgency of the situation that I felt from ‘T1’ and ‘T2’. I’m not able to put my finger on whether it was the writing or the directing or the acting or a synergy between the elements. ‘Genisys’ was certainly enjoyable and action-packed, but it did seem to lack a bit of the danger that I was used to experiencing from the franchise.
So: Is this going to be the summer movie event of 2015? Nope. But it was definitely worth seeing from both a nostalgic standpoint as well as for the reason I mentioned earlier of wanting something else to take the place to the last two Terminator installments from 2003 and 2009. It stands quite well as the true 3rd film and it sets the stage quite nicely for the inevitable follow-up film (HINT: Stick around after the credits!!) And besides that, it was just plain fun! I can also say that I don’t feel there was a real need to see this one in 3-D. There were only a handful of times throughout the film that it seemed worth it. So if you are looking for a decent reason to say “Hasta la vista, Baby.” to a few hours of your time this weekend, then ‘Terminator Genisys’ would be a great fit; especially for a true Terminator fan.