The Terminator franchise has a somewhat troubled past, with its last two outings (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation) being relative flops. It’s also really difficult to make a franchise based on time travel, since often their actions overwrite or replace the present timelines. Can Terminator Genisys revitalize the franchise and put it back on track?
Robots took over the world using a complicated program called Skynet. In the future, we see the human rebellion led by John Connor (Jason Clarke). They discover that the robots have sent back a killing machine to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). John then sends his best friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to protect her from the Terminator, back in 1984. He gets there and finds out that Sarah already has a protector, a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that she affectionately calls “Pops.” But this isn’t the timeline Kyle was expecting so he now has to adapt and figure out a way to stop Skynet before it launches. We also have Byung-hun Lee as the liquid metal T-1000, J.K. Simmons as comedic relief, and a measly four lines from former Doctor Who, Matt Smith.
It surprises me to say this… Arnold Schwarzenegger stole the show. As an old (but not obsolete) model, he has a lot of layers and it brings up the larger question of artificial intelligence and the ability to have emotions. He also still manages to kick ass in the action sequences as well.
And while some of the visual effects were sub-par, the effects used to recreate Arnold from 1984 were incredible. Seriously, it looked like it was really him.
What doesn’t work?
Unfortunately a lot.
Sometimes movies have complicated stories (especially time travel stories). But here, we have four previous films that all backtracked on each other, and the fifth movie tries to do something unique. I don’t think it works though. Even the big crux of the story, why 1984 is different than it’s supposed to be, is completely ignored and unanswered. They just wanted to tell a new story so they made up a few plot points that completely overwrite and negate the great work of Terminator and T2: Judgment Day. Without spoiling anything past the 15 minute mark… Reese goes back to 1984. A Terminator shows up but another Terminator is already there but now another Terminator (this time a T-1000) shows up right after that. There’s like three generations of Terminators on this one day. And this isn’t the only time travel in the story!
In terms of plot, it’s confusing, doesn’t make sense, and ultimately is a detractor to the story. I almost applaud Terminator Salvation because it wanted to exist in the Terminator universe but they didn’t try to rewrite or change the past movies.
Sometimes movies don’t have great plots but the characters (and actors) make it engaging. Other than Arnold, the other performances were stale. Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke are both cardboard cutouts, while Emilia Clarke tried to do the most with what she was given but fails to fill Linda Hamilton’s shoes.
“So do I need to see the other Terminator movies?” you ask. At least #1 and #2, yes. Seeing the other two might just confuse you more.
Terminator Genisys is more confusing than it’s worth. Time travel stories are already confusing but this movie makes it much worse than it had to be. The only performance worth seeing it for is Arnold reprising his role from 30 years ago and he does a killer job, while the other leads are all hollow and uninteresting. The action is fine but the visual effects are surprisingly subpar. I would only recommend this to fans of the franchise, but they might be the most upset by the tangled web of changes this movie tries to do/undo.