Dir: Alan Taylor
Writer(s): Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyl, Byung-hun Lee and Matt Smith
Synopsis: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
*Reviewer Note 2: There is a brief mid-credits scene*
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of my favorite movies of all time, and dare I say one of the best actions movies ever. Of course I’m not the only person to share that feeling and it’s because of that reason that the Terminator series holds a special place in many people’s hearts. However, after Terminator 2 the series took a bit of stumble with the lackluster Rise of the Machines, and the not reaching its full potential with Salvation, so when it was announced that another installment was coming fans were right to be weary. However, when news that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be returning, some of those fans become a little less weary and curious to what they were going to do.
Fast forward – or time travel? – to earlier this year and one of the biggest twist that could have probably happened in the series was ruined in all the marketing. So what happens when you know the big twist to a highly popular series and once-was anticipated movie? You go in and try your best to enjoy it. So, was Terminator Genisys good? Terrible like the majority of film reviewers are putting it? Or something else? Well, bit of everything actually.
Terminator Genisys isn’t just another installment to the series; it acts as a prequel, sequel and reboot. So in case you’re brand new to the series, don’t worry you’ll be thrown into the world that many have enjoyed for years. The movie starts with letting us know the events that led to our downfall: The day Skynet became aware and the day Judgment Day happened. We hear the story of one man that lead a resistance against the machines, and that man was John Connor (Jason Clarke). We see him leading the resistance with his right hand man, Kyle Reese (Courtney) to take down a harvesting farm, which is a cover for a weapon that John knows is there: The time machine.
Fans know the story: John sends Kyle back in time to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), who is targeted by Skynet as they send back a Terminator model T-800 to kill her before she can give birth to John. However, something happens when Kyle is sent back and it changes the timeline in a dramatic way. When Kyle ends up in 1984, Sarah isn’t a fragile and scared woman instead she is a strong fighter that knows about Terminators and the future. She also has someone that has protected her, a model T-800 Terminator that she happily calls Pops (or named Guardian in the credits). Kyle is of course confused about this and Sarah tells him that everything has changed and that they have been preparing for him. Another problem they have is a new T-1000 (Lee) is there and is hunting them down.
However – again ruined in the marketing – Kyle and Sarah eventually come face-to-face with John himself. The reunion is cut short when Pops shoot John to reveal that John is in fact some sort of new Terminator. Kyle and Sarah make it their mission to not only save the future, but also try figure out what happened to John.
Like I mentioned before, the twist of John being a Terminator is a pretty big and nice twist to the series, and it would have been awesome to see it play out on screen for the time first. Instead marketing – and not director Alan Taylor – made the decision to give away the big twist to the movie killing any sort of tension to not only the scene, but for the rest of the movie. Yes, it is commonplace for studios to show off or reveal a few of their key sequences to make sure you go buy a ticket, and some studios have even tricked the audience into going to watch the movie by showing a really cool moment, that just so happens to be the end of the movie. But giving away the “John is some sort of new awesome Terminator” twist really hurt the movie going in.
Also, we’re dealing with time travel. Just know going in that you’re going to deal with three different timelines that thankfully don’t get too murky. At one point, it’s explained by Pops that the timelines have changed and thankfully it doesn’t stop the movie dead. The alternate timeline does change a few things up and it should be interesting to see where they go with things from this point forward. Although at this point I’m not sure how many fans want to stick around after the new “twist.” Yes, there is another twist to the movie that only starts off in the third act and is obviously set up for future sequels. I’m not going to get too into it because it does go into spoiler territory.
So let’s go in the cast. Arnold steps right back into the role without fault. Yes, he is older and the movie goes into why that is, but there is a lot more to his character this time around. Like I’ve mentioned, Sarah calls him Pops and his official character name in the credits is Guardian, by that you know a lot of things have changed. On the other side of the coin, Jason Clarke as John Connor/new Terminator – no official name, just his quote that he’s “something more” – has to pull double duty as the John Connor legend, who gives a pretty impressive speech at the start of the movie and has a great relationship with Kyle before he sends him back, and the Terminator, who is like he says “can’t be bargained with.”
Again, the twist would have been really cool to see for the first time while watching the movie, not only because it’s a massive spoiler, but also because it changes the dynamic of the character that we’ve known is the face of resistance against the machines and the mythos of the series. John Connor is no longer the good guy, the man that we root for. Instead he is our primary villain out to kill our heroes and has fallen into become a machine!
As for John’s parents, Jai Courtney – who I’m not a real fan of to be honest – does okay as Kyle Reese. He doesn’t really go beyond anything we’d suspect from his character. Sure he has a standout moment when talking to Sarah early in the movie, but other than that nothing stands out. As for Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor, I’ve seen some reviewers say she’s been miscast or doesn’t do anything special for the role, and I don’t think that’s the case to be honest. Clarke is stepping into big shoes yes, but at the same time, this is a different Sarah Connor from the original The Terminator. Instead we get the Terminator 2 Sarah Connor, the one that is ready to fight anything that stands in her way and Clarke holds her own for the most part. She does work better off Arnold than Courtney for the most part and but overall she’s does fine playing the part of badass warrior.
J.K. Simmons as a small supporting role that doesn’t really add much to the overall movie, but you can clearly tell his character will have some sort of role in the potential sequels. Sadly, Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000 character doesn’t get a ton of screen time and is underused. Luckily, his part is rather enjoyable but you feel his missing presence throughout the movie.
The action in the movie is actually pretty enjoyable, and there is quite lot more than I suspected. The other thing the movie had that surprised me was humor. It’s not like the movie is cracking jokes every minute, but humor is sprinkled throughout the movie and it makes sense. Of course, the movie has many more references and subtle additions from the previous movies – and yes, even the TV show – that fans can appreciate.
One thing that will bother people – even me to some extent – is the movie has a lot of questions that it asks, but never really answers. If they do, they don’t give you the full answer. The movie suffers a bit from setting things up for sequels instead of making the movie stand on its own. Some things make sense, but for the most part, the studio makes sure that they want the audience back for another go-around.
All in all, Terminator Genisys isn’t as terrible as many people out there want you to believe. There are some enjoyable moments scattered throughout and the action is pretty great to watch. The cast work well together for the most part, with Jason Clarke and Arnold being the standout. The movie may act as a prequel, sequel, and reboot, but make no mistake that it is another addition to the series. Let’s hope that fans will want to keep coming back.
3 out of 5