The Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator that is.
Now, I wasn't planning on going to this movie. After the dud that was Terminator: Salvation (in my opinion the weakest film of the franchise) I really had no expectations of seeing Terminator Genisys. But at the last minute, my wife and I are sitting at the dinner table and she turns to me and says, "Hey, isn't the new Terminator movie out now?"
"Yes," I say.
"I want to see that," she tells me.
I love sci-fi, and post-apocalyptic movies, and I was a little bit curious on why they did with the mythos of the series, so of course I said yes.
So we went to the movie.
Boy, was I wrong about this film! It was everything you could want in a Terminator movie and then some!
Enough about me not being able to make up my mind if I wanted to see this movie or not. I'm glad I did.
The plot is straight forward and flows well for juggling so much Terminator mythos. In fact, it juggles so much mythos and time line stuff that some might call it a bit convoluted. But that doesn't hurt it too much as they expertly weave together thirty years of Terminator lore into one film while resetting the franchise and (and!) put what I felt was a rather nice end-cap on the film series to date.
Additionally, for as many plot changes they make, the film never seems to deviate too much from the core mythos of the franchise. It seems the movie trailer really fooled me, because it made it look like they were throwing everything out the window in order to reset the franchise. But it actually seems to be the other way around. They use the mythos to perfectly tie up the series to date and leave it open to new interpretations by setting up a new timeline. Really well done, in my opinion.
Opening in 2029 of the future, John Connor is finally winning his robot war. But SkyNet turns on it's last resort -- the time displacement machine, and sends the T-800 back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor.
Kyle Reese is sent after it to intercept it and prevent it from killing her and thus ensure the birth of the future John Connor.
It should, because it's the plot of the original Terminator.
But here's where things get interesting.
Upon the T-800's arrival, which is an amazing CGI rendering of 1980's Arnie over the body of a modern body builder, he is intercepted by his future self, the old T-800 that was reprogrammed by John Connor to go back to protect Sarah Connor (i.e., the plot of Terminator 2). Only this time, there was a hitch. They had to send him back even earlier, to 1973 because SkyNet, being the devious Evil version of a Conscious Internet we have all grown to fear, sent back not one but three Terminators.
This is the twist that changes all the time lines, because SkyNet, in a last chance effort to destroy John Connor sends a T-1000 to 1973 to kill the 9 year old Sarah Connor and a T-1000 to intercept Kyle Reese before he can intercept the original T-800.
Few! That's a lot of Terminators running around.
But they we've it together effortlessly story wise, which was refreshing. The timeline stuff never bogs down the flow of the narrative and the action is paced evening throughout the entire film.
Because of the shift in the events of the timelines, however, Judgement Day changes from 1997 to 2017. So Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor jump into the future of the new altered timeline in 2017 to stop SkyNet once and for all.
And, well, without giving away any major spoilers, that's about all I can say about this film.
What I Liked:
I have to say I was a little bit iffy on the casting of this film.
Arnie is a given, because he IS the Terminator.
But I wasn't sure that Emilia Clarke could pull off a tough Sarah Connor. Don't get me wrong, I love (LOVE) Emilia Clarke. If I could, I'd clone fifty of her and marry all fifty. That's how much I love Emilia Clarke! But she seems so soft and sweet, and even in Game of Thrones where she's killing everyone with her army and her dragons, she only ever comes off as morally conflicted. She never seems to have the weight or the intensity of past Sarah Connors including her Game of Thrones co-actress Lena Headey, who played Sarah Connor in the Terminator television series The Sarah Connor Chronicles. (Which was an excellent series by the way. It sucks that it ended where it did, because one more season would have made that show epic.)
I didn't know if Clarke could play "do or die" tough. But I'm glad to say she pleasantly surprised me. She didn't have the motherly poignancy that Headey or even Linda Hamilton had, but to be fair this version of Sarah Connor isn't a mother yet. So really the only person she was fighting to save was herself. Not a bad thing, but it alters the performance of the lead star enough where it seems the film was lacking a big of that gravitas that comes with having a mother fight to protect her child. That's just my opinion though. But this really has nothing to do with Clarke's performance as a young Sarah Connor. She's spot on.
Next, I was really agitated that Jai Courtney was cast as Kyle Reese. So far I've hated everything that Jai has starred in. When he's a supporting character he seems to be tolerable, but after seeing him in leading rolls I felt he was a flat actor with no range or depth. But once again, I was pleasantly surprised. His Kyle Reese is likable, funny, tough when he needs to be and caring when he needs to be. And Jai's acting was just fine. It's nice to see an actor actually improving in his trade. So although I went in rolling my eyes, I found myself eating some humble crow.
Jason Clarke as the older John Connor was good too. He has a charisma to his performance that fits really well this this particular story and this particular incarnation of John Connor, but that's all I'm gonna say about that.
Finally, I liked the story. A lot. I would say that this is probably my favorite of all the Terminator films, but that said, it only works because of all the previous films and the mythos its building on. Without that established frame work this story would be the lesser because of it. It would still make sense, but it would seem extremely convoluted. But my wife who hasn't seen any of the original films was able to follow the story just fine, and she's not even a nattive speaker of English. So, I can't say that it was confusing. The narrative was pretty straight forward and the time hops were explained perfectly well in the context of the film's own story that it all moved like a well oiled machine (pun intended).
What I Didn't Like
A couple of the actions scenes seemed a little overdone. The helicopter fight scene for example, was a mess. It wasn't even really integral to the plot since they were merely traveling from point A to point B, and nothing really needed to happen other than that.
The villain didn't seem menacing enough. And no, I'm not talking about SkyNet. I am talking about the new Terminator for this film. It's called a T-3000 and it's basically a Terminator virus that infects human DNA and turns them into a living machine, similar to a T-1000, but with cooler visual effects (because it's Hollywood). Anyway, for how awesome of a machine it is, it never feels as ominous as the T-800 that's stalking them in the beginning.
Even Reese's fight with the T-800 at the beginning of the film seems more of a threat than the T-3000 through the rest of the film. Even though the T-3000 is fully capable of ending Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, he technically can't due to a time-line related plot issue that would end in a paradox. So he seemed like an impotent villain. Which was annoying. I wanted something that felt like Terminator 2 when we are faced with the seemingly unstoppable T-1000. Something where you were always on the edge of your seat because you couldn't imagine how Sarah and John (young John) would get out of it alive.
I never had that feeling this time around apart from the T-800 fight at the beginning that was really intense.
What Bothered Me:
I didn't like John Connor or his particular story arc in this version. I get what they are doing with the mythos and the story, but without giving anything away, I can't help but feel they've made a terrible time paradox that the writers just shrug away.
As a science buff who has studied astronomy and physics to a certain degree, when big obvious science no-no's like this pop up in a film, they really grate on my nerves.
But again, I can't say anything without giving spoilers, so I'll just recommend this film, because I have to say there was a lot more to like than not like about it.
Final Two Cents:
I still stand by my initial comment that I think Terminator: Genisys is the best Terminator film to date. It's solid sci-fi, has big action sequences evenly paced throughout, and there is a lot of story being juggled here which makes it that much more surprising to you when you watch the film and see how effortlessly the filmmakers juggled everything.
I would definitely recommend this film to sci-fi buffs and action movie buffs. And if you'r a fan of the first Terminator films then there is absolutely no reason not to see this one. It's worth your time.
By day I am an educator and a cultural ambassador. By night I entertain notions of being a literary master. In reality I am just a family man and ordinary guy who works hard and loves writing just about as much as I love my family. Just about.