Ever wish you could go back in time and punch your past self in the face? Arnold Schwarzenegger gets to do just that in Terminator Genisys, a surprisingly entertaining continuation of the James Cameron classics. In a sea of reboots and sequels, screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier manage to capture the essence of the original films while balancing audience expectations of slimy robots, loud gunfire and 3D explosions. (BKP: 3.5/5)
Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky
IMDB takes the complex Terminator mythology and simplifies the plot down to one sentence, “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.” In other words, think Back to the Future: Part II with shape-shifting villains and technological takeovers.
The film opens in futuristic 2029, when the evil Skynet has destroyed most of the earth and inhabited San Francisco with killing machines. A grown-up “John Connor” (Jason Clarke) thinks up a plan for “Kyle Reese” (Jai Courtney) to travel back in time, protect his mother “Sarah Connor” (Emilia Clarke), and stop Skynet from launching their destruction plan, “Genisys”.
Kicking off with an entertaining start, Reese successfully time travels back to 1984 and meets Sarah’s protector, the aged-like-a-human T-800 Model 101 Terminator – aka “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He comes face to face with a digitally-remastered version of his 1984-self and the two commence in a bizarre, yet oddly enjoyable, brawl. As predicted, more chaos and fight scenes ensue while the Reese, Sarah and Pops try to defeat Skynet and rewrite their histories.
New information is repeatedly thrown at the audience to keep all four timelines straight: 1984 (the Terminator’s arrival), 1997 (Judgement Day), 2017 (Genisys goes live and destroys the earth), 2029 (John Connor and sends Reese through the time portal). Granted, the filmmakers do their best to explain complex details of the mythology in the 126-minute time frame while keeping the number one goal clear: stop Skynet.
In what could have been two hours of mindless special effects is actually a film with a certain sense of substance. In between oozing robots and crashing cars, there are heartfelt themes, comedic moments and even shades of romanticism. Both Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney, known for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Divergent series, respectively, bring realism to their roles as tough-as-nails Sarah and brave, loyal Reese.
Action is interesting when you care about the characters participating in the action. Instead of simply showing the Golden Gate Bridge collapse in a doomsday-type effect, the writers have Reese and Sarah dangling from a bus, hundreds of feet above the Golden Gate Strait. You want Reese, Sarah and Pops to live and to defeat Skynet. You want the timeline to work itself out. Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier succeed in making the audience care about every element of the story.
No, Terminator Genisys is nowhere near perfect and or anywhere close to The Terminator (1984) or Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1994). The theme of technology taking over our lives is getting old. The apocalypse and dystopian-centered worlds are abundant in multiplexes. But the film is certainly watchable, and being watchable is much more than I was expecting. Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking much older than he did in the James Cameron days, reminds the audience that he may be old, but not obsolete. Surprisingly, neither is the franchise.
Review © Brigid K. Presecky (7/1/15)
Top Photo: Emilia Clarke as “Sarah Connor” and Arnold Schwarzenegger as “The Terminator/T-800 Model 101 Terminator/Pops”
Bottom Photo: Emilia Clarke as “Sarah Connor” and Jai Courtney as “Kyle Reese”
Photo Credits: Paramount Pictures and Skydance
Q: Does Terminator Genisys pass the Bechdel Test?