Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the franchise that made him a household name in the fifth installment (or third depending on who you listen to) of the popular sci-fi action series.
And that's mostly a good thing.
The bad thing? Someone in the marketing department should be fired. At some point, someone decided to reveal the major plot point in the film's most recent trailers. This spoils what may be one of the most "whoa"-worthy moments in recent cinema. Now, as you watch the film, it just doesn't seem that shocking because you know it is coming. I'm not going to talk about this to help preserve any surprise you may have.
In an attempt to reimagine the storyline, "Genisys" works the events of the first and second film into this new entry, reimagining the timeline and how everything fits together. This is also an attempt to erase the missteps that are "Terminator: Rise of the Machines" (the third one) and "Terminator Salvation" (the fourth one starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington). But it also changes things around and adds new details which makes the time travel angle even trickier and more problematic.
But let's talk about that problem later. Don't think about the time travel related problems. Yet.
In 2027, John Connor (Jason Clarke, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes", "The Great Gatsby") and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, "A Good Day To Die Hard", the "Divergent" series) are fighting Skynet and closing in on their new weapons facility. Just as they make a successful raid, Skynet sends the T-800 (think Schwarzenegger from the first "terminator" film) back to 1984 Los Angeles to hunt down and kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, HBO's "Game of Thrones"). John sends Kyle back to protect his mother, telling him that she is a waitress, ill-equipped and unprepared to defend herself. Upon his arrival, Kyle finds a very different picture; Sarah has been preparing for the arrival of the T-800 for years with the help of 'Pops' (Schwarzenegger, think the Terminator from "Judgement Day"). They quickly dispatch the T-800, but have to help Kyle get away from a new T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee). Then, Kyle realizes they have to stop Skynet, which, in his memory, begins in 2017, with the release of an IPad-like (I knew it! Steve. Jobs. Was. Evil.) operating system called Genisys. They use an early version of the time machine to send Kyle and Sarah to San Francisco in 2017. The time machine will only work once, so Pops will meet them there. When they arrive, they are immediately arrested and taken in to police headquarters where O'Brien (J.K. Simmons, new Oscar winner for "Whiplash"), a slightly daffy police detective, realizes they are the people who saved his life in 1984. He knows they are time traveling and tries to help them. At the same time, Skynet sends another Terminator, much more advanced than the T-1000, back to 2017 in an attempt to stop their efforts to shut down Skynet before it even begins.
Directed by Alan Lord ("Game of Thrones", "Thor: The Dark World") and written by Laeta Kalogridis ("Shutter Island", the newer "Bionic Woman") and Patrick Lussier ("Drive Angry", "Dracula 2000"), "Genisys" delivers all of the action and special effects you would expect from a "Terminator" film. It's a very satisfying summer blockbuster.
There is a lot of press about and praise for the battle between the two Ahnulds - The T-800 battles himself in 1984 Los Angeles. It is a pretty impressive bit of special effects wizardry. Using CGI, the filmmakers recreate the look of the T-800 from the first film, using many of the same locations and some of the same characters, as he faces Schwarzenegger playing the same character, but as his older self. You might think they just used some of the footage from the first film, but this is reportedly not the case. It was probably easier (relatively) to just recreate him, as they have, to use new camera angles and special effects to bring the look and quality to 2015 standards.
Schwarzenegger is good and provides further evidence that there are some perfect casting choices. Who else but Ahnuld could play the role of a robot sent from the past to kill / protect key humans in the fight for humanity? Initially cast as a killing machine, the bulky, stoic Austrian's thick accent serves as a punctuation point for his relatively few words. In "Judgement Day", he becomes a savior and helps Sarah Connor protect her son so that there might be some hope for mankind. He has one mission, to protect John Connor at all costs. Again, a machine of few words, this time he seems invincible as a more advanced T-1000 shows up to battle him. Ahnuld's Terminator simply won't give up. He doesn't have time for words. The actor is the perfect choice to play the role because he doesn't have a lot of dialogue and when he does speak, you really stop and listen.
Emilia Clarke, Daenerys on "Game of Thrones", is good, but her Sarah seems a bit immature to have the fate of mankind on her shoulders. When we first meet her, she surprises Kyle by being pretty tough, not at all like John has described her. But when she starts to paint her backstory, and tells us about how 'Pops' came into her life, she simply seems like a young woman still trying to figure out her way through life, relying on the support and guidance of her elders. She seems a little bit like a Daddy's Girl and this makes her seem younger than she actually is. aThis is a big shift and a big difference from Linda Hamilton's portrayal of the same character. Hamilton always seemed consumed by everything that was going to happen, so consumed that she is confined to a mental hospital for part of the second installment. The weight of the world is very heavy on her shoulders. In "Genisys", Clarke doesn't seem to fully realize the gravity of what she needs to so. She knows she needs to do it, but doesn't seem to know why. She is too light and a bit too jokey.
Jason Clarke plays John Connor, the leader of the human resistance after Skynet has taken over. He has more of a presence in "Genisys", leading Kyle and the rest of the humans in successful battles against the machines. Jai Courtney is another Aussie actor with good looks who looks like he could catapult to the top of the Hollywood food chain at any moment, the next guy to follow in Mel Gibson or Russell Crowe's footsteps. But Courtney isn't there yet. As Kyle Reese, he does a good job of fending off the T-1000 and assimilating into Sarah and Pops' established world, but it is difficult for him to stand out.
Byung-hun Lee (the "G.I. Joe" movies) plays the T-1000 and does a good job of presenting the unstoppable, menacing nature of the robot. J.K. Simmons and Matt Smith ("Doctor Who") have memorable supporting roles.
Lord seems to have fun creating outlandish action sequences (the school bus chase featured in the trailer) and using all of the toys in his CGI toolbox. And the film is a lot of fun to watch.
Just go and don't pay attention to the problems in the timeline of this time shifting sci fi epic.
If you can't overlook something like that, let's discuss. In 2027, John Connor and Kyle Reese are leading the humans in a fight against Skynet. They eventually send Kyle back to 1984, where he will meet Sarah Connor, John's mother. And (shhhh! don't tell anyone) Kyle is John's father. So that would make 2027 John Connor forty-three and Kyle Reese should be older. But Courtney is younger (and looks it) than Clarke. Okay. No problem, yet. In the intro of the film, Kyle tells us about how he was born after Skynet took over and launched the missiles, killing millions of humans, and ruling over the remaining who live - his parents tell him about life before Skynet. But in 1984, he tells Sarah and Pops that they need to go to 2017, when Genisys goes online, which will lead to the formation of Skynet. He knows this because as a twelve-year old (?) his parents gave him a Genisys tablet for his birthday. Wait a minute! He was born after Skynet took over. Now, in the same film, he is born before-hand. Because the writers are creating, or re-creating depending on how you look at it, this universe, they have the right to play around with time, and to create their own rules, to make everything work. To make everything believable. But they are contradicting themselves on this point. When this happens, it opens the gate and allows, almost begs, for more scrutiny.
Also, Pops mentions how the skin on a Terminator ages naturally. He tells this to Sarah and Kyle when they learn he will have to meet them in 2017. This means that in 2017, Pops will have the skin of what? An eighty-year old? Older?
And how exactly does 1984 Sarah Connor have a relationship with Pops in the first place? There is a brief explanation of this, but it presents even more problems. Apparently, Skynet sent more Terminators back, to different times, despite the fact Connor and Reese find the time machine in 2027 and it is only used once.
Thinking about all of these things starts to create headaches you shouldn't have. The writers should work these things out in advance.
When the writers do this, you get a classic like "The Terminator" or "Judgement Day". When they don't, you get a serviceable, but by no means potential classic like "Genisys".