Terminator Genisys - Not the Worst Terminator Movie

Marter | 1 Jul 2015 12:00
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Directed by Alan Taylor. Produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg. Written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. Release date: July 1, 2015.

Terminator Genisys is the type of movie that starts off with a lot more promise than that on which it capitalizes. And I don't just mean the large mythos surrounding the franchise, the ability to throw in time travel, or the human-killing machines that are Terminators, all of which is incredibly interesting. No, I'm talking about what happens within the movie, which gives us such a strong premise - taking scenes from earlier movies but seeing them play out differently thanks to new-found knowledge of the central characters - but only uses it to establish that both the past and the future can be changed. How? It's not really made clear, and there are at least a couple of questions left open to answer in future sequels, but the point is this: after the opening scenes that deliver satisfying nostalgia, the film essentially transforms into a retread of Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Stop me if you've heard this before. The world ended, half of the population was wiped out by self-aware machines represented by Skynet. The leader of the human resistance is John Connor (Jason Clarke). In order to stop John from being born, the machines send a Terminator back in time to kill his mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), before he's even conceived. To stop it, John sends back a man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). That's basically the entirety of the plot of The Terminator, and it's how this film opens, too. However, upon arriving in the year 1984, Kyle finds that the past is nothing like what he had expected. The same is true for the audience.

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Instead of having to protect Sarah, he finds himself being protected by her. A Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) was sent back to her when she was nine years old, and has been her guardian ever since. She knows all about the future, and she's been training her entire life to try to stop Judgment Day from happening, and to kill any evil Terminators that the future Skynet sends her way. Okay! Now this is the way to reboot the Terminator franchise! Use a previously established strong female character, make her even tougher, and take all of the audience's preconceived notions and throw them out the window. I'm on-board.

Unfortunately, this isn't something that the filmmakers - including director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) - want to do for more than a few scenes. Soon enough, John and Sarah find themselves traveling to 2017, the date of Judgment Day in the new timeline, in order to stop an operating system, "Genisys," which will reveal itself as Skynet after officially launching. The funny part? It's been invented by Danny Dyson (Dayo Okeniyi), the son of Miles Dyson (Courtney B. Vance) - the character who invented the precursor to Skynet in Terminator 2. Our heroes have to blow up a big corporate building in order to stop it. Sound familiar?

I'll give Terminator Genisys credit for moving at such a pace that it's tough to even think about these sorts of things while it's playing. We're moving from place to place, time to time, and action scene to action scene so quickly that just keeping up is enough mental work to easily ignore the fact that we are, essentially, just doing something we've already done. What's that called? Déjà vu? Is there a glitch in the Matrix? Wait, wrong movie franchise.

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