Let’s make it clear from the start: Terminator Genisys is the best Terminator 2: Judgment Day sequel yet. Yes, that’s correct, since the Terminator franchise already had a pretty great sequel to the original classic, The Terminator, as opposed to that other really old dinosaur franchise that came back from the dead just a few weeks ago. Jurassic World didn’t have that luxury, and as such, it didn’t have that much to live up to after two average sequels. But talk to anyone my age (not that old, not that young) about T2 and you’ll see why we remember it fondly.
Which is why those two underwhelming, unnecessary and borderline offensive sequels, the funny-but-irrelevant Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the god-awful Terminator Salvation, are best kept unspoken about. And also why this new Terminator film promises to pretend those two bad films never happened, by appealing to our nostalgia for the first two, groundbreaking, James Cameron’s helmed action extravaganzas.
Terminator Genysis starts in the future, where Judgement Day has already happened, with our heroes John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), preparing a final assault against the machines. Everything goes as planned, and the humans win the war, but as a last resort, and exactly how it occurred in the original film, the machines send a Terminator (an unstoppable, human looking cyborg in case you haven’t been paying attention) back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor and thus, prevent John ever from being born. The humans follow suit, sending Kyle back in time to protect Sarah and… to impregnate her, thus giving birth to John Connor himself. Until then, the story seems familiar enough, time loop confusions and all.
But that’s as familiar as it gets with Genysis, as it turns out, 80’s Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is not the scared little teenager we remember her to be, she’s a full blown warrior, who’s already had enough protection as it is, via a Terminator who’s been with her ever since she was a child, played by the original star Arnold Schwarzenegger. So basically, Sarah was raised by a Terminator, and she has known about her fate for a long time now, and knows about the Skynet plot to assassinate her before the plot of the 80’s film even happens. Kyle is obviously confused (as is the audience, trust me, it’s as confusing as it reads), but his loyalty to John makes him follow Sarah wherever she goes. And they do go to places, forwards in time even, to try and “finally” stop Skynet from ever happening. There’s also a T1000 (the liquid metal, Terminator 2 version) gunning for them in the 80’s (so this is most certainly not the same 80’s we saw in James Cameron original), and an even more advanced machine waiting for them in the not too distant future.
What happens next will be left unsaid, as I don’t want to spoil anything (though the biggest twist is already revealed in the trailer. Blame the marketing) but there’s big action, great chases, and some crazy Terminator VS Better Terminator action. All encompassed in a convoluted, confusing and illogical story, that services fun over sense.
Another, more appropriate title for the film would have been Terminator Remix. This film tries really hard to take every element we liked about the first two films in the franchise. Arnold is back, in the role that made him the superstar that he is, and it is still the role he was born to play. We are brought back to the original setting, shown fights with the menacing liquid metal robots, and even play the original theme score every once in a while. There’s funny one liners, Emilia Clarke does a fine enough Sarah Connor (Jai Courtney doesn’t really do much, but he doesn’t really have to), and there’s a lot of creative ways these new machines put up a fight.
When studios want to relaunch franchises, they either do a remake or a reboot. Many people might have thought that remaking the franchise would have been a better idea, but at least if you’re going to go the way of the reboot, it’s commendable that the filmmakers on this one went as crazy and in such a ballsy direction as they went. By going back in time to where it all began, and changing the events of the original, they can use the same foundation and build something new with it. Again, a lot of the film doesn’t make much sense, what with time jumps, time loops, and insane plot holes, and mostly pretending that all of the previous films never happened. But that still doesn’t detract us from the sense of fun of seeing old characters in familiar settings, but with new timelines altering the events, and thus, erasing the sour taste left by poor sequels, and leaving us with nothing more and nothing less than a fun time at the movies.
The Terminator franchise has always toyed with the concept of fate. The idea of destiny, and if we have any say in changing our future, is a central theme. Director Alan Taylor and his team have successfully rebooted the franchise, but at great cost, as none of the heart and charm of the original two classics has remained. What we have left is a very confusing movie, sort of like a Frankenstein monster of a Terminator film, but still a very entertaining one, a return to form for Arnie, and a nostalgic trip down memory lane. Perhaps in the future someone will come back in time and prevent any sequels after number two from happening, but as it stands, it’s a nice way to reignite interest on Terminators, and it’s a fitting beginning to what is planned as a new trilogy.
Terminator Genysis opens this Friday July 3rd on cinemas across the UK