Another six years have passed since the last Terminator sequel. Terminator Salvation wasn’t necessarily a box office failure but it was the least performing film in the franchise to date. It didn’t generate a lot of interest or demand in seeing the planned new trilogy move forward. Furthermore, the ever-present legal problems once again popped up and quickly killed off any ideas of a sequel.
Once again, years of rumors of sequels circulated Hollywood while the rights went up for auction. Arnold Schwarzenegger was often mentioned, now that he had left politics and returned to the more welcoming film industry. Even a title, Terminator 3000, was announced at one point. However, nothing became firm until the deal was closed in 2012 when the brother and sister team of Megan and David Ellison purchased the rights for $20 million. Everything was off the table and they started clean with a new script. Arnold was soon announced as the confirmed headlining main star. But was the audience really still there and did they want to see the now 67 year old actor return to the role he made famous some 31 years ago?
Most fans will agree that the first two films in the franchise are the best and stand as classics in the sci-fi and adventure genres. Terminator 3 suffered from being more of the same while Terminator Salvation had plenty of action but little of anything else. Now, in 2015, we have been given Terminator Genisys. And like its predecessors, it takes the timelines and plot points established in the original two films and twist them into something of a mix between homage and reboot.
It starts off in the year 2029 and John Connor is now played by Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes). We are witnessing the final attack on Skynet as the resistance is ready to end the war and reclaim Earth. But Skynet is once step again and the Terminator T-800 is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor. John’s friend, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, I, Frankenstein), volunteers to go back and save her. Sound familiar? Indeed, established territory so far. However, as Kyle begins to travel back in time, he witnesses a mysterious figure (Matt Smith, Doctor Who) attack John, saying “You didn’t think it would be that easy did you?”
What follows is an alternate sequence of events featuring the T-800 and John Connor arriving in 1984. However, this time around, we have an already militarized Sarah Connor (Emelia Clarke, Game of Thrones) and her guardian “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) very much aware of the original timeline. Throw in a T-1000 and a revelation that this new guardian saved Sarah from an attack in 1973, we now know that Skynet has sent more than one Terminator back in an attempt to save itself.
Time travel films are tricky and can get convoluted very quickly. This is where Terminator Genisys suffers and will probably frustrate some. However, I have to admit, I found the idea more exciting than the last two films. They changed up events simply to help tell the story they wanted to tell. Here, events are being changed as part of a bigger and, admittedly, more complicated overall story. Yet, here is where the film also suffers. There are too many unanswered questions. I understand that there are already two sequels planned, with the first supposedly arriving in 2017. And the mid-credits sequence clearly sets the stage for those films with Matt Smith playing a potentially bigger part in the story going forward. But many will be frustrated by what they will perceive as an incomplete film.
It always seems to come back that the first two films told a complete story and everything else really seems unnecessary. That said, Terminator Genisys is my favorite since Terminator 2. Even James Cameron is praising the film, stating it is the unofficial third film in the franchise. Indeed, it really does ignore the last two films. While some will groan that Arnold is back, I think he is more entertaining here than he was in Terminator 3. And I enjoyed seeing the series of events from the first two films play out differently, even if it was, ironically, a little predictable at first. The action sequences were great and I thought Emelia Clarke was fun as Sarah Connor. But she isn’t as good as Linda Hamilton was in the role, and that supports the general response in that the series should have ended in 2001.
I’m definitely in for the sixth film but before we buy our tickets, I suspect the franchise could be on shaky ground. Based on early numbers, Terminator Genisys won’t win the box office and might even be the least performing film in the franchise since 1991. That may not be enough to stop the sequel, and I hope it doesn’t, but it certainly doesn’t help this aging franchise.
Don’t let the naysayers dissuade you from giving this film a try. Having revisited the entire franchise over the last two weeks, Terminator Gensiys is my third favorite in the series. It’s not without its faults but it doesn’t disrespect the past. It has simply revised it for a new audience and created a new timeline, setting forth an unknown future.
If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen any of the trailers, I would suggest you don’t and just go into the movie blind. One of the biggest mistakes of the marketing department was to give away a plot point that should have been left a surprise. Another case of Hollywood giving away too much. Terminator Genisys is a fun, it not overly convoluted, summer flick that I enjoyed probably more than I should have.