It’s easy enough to make fun of the studio film du jour since everything we’re offered (with rare exception) is a sequel, a reboot or the same-ol same-ol. For instance a seemingly original Pixar flick starts out promising with a touch of pop psychology but within the second reel it’s just a bunch of toons running away from things that are falling down, not unlike San Andreas.
What’s not to like about Terminator Genisys? The CGI effects are outstanding, and the narrative comes up with a logical explanation for how the one-time familiar characters are now operating within an alternative timeline. And two more words: Emilia Clarke.
Technically while this is the fifth movie feature based on James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984), there was also a television show called The Sarah Connor Chronicles, plus a couple of theme park rides. Am I leaving any comic books or fan fiction out? Probably.
As influential as the Cameron films (he directed the first two) were they are still last place in the Cameron cannon of that era, which includes The Abyss, Aliens, and True Lies. T2: Judgment Day (1991) seems quaint by today’s standards, although ironically both of Cameron’s Terminator films were rated R and Terminator Genisys, which has the same amount of weaponry, (brief and modest) nudity and general mayhem, is a mere PG-13.
The best part of T2: JD occurs at the end of the second act. We witness a nuclear bomb going off and before the shock wave can reverberate people miles away (including Linda Hamilton) are burned to a crisp leaving only charred bones. This is how Terminator Genisys starts, sans the burnt humans. Having just defeated Skynet, John Connors (a scarred Jason Clarke, no relation to Emilia) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to prevent; well you know where this is going. Emilia Clarke brings freshness to femme action hero Sarah Connor, obviously more petite than Charlize Theron’s Furiosa, yet still packing a half-pipe punch. (By the way, Mad Max: Fury Road is still the best action studio film so far this year.) Clarke, like director Alan Taylor is a veteran of Game of Thrones.
When Reese arrives in the past he meets one, two, three Terminators. Two of these are Arnold Schwarzenegger look-a-likes yet one of those can be considered one of the good guys. Subsequently Reese and Connor travel to 2017 to complete their mission. Here they find Arnold/Terminator with gray hair. Another of the film’s conceits is that while the Terminator’s CPU battery will last over a century their exodermises age like human flesh. J.K. Simmons and Matt Smith co-star, the latter already familiar with time travel since he’s one of the many actors to have played Dr. Who. Lot’s of stuff blows up.
Maybe my favorite part was the end. After about a minute of the credit roll another sequence began and 90-percent of the people who had stood up and started to leave like robots when the screen when dark now stood like visitors to the Statue of Liberty, crammed along the two stairways on the side, trying to grok the hint of what the sequel entails. People, the proper theater etiquette is to sit and watch the entire credit roll to any film. But I am a film critic, not the film police.
When the film finally ended, credit roll included, there was a handful of people left in the Marque’s IMAX theatre. Oddly, the silhouette on the row behind me belonged to this guy who I hadn’t seen since June of 2001. Talk about time travel. In a low gravely voice I asked “Are you so-and-so?” He turned around surprised and looked at me in the near darkness. Yes. I replied “I have come from the past to see you in the present.”
— Michael Bergeron