Having heard so many different things about this movie in advance, I approached TERMINATOR: GENISYS still unsure as to whether I was about to see a "reboot" or a legitimate "sequel." Silly me. With a time-travel premise such as this, there's no reason it can't be both.
Say all four previous TERMINATORS happened (and you'd certainly want to have seen them to help make sense out of this movie--no way would you want to just hop aboard here). "Judgment Day" happened and John Connor has led the human race to victory against Skynet. Well, they're STILL going to have to actually deal with the time-travel paradox and go through the motions yet again after Skynet sends the T-800 back to 1984 to get Sarah Connor. And they've apparently been through it more than once already, as something apparently got jimmied in the DNA and everybody looks like they're played by a different actor... except, of course, for Arnold Schwarzenegger (who gets to act--and look--his real age AND keep his younger, nastier self on screen via the magic of technology).
Okay... if you don't get every tiny detail EXACTLY right, something could really screw up the past AND the present simultaneously. And that's exactly what happens. This time. So we have to go back to L.A. 1984, but we're going to have to SKIP 1997 and jump ahead to San Francisco in 2017 because now "Judgment Day" has been postponed thanks to all the time-tinkering. Remember how it looked like we might have avoided it altogether at the end of 2? And how Arnold grimly informed us that "Judgment Day is INEVITABLE!" in 3? Well, maybe it isn't. Because things have changed again and we have another chance to stop it. And there are two Kyle Reeses. And a grown John Connor gets to meet his young mother.
Now, I think I'd better slow down right about now before I give any of you the impression that I'm poking fun at the movie and/or complaining about its re-bootified "logic." Nothing could be further from the truth. When you get to play with time like this, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT and the viewer can accept or reject it as "canon" whatever his preference, and that's the beauty part. I happened to have a blast watching the old Arnold battle the young Arnold during a loving re-creation of one of the most memorable scenes from the original... having a new rendition of the T-1000 show up in the middle of THAT scenario, and having Sarah Connor know more about what was going on than Reese (not to mention her getting away with referring to the 'good' Arnold as "Pops")!!
Schwarzenegger is such an experienced hand at this that he's effortlessly fun to watch--he knows just when to play it for laughs and when to play for keeps--he embraces every viewer qualm about his being too "old" for this role and turns it to his own advantage every time.
The new Sarah Connor is Emilia Clarke from "Game of Thrones" (sorry, I'm still completely inexperienced on that front because I didn't get in on it from the beginning and as everybody's been firing off spoilers for about as long as its been on anyway) and she's terrific. The new Kyle (Jai Courtney)? Ehh... not so much (and I'd never seen his DIVERGENT/DIE HARD performances either, so I had no preconceived notions with this guy). As the new John Connor, Jason Clarke put me in mind of a deranged Quentin Tarantino for some reason... he can rally the troops, all right, but you just KNOW there's something wonky going on with him even before it happens--and he's great fun, too. Oh, and J.K. Simmons gets an amusing supporting role as a discredited, drunken "true believer" who's the laughing stock of the police but who, of course, was Right All Along.
There's plenty of familiar and new-fangled action, of course, including yet another Golden Gate Bridge showstopper. The package is quite entertaining throughout (okay, it slows down whenever Sarah and Kyle get a breather and talk it up about the ramifications of the plot), but what really put it in the plus column for me is that once the decision was made to play pure hell with TERMINATOR history that the movie backed it up and made itself account for its new logic and storyline without resorting to "having it both ways" or finding another method of cheating.
Sometimes technology itself demands a revisit to the familiar. Clearly, we'd love to know what Sherlock Holmes would have been up to had he been living in our day and age, and we'll reboot James Bond for the 21st century just as willingly. THE TERMINATOR was state of the art in 1984, but back then we certainly weren't in full mind of a coming "Internet Age" in which social media changed our way of life... and as the series delves into what is presumably the future, we'd certainly like to see the familiar mythology play out in the world as WE know it. Luckily for the TERMINATOR franchise, it can play it any way it wishes and still deliver thoughtful science fiction. NOT so luckily for the franchise... well, that's box-office and it can't be helped. I don't think we've seen the last of the Terminator, but it's likely to go into dormancy for another long spell, so take advantage of this one while you can.
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