The thirty year old franchise about killer cyborgs from the future is back for its fifth installment, but is it a worthy addition to the already dense mythology of this universe?  There’s no better time like the present to find out.

Terminator Genisys begins by telling the story of the events that set the first movie in motion more than three decades ago.  In the year 2029, Skynet sends a terminator 800 series, model 101 back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) before she can give birth to her son John (Jason Clarke), who will become the leader of the human resistance against the machines.  In response, the humans send back a lone soldier, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to protect Sarah.  And that’s about where the similarities end, as Kyle witnesses an event just before he goes back that changes everything.  When he arrives in 1984, the Sarah he finds is not weak and helpless as she was in the first movie, as a matter of fact, her first action is to save Kyle’s life.  She then explains to him that the timelines have been changed somehow and that she’s actually been under the protection of a terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) since the age of nine.  The Sarah that he was going back to protect does not exist.  They then work together to try and prevent Judgment Day from ever happening.  Confused yet?  No?  Good.

So, it’s pretty well accepted that when it comes to these movies, it’s best not to think too much of the time-travel element, lest you make your head explode with all of the paradoxes created, which brings me to one of the major issues I have with this movie.  Time-travel is EVERYWHERE.  Characters are moving backward through the time-stream, then a completely different set of characters are going backward, then characters travel into the future.  The whole premise of the first three movies was that there was just enough energy to send back two things, the assassin, and the guardian.  It kept things simple, personal, a one-on-one conflict between a ruthless killing machine, and the person/reprogrammed cyborg trying to stop it.  In this movie, there are (no joke) T-1000 terminators at at least three different points in the timeline, plus the two T-800 “Ah-nuld” models, as well as a third surprise (I chose a different version of the poster to avoid spoiling it).  When you add Kyle into the mix, that’s at least seven different beings that have gone back through time.  It’s too much to keep track of, and it’s less believable as a whole.

The other major issue that I have with this movie is that it effectively erases all of the other movies that came before it in the franchise, which in turn obliterates Sarah’s transformation from a helpless character in The Terminator to the supreme badass that we find in T2: Judgment Day.  Her changing throughout the first movie is what made her an endearing character.  Growing into the militant soldier that we find in the second movie was on her terms, no one else’s.  She knew she had to prepare for what was coming and train her son at the same time.  In Genisys, that choice and transformation is taken away from her.  She’s a strong character because the T-800 raised her that way after the death of her parents.  Please note, this is more an attack on the story rather than Emilia Clarke.  I was pleasantly surprised with her portrayal of Sarah.  She is tough, she is strong, and she is… much shorter than I initially thought she was.

This of course, brings me to the acting.  As I mentioned, Emilia Clarke is perhaps the bright spot here.  She’s not quite Linda Hamilton, but she is much closer than I thought we were going to get for this movie.  Arnold… is Arnold.  There’s really no other way to describe it.  He’s at his best when he plays a massive cyborg hell-bent on destruction.  I think he gets far more lines in this movie than he ever has before, but he’s able to pull it off relatively well.  Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese is a little bit of a stretch.  When Michael Biehn played the character in 1984, he was skinny, wiry, he had a tremendous sense of urgency about him, and you believed he was from a terrible future where people scratched and clawed for everything they could get, Courtney is simply too well-fed and muscular to be believable in this role, and his delivery is a little wooden as well.

The action is about what you would expect from a Terminator movie.  However, it kept ramping up and up, until it became a little over the top in the latter portions of the movie, but overall it was fun to watch the monstrous metal killing machines try to find new and ever more explosive ways to try and destroy each other.

Overall, this is not a bad movie, per se, but it really does not hold up very well to its predecessors.  The self-contained story here is pretty jumbled, and it also muddies the waters of the films that came before it.  However, solid performances from two of the three leads keep it from being completely terrible.  I do genuinely feel like it will appeal more to newcomers than to those of us already familiar with the franchise.

The Verdict for Terminator Genisys:
3/5 – Meh…

Until next time,
Stay nerdy, my friends.

Upcoming reviews:
Secret Wars #4
Ultimate End #3 (Secret Wars Tie-In)
Secret Wars Journal #3
March of the Crabs, Volume 1: The Crabby Condition


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