After 31 years, four movies, two classics, one almost ran and one Rotten Tomatoes reject, it was only a matter of time until Hollywood had pushed the “Terminator” franchise too far and had to cannibalize itself and reinvent the story.
In “Terminator: Genisys” after time travel has landed Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to her future but his past (Huh?) Detective O’Brien (J.K. Simmons) tries to wrap his head around the situation.
“I know whatever’s going on here must be really, really complicated,” he says.
“We’re here to stop the end of the world,” says Sarah.
“I can work with that.”
Hopefully so can the audience. The fourth “Terminator” movie warns us time and time again not to pay too much attention to the plot, which is a confounding mess of time travel that completely rewrites the Connor mythology.
“Everything has changed,” says Sarah, “the 1984 John sent you to no longer exists,” which is essentially sci fi screenwriter lingo for, We’ve changed most everything you thought you knew about the “Terminator” folklore. Reese put it in simpler terms, “Time travel makes my head hurt.”
The action begins in 2029, years after Judgement Day when artificial intelligence system Skynet became sentient and tried to destroy humanity. Resistance hero John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends his right hand man (and son) Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, make sure she survives and in turn will live to give birth to John who will save humanity. It’s a bit of a Möbius strip, but at least it is a familiar one.
Once Reese transports back in time there’s a glitch and the past has changed. Lethal T-1000 Terminators are waiting for him and Sarah is already a warrior aided by her man-machine companion, the T-800 model Terminator (Arnold “I’m old but not obsolete” Schwarzenegger). “There’s a new mission,” says Sarah, “if the past can change so can the future.” The plan is to destroy Genisys, a computer operating system that will link everything—phones to tablets, tablets to cars… it will run the whole shebang—and will enable Skynet. And you thought having to change your Apple passwords all the time was a pain. Throwing a wrench into the job is (ALMOST A SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY) an unwelcome and unexpected family reunion.
There’s enough time travel here for three regular movies, but “Terminator: Genisys” is no regular movie. It’s a summer blockbuster meant to breathe life back into the silvery skeletoned franchise. It bigger, louder and dumber than ever before with a big action sequence every ten minutes and an ending that guarantees a sequel. The heretical meddling with the story aside, “Terminator” fans will likely enjoy watching the relentless T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) scenes, old Arnold going mano a mano with a younger version of himself or the relationship between Sarah and the T-800 (although she calls him “Pops” too many times for my taste) but endless exposition—this is a story that needs some explaining—drags the middle part of the movie down.
“Terminator Genisys” is robotic in its presentation of the story. In an effort to make something new out of the pieces of the past, the movie relies on twists and time travel theatrics to push the plot instead of an actual coherent story. Reese’s past may be O’Brien’s present and Connor’s future, but the time spent watching this movie is two hours of our time spent in almost total confusion.