John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.
“Terminator Genisys” thankfully returns Arnold to the James Cameron universe and atmosphere created in the first two movies. I found with “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” that it was pretty much a rehash of parts 1 & 2 and instead of having bad Arnie or the T-1000 from part 2, we were given a state-of-the-art killing machine, a female Terminator called the T-X. And therein lay the problem. She was so technically advanced that she could have killed obsolete Arnie in a heartbeat but lo-and-behold, he manages to survive everything she throws at him and even in one scene, the kitchen sink, I kid you not and the less we say about “Terminator Salvation” the better.
“Terminator Genisys” finds us in familiar territory. Judgment Day has already occurred and after having taken down Skynet, John Connor (Jason Clarke), the leader of the resistance and his right-hand man, Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), discover Skynet’s secret weapon: a time machine but before they can reach it, Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to 1984 to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) so that John will never exist and ultimately, take down Skynet. Learning of this, Kyle volunteers to go back to protect Sarah and after John informs him of what to expect, once he reaches his destination, nothing is at it seems.
Instead of a fragile young woman in need of his protection, he meets a strong and tenacious Sarah Connor, one who has been expecting his arrival with a little help from her guardian, a reprogrammed Terminator whom she calls Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Sarah discloses that when she was 9 years old, two Terminators were sent back in time to kill her and in the process, her parents were murdered and after having won the battle, Pops became her guardian and began training her for the future to come. Naturally, this complicates things for Kyle as his mission was initially pretty straightforward, save Sarah at any cost but now, both their futures are uncertain.
With new memories now lodged in his brain, a result of the events transpiring in the present, thereby altering a future he once knew and a past he never had, he convinces Sarah to travel forward in time with him to the year 2017 where “Genisys”, an impending new operating system that will be used worldwide, from phones to computers and military applications, is about to come online. With no time to lose, they plan their attack only to be visited by John Connor, claiming he is there from the future to lead them to victory but when the Terminator suspects something is not right, the trio must figure out a way to get to Skynet before it becomes self-aware and begins Judgment Day.
Schwarzenegger is back in top-form as the grizzled Terminator and both Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke effectively pull off the roles initially played by Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton respectively. Ms. Clarke exhibits the physique that Ms. Hamilton so effectively displayed in “Terminator 2″ while Jason Clarke is so thoroughly nuanced in his performance, that you can never tell what his true motivations are. J.K. Simmons appears as Det. O’Brien, a cop who encountered both Kyle and Reese in an alternative past, when the original Terminator was trying to kill Sarah and he brings a lot of welcome comedic moments to the table.
Director Alan Taylor, who has helmed various episodes of “Game of Thrones” and the far-superior Marvel sequel “Thor: The Dark World,” successfully infuses elements of the first film with this new iteration. One of the best moments comes early on when we witness the Terminator back in 1984, about to eliminate the three punks he killed in the first film but before he has a chance to do so, he hears a familiar voice and turns around to see an older version of himself. Suffice to say, what transpires after this point alters the timeline that we have come to know, effectively changing the future and giving both Sarah and Kyle an optimistic outlook, something they never had before.
With the Terminator rights reverting back to James Cameron in 2018 and after the disappointing “Terminator Salvation,” Paramount have planned a new trilogy of movies, depending on how well this one does but based on the audience reaction of the screening I attended and my own love for this new incarnation, I hope they will get the opportunity to complete this trilogy and bring closure to a timeline that has been left open since 1984.
In theaters July 1st
For more info about James visit his website at www.IrishFilmCritic.com