Let's take a moment to review the fictional timeline of the first four Terminator movies. The Terminator in 1984 is about a killer cyborg from the future going back in time to kill Sarah Connor, the woman who would give birth to John Connor who would later lead a human resistance once self-sufficient automated killer machines led by the supercomputer Skynet take over the world, so that Skynet could erase John's existence and win the war. Terminator 2 in 1991 repeats this premise, but with John Connor existing as a preteen boy, making him the target for another killer cyborg. Terminator 3 in 2003 repeats that premise again, but with John Connor as a young adult. Terminator Salvation in 2009 is set in the future when the machines have risen. Basically, you have four movies that take place in chronological order, from before the rise of Skynet to after.
So where does Terminator Genisys in 2015 fit into the timeline? Is it another sequel, or something else? Well, the answer might somewhat surprise you. You see, the movie does look like a sequel at first, because it starts in the future in the era of Skynet's rule. But then the movie goes into the plot of the first Terminator movie, when John Connor (Jason Clarke) and the human resistance discover that Skynet's forces have a time machine that they will use to send a cyborg back in time to kill Sarah Connor in 1984. To stop that, John sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect Sarah. After that, there's a scene that looks like a refilming of a specific scene from the first Terminator movie, before the events that follow incorporate elements from the first two Terminator movies, not just the first one. So it looks like this sequel is also a remake.
But then it gets even more startling. When Kyle finally meets Sarah, she is not a waitress who initially has no knowledge of the horrific future that is to come. Rather, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is a woman who already knows what's going on. In fact, she is accompanied by a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who acts as her guardian, whom she refers to as a father figure. After a series of action scenes, Kyle finally gets the explanation for all of this. The time warp may have sent him to 1984 Los Angeles, but it's not to exact same 1984 L.A. from the first Terminator movie. Kyle has basically ended up in a different parallel timeline, not a previous point in the timeline we're familiar with. You know what that means? This sequel/remake is also a reboot of sorts, because we pretty much have to ignore the events of the previous four Terminator movies.
Hence, the trio of Kyle, Sarah, and her robotic guardian work to prevent the rise of Skynet in a new series of events. In this new timeline, the tech company called Cyberdyne that has built Skynet is not in Los Angeles, but San Francisco. That company has developed an app called Genisys that would manage people's lives on mobile phones, tablets, and other devices. However, that same company is also applying similar technology to automate military defense, which is why Cyberdyne must be stopped at all costs. To make things interesting, John Connor does appear in this part of the movie, so it's not like he's a minor character who remains in the later part of the timeline. Hence, expect a scene involving a sort-of family reunion, if you get my drift.
I'm not really talking about the action scenes in Terminator Genisys simply because it's your standard explosive Hollywood action that pretty much entertains much of the audience at any time. Just know that it's not terrible. The reason this review focuses on plot is because I found myself spending the first half of the movie wrapping my head around the multiple time paradoxes while following the story. While this does prevent my final rating for this movie from being higher than it is, it doesn't lower the rating into the territory of bad quality. It's not like I spent the entire movie figuring out the story. Once I determined that this movie is a sequel/remake/reboot, I allowed myself to enjoy the rest of the ride.
Now let me talk about the Terminator series again, this time to discuss the quality of Terminator Genisys versus the previous four movies. For me, the first two Terminator movies remain the best in the series. The third one is OK, at least in my opinion, and the fourth one is disappointing. Easily, Terminator Genisys fits right in the middle, as a movie that is not quite the greatness of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but it's still a step above Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and definitely way better than Terminator Salvation. It is true that, as some people might notice, Arnold Schwarzenegger is more of a supporting character in this movie than a main character, but at least the other cast members do just fine and the story is good regardless of whether Schwarzenegger is in this one. That's why I still enjoyed Terminator Genisys.
As for what a sixth Terminator would present, I have no idea, given that this movie proves that one can change the past, not just the future, which opens up so many possibilities. But as long as it's entertaining, who cares?
Anthony's Rating: 7/10
(Review originally published at http://www.anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/T/Terminator_Genisys.htm)