Unless you have been living under a rock, every movie fan knows that “Terminator : Genisys” has been reviled by critics over the past several weeks. The general consensus of this condemnation perceives this film's biggest problem is the undoing of events established in the first two classic films “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2 : Judgment Day”. The critics said T5 got it terribly, terribly wrong. Yet, if “ Terminator Genisys” did such an injustice to the Terminator franchise, why would the original creator James Cameron praise the film as the true sequel to T1 & T2? That's because “Terminator Genisys” actually got it right.
At it's core, James Cameron’s Terminator films were all about the desire to change the future, the attempt to change one’s fate. In “The Terminator”, Skynet sent a cybernetic organism back in time to try to change the future, to win a war it already lost. In “Terminator 2 : Judgment Day”, Sarah & John Connor also try to alter the future by preventing a nuclear war that will destroy human civilization as we know it. Yet the non-Cameron sequels “Terminator 3 : Rise of the Machines” and “Terminator : Salvation” ignore this common “there is no fate” thread and both films suffered as a result. Happily, “Terminator : Genisys” has returned the franchise to its roots and should be applauded for it.
The first half of “Terminator : Genisys” gives fans everything they could possibly want. Iconic events only previously imagined in the minds of Terminator fanatics, audiences got to witness an extended battle that took place during the future war, listen to John Connor inspire his troops, gawk at the uncovered time machine and watch both the T-800 and Kyle Reese go back through time to 1984. Then suddenly a new Skynet appears! Possibly able to transcend multiple dimensions, it kills all the future soldiers and infects the leader of the resistance John Connor. This act is a design to change the future once again. In another desperate attempt to avoid its fate, instead of sending T-1000 to kill John Connor during the timeline of T2, Skynet sends the T-1000 prototype to kill Sarah Connor as a child. And to secure Skynet's existence, because the more you meddle with time the more volatile the future can become, the infected John Connor himself is also sent back to establish employment at Cyberdyne to make sure Skynet is indeed born.
Now unlike the events of T2, someone else in the resistance other than John Connor must send a reprogrammed T-800 to protect Sarah. That reprogrammed T-800 not only successfully keeps her safe, but helps stop the T-1000 years later all while preventing the original T-800's chip and arm from being found in the hydraulic press at Cyberdyne in 1984... ultimately preventing Judgment Day (unbeknownst to Sarah). With the end of the world averted, now it was up to the infected John Connor to ensure the birth of Skynet would occur just the same, restarting the timer on a new Judgment Day.
The story is wonderful, and in the true vein of classic Terminator films before it. Critics need to understand that changing the timeline does not erase the first two Terminator films, but builds on top of it. It honors it, in a constant struggle between man and machine, and fate.
Unfortunately, while this film exceeds with ideas, it lacks on execution. “Terminator Genisys” is far, far from a perfect movie and pales in comparison to the James Cameron entries before it. The first half of the film was extremely genuine and exciting but as time went on, the second half came across far less creative and sluggish. Casting Jason Clarke as John Connor was a surprisingly terrific choice and Arnold Schwarzenegger once again feels perfect in this role, yet the casting of Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor was less than inspired. And while director Alan Taylor tries his best, he is no James Cameron. Taylor’s action scenes are entertaining, but nowhere near Cameron’s tensely kinetic style.
However, Alan Taylor still has given us the best Terminator film in over 20 years... a film good enough to have this fan consider removing both “Terminator 3” and “Terminator : Salvation” from his blu-ray shelf and replacing them both with this latest installment. For Terminator fans, it took quite a long while, but "I'll be back" was finally a promise kept.