I don’t want to say the timelines are mashed-up in “Terminator Genisys” — Skynet’s fifth attempt to expunge rebel John Connor — but about 17 minutes in, I swear I saw Craig Robinson climb out of a hot tub and nearly get run over by Marty McFly’s DeLorean.
Yes, Arnold Schwarzenegger is baaach as everyone’s favorite T-800, this time embracing his gravitas, which is explained in the plot as the consequence of the human tissue that covers his endoskeleton. In other words, he’s been protecting Sarah Connor since she was a little girl and, well, he’s grown old. (She calls him “Pops.” Ouch!) “Old but not obsolete” is a line he utters almost as often as he works arthritic kinks from his fingers. (Might I recommend 10W40 Oil of Olay?)
Like every installment in the series that James Cameron launched in 1984 (see sidebar), the future is not pretty. But from the post-apocalyptic rabble/rubble rises a leader that threatens Skynet’s rule: John Connor. From that dark future, Connor sends back a protector to assure his own existence while Skynet sends back “terminators” to nip the threat in the bud. This time Sarah, Connor’s mother, must hop from 1984 to 2017, the eve of a universal operating system’s debut which will unleash Skynet on dependent devices. I suppose in the software vernacular, it’s the ultimate killer app.
Director Alan Taylor (“The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” “Game of Thrones”) does a competent job jockeying the timelines while paying deference to the essence that fans have come to embrace. For instance, this one’s first few minutes act as a prequel to what is a spot-on recreation of the original’s opening sequence including (the younger) Schwarzenegger’s emergence at the Griffith Observatory. The contrast in the conditions of the T-800s is remarkable.
Thrones’ Emilia Clarke does a fair job here as Sarah Connor, but the T-1000 liquid terminator trailing them, Lee Byung-hun, lacks the dimension Robert Patrick brought to the same character in T2. Likewise, Jai Courtney (“Jack Reacher,” “A Good Day to Die Hard”) doesn’t get an opportunity for his incarnation of Kyle Reese to shine. Jason Clarke as John Connor and J. K. Simmons as a vindicated detective round out the cast.
Some critics have maligned this one and to be sure, there are a lot of problems. But they are easy to overlook if you’re a fan just out for a fun ride. Arnold seems to be having a good time and, trust me, it’s contagious.
Med City Movie Guy’s rating: 4 Honks
The franchise that won’t stay terminated
Most movie fans know the basic story. Arnold is a machine (a sex machine if you ask his maid, but I won’t go there) sent back in time to kill the child who will grow up to threaten the power structure. I guess it was “Titanic” director James Cameron’s interpretation of Moses.
“The Terminator.” Cameron launched the franchise in 1984. Its premise was simple: In 2029 rebel leader John Connor sends back subordinate Kyle Reese to protect his skeptical mother-to-be Sarah Connor (the then-future ex-Mrs. Cameron, Linda Hamilton) from a very dangerous T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Reese dies but Connor manages to terminate the threat.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991). Hands-down the best film in the franchise and a great sci-fi film in its own right. This time John Connor sends back a reprogrammed T-800 (Arnold again) to protect his younger self from an even deadlier T-1000 terminator. Also from James Cameron.
“Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003). Cyberdyne, who develops Skynet, sends back a female(-ish) terminator, the T-X, to kill not just John Connor but also his fellow freedom fighters. The weakest of the series.
“Terminator Salvation.” This one starred Christian Bale as John Connor and Sam Worthington as a remorseful prisoner who donates his body to Cyberdyne and wakes 15 years later to learn he is now a machine. Nonetheless, he’s intent on not squandering his second chance. I gave this 2009 installment 3 out of 4 honks, but in retrospect, I may have been generous.