Terminator: Salvation failed to successfully reboot the franchise in 2009, earning back just over 60% of its budget at the box office. Perhaps this attempt at re-rebooting the Terminator films should have been titled Terminator: Placenta rather than Terminator Genisys, as it is more like an afterbirth than a rebirth.
It isn’t the fault of the cast, who do the best they can with the overly convoluted storyline. Nor can the problems with this film be placed on the special effects which just get better and better with the Terminator films. The problems here begin with James Cameron having no involvement in the making of this movie. He’s far too busy writing, producing and directing three upcoming sequels to Avatar. Then comes the fact that by playing with time travel the writers were able to make any changes they wanted in the Terminator universe.
That is why the upcoming Judgment Day in this movie will take place in 2017, not 1997. The film opens in 2029 with the human resistance, led by “John Connor” (Jason Clarke) about to take on Skynet in what should be the final battle. Their plan is to destroy Skynet once and for all. Skynet’s plan to foil this is to send a Terminator, T-800 model, back to 1984 to kill “Sarah Connor” (Emilia Clarke) to prevent John from being born. But the “Guardian” (Schwarzenegger) is there to work with Sarah to stop his lookalike. He’s been there protecting Sarah since she was nine.
In order to protect his mother in the past, in 2029 John sends “Kyle” back in time to protect her. Kyle, who’d been rescued from a terminator by John when Kyle was just a kid is fiercely loyal to the leader of the Resistance. Kyle arrives just in time to nearly be killed by a T-1000 (Byung-hun) that Sarah and the Guardian have been expecting. Knowing that Judgement Day is coming up in 2017 rather than 1997, Sarah and Kyle will travel through time to just before the event will happen. The Guardian can’t travel through time with them, so he will meet them there.
Confused yet? Making a story complicated doesn’t necessarily make it a good story. There are so many attempts to use twists and turns, along with muddling the timeline that it’s almost too much to follow without serious cognitive effort. Having decent performances, great visuals and the amazing J. K. Simmons as a bit of comic relief just isn’t enough to make this movie work.
Given that this is only the second really big film directed by Alan Taylor, it’s disappointing in the wake of his surprisingly good Thor: The Dark World that this potential gem turned out so poorly. Considering that playing the Terminator (now the Guardian) is the role Arnold Schwarzenegger was born to play, he’s more than up to the task. Give the filmmakers credit for developing a plausible storyline to explain how he ages during the film. The nice surprise was Emilia Clarke, best known for her work on the TV show Game of Thrones. She does an outstanding job in a role that isn’t as easy as it may sound.
Terminator Genisys isn’t an awful film. It’s a decent action flick. But considering the brilliance of the original, it just isn’t what it could and should have been.