After two lackluster sequels, the Terminator franchise hits the reset button by remixing the two best entries in the series into Terminator: Genisys.
Picking up during the final battle against Skynet in the future, things progress seemingly like they did in the original Terminator, with Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) being sent back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a Terminator but when he gets back, he finds things are drastically different and there’s a T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) waiting for him but Sarah and an aged Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) rescue him and explain their plan to take down Skynet before it can cause Judgement Day. The time travel mechanics are probably the most belief stretching of the series, with Kyle having alternate memories of a past he never lived because of quantum mechanic nexus fields or some such gibberish. There’s holes all over the place but if you go along with it, it’s fun and some classic sequences zig where they originally zagged while other sequences later are updated versions of scenes from Terminator and T2. If you were wondering if there was any other twist besides the fact that John Connor (Jason Clarke) is now a Terminator (it was on the goddamn poster), there’s really not. After the first act in the 80’s, John takes over as the main protagonist for the rest of movie but Jason Clarke seems to be having fun chewing scenery as the villain and it’s a nice change to have a taunting, verbiose Terminator instead of the steely, silent killers of the previous movies. His “magnetic nanobots” structure isn’t that different from the T-1000 though and he doesn’t do much to set him apart as the ultimate Terminator.
Arnold is tons of fun as the aged Terminator “Pops”, who rescues Sarah when she is a young girl and basically becomes her adopted father, training her to be ready when Kyle and the evil Terminator arrives in the 80’s. He’s still got the great deadpan humor that he perfected in T2, a new catchphrase of “Old not Obsolete” and there’s a great running joke where he creepily tries to smile. The Kyle/Sarah dynamic is trying to be more of a banter filled, Moonlightingesque relationship but it never really clicks. Jai Courtney doesn’t have enough charisma or comedy chops to be able to go back and forth with Emilia Clarke, who is a fun mix between innocent 80’s waitress Sarah and bad ass T2 Sarah. JK Simmons is also fun as a cop who witnesses the events of the 80’s and spends the next 30 years obsessing over time travel but I would have loved to see so much more from him.
The action never reaches the peaks of T2’s LA river chase or the T1 police shootout but it’s well done and fun overall. The Terminator vs Terminator battles get a little too crazy as they slam each other through multiple walls and you kind of lose what is happening and there’s a helicopter duel that pushes the believability to the limit. The opening future battle is fantastic and such a welcome return to the dark, purple laser filled battles that were missing in Terminator: Salvation. The bus sequence on the Golden Gate Bridge is excellent as well and everything in the 80’s is a fantastic mashup of T1 and T2, with the T-1000 and the original evil Arnold both active and pursuing the trio.
If you’re a Terminator fan, this is the best sequel since T2. It’s a fun summer blockbuster with the welcome return of Arnold and puts a fun spin on the two best entries in the series before spinning off into it’s own thing.