Terminator Genisys: A Successful Reboot

Arnold's return to the role that made him famous is an unexpected gem.

This is a belated review, but I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the latest installment in one of my favorite franchises.

I was thrilled when they first announced another Terminator movie, but the the ridiculous-looking cast photos and lackluster reviews had me braced for the worst.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Terminator: Genisys was a thoroughly enjoyable film. James Cameron, creator of the franchise, gave it his blessing, calling it a worthy sequel to Judgment Day. I have to agree.

Everything Old Is New Again

The coolest thing about Genisys is that it presents us with a familiar scenario and then flips it on its head.

Genisys begins with John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) conducting the final assault on Skynet: the same one described in the first Terminator movie. They discover that Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to assassinate Sarah Connor, and Reese volunteers to go back to save her - again, just like in the first movie.

Skynet Assault John Connor and Kyle Reese assault Skynet

What Reese finds, though, is a very different Sarah than the one he expected. "Come with me if you want to live!" she barks after rescuing him.

The Terminator franchise has always told us that the future is not set. Genisys reminds us that in time travel, the past is not set either.

The Father Paradox

I can sympathize with the people who found the plot confusing, but time travel films are always confusing. I mean, just look at the first movie: Reese travels back in time to save his best friend's mother, only to become his best friend's father. As Reese says in Genisys: "Time travel makes my head hurt."

I could go on and on and on about time travel, but other people already have and that's not what this blog is about anyway.

Long story short: The time travel in Genisys worked for me. I enjoyed the nods to the earlier films, and I thought the plot held together well.

Reluctant Mama

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Linda Hamilton as the original Sarah Connor

Terminator's Sarah Connor is one of the all-time greatest Self-Rescuing Princesses. Look at any list of strong female characters, and it's likely she'll be near the top (she's #8 on AMC's list, which covers all genres, not just sci-fi/action/fantasy).

But part of what made her so interesting was that she didn't start out tough and strong. She was just a waitress who one day found herself being hunted by a killer robot. She became a badass (and a little unhinged) in a quest to save all of humanity, all the while carrying the weight of the knowledge that her son would grow up to lead the resistance. That's some character depth right there.

Compared to the original, the Sarah in Genisys (played by Emilia Clarke) is... well... there's no comparison really. She's like a cheap knockoff. But it doesn't seem entirely fair to grade her by that yardstick, so let's consider her on her own merits.

This Sarah is tough, no question. She's been groomed for combat since she was a child. She knows that she's "supposed" to become John Connor's mother, and that Reese will be his father, but part of her still resists that fate. She wants to control her own destiny. And she's still committed to stopping Skynet.

Sarah and Pops

Sarah, Reese and Pops make plans.

The most interesting part of Sarah2.0 is her relationship with "Pops", the Terminator who saved her and basically raised her. Logically, she knows he's a relentless killing machine, but he's also been the closest thing she's had to a father for half her life. It's the logical extension of the bond we saw between young John and the Terminator in Judgment Day, and their banter is sweet and at times hilarious.

"Sarah Connor, seat belt," chides Pops as they get onto a bus.

So she does have some strong points, but unlike the original Sarah - who was the hero in her own journey - Sarah2.0 is largely defined by her relationship with the men in the movie: mother, daughter, and love interest.

He's Back

Pops, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, is hands-down the best part of the movie. His lines are a mix of exposition and comic relief, but the way he carries himself and the interplay with the other characters makes him the heart of the show. "Old, not obsolete," is how he describes himself - an apt metaphor both on- and off-screen. Here's hoping we see him again.

Ratings

  • Princess Power: 3 Stars
  • Overall: 4 Stars
  • Bechdel Test: Fail

Learn about my Ratings System.

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