Terminator Genisys Is a Chip Off the Old Block

On the eve of mankind’s final victory over Skynet, John Connor – leader of the Human resistance – preps for the real battle.  Knowing that Skynet will send a Terminator into the past in order to assassinate his mother before she births him, he sends Kyle Reese – his second in command and, secretly, his father-to-be – back to 1984 to save her.

But nothing is as it was supposed to be.  Moments before Reese leaves for the past, Skynet infects John Connor with a reconstructive virus that transforms him into a Next Gen Terminator under the machines’ control.

When Reese arrives in the past, he doesn’t find a helpless teenager in need of rescuing, but a battle-hardened soldier who had already survived one assassination attempt and had been prepping for his arrival for decades with the help of her own T-800.  All the while, Reese experiences memories of a lifetime he never lived – one where Skynet had not yet assumed control and Judgment Day had to happen.

I cannot express just how pumped I was for this movie going in.  While admittedly not quite at Age of Ultron or The Force Awakens levels of hype, it was still pretty high up there.  It was one of my most anticipated movies of the year, a long-in-coming sequel to two of my overall favorite movies and exactly the kind of movie that I’ve wanted to come out of this franchise for well over a decade now.

In these regards, the movie fully lives up to the high expectations that its premise – and excellent (if spoiler-ridden) trailer – set up for it.  It brings the franchise full circle by sending us back to the setting of the first movie.  It gives us exciting new twists on everything Skynet (both in terms of an amped up T-1000 and the newly Terminated John Connor).  It changes everything that we’ve ever known about the franchise in ways that were both wholly unexpected but fully realistic.

It was exciting, well written and even gave us a Sarah Connor that was a worthy successor to Linda Hamilton’s take on the character.  It had everything and then some and I simply cannot understand why it has received such universally negative reviews from critics across the country.  It is really that good.

Does this mean that it was a perfect movie by any means?  No, of course not.  The mid-movie time-jump to 2015 – seemingly “just because” – is an out-of-place setting change that serves as an over-written continuation to what was already an excellent action romp.  It would have been more than enough to stick with a Judgment Day-style Sarah Connor, fresh off the boat Kyle Reese and an increasingly glitchy T-800 (named Pops) duke it out against a vintage T-800 in 1984.

I also get why Steve Jobs – and, by extension, Apple-style branding – is the current go-to for tech-based villains, but it’s gotten old real fast.  It was tolerable in Kingsmen because it was purely surface-level aesthetics.  It’s obnoxious in Terminator because it feels like a needlessly low blow in a franchise that has bigger – and more interesting – things to worry about.

Although not quite as big an offender in this regard as ChappieTerminator Genisys is severely overwritten.  There’s enough material for two movies crammed into a single two-hour chunk of time.  We have Reese returning to a radically altered 1984 and teaming up with a shockingly martial Sarah Connor and the protective Pops, but we also have the jump to contemporary LA where a newly roboticized John Connor ensures Skynet’s creation in our present.  Rather than letting the two ideas breathe in their own movies, they’re crammed into a single film and rushed through as if the inevitable sequels are where it’s really at.

In this regard, Terminator Genisys is like a far superior version of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.  Both are far more interesting it setting up possible sequels and spin-offs than they are in crafting the movie that they actually have to work with.  The difference between them is that Terminator Genisys still succeeds in giving us a fully realized story (even if it is overly crammed with plot points and narrative leaps), while The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was basically just an advertisement for movies that ultimately never came to be.

So although it’s something of a mixed bag, Terminator Genisys is every bit the summer blockbuster that you’ve been waiting to see.  Sure, it’s not nearly the movie that Fury Road or Jurassic World was, but few are.  It’s a fun, action-packed sequel with a great premise and awesome explosions that’s bound to get even more people to care about the first exceptional instalments to the franchise. Overall, I give it a solid 8 out of 10.

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