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Terminator: Genisys (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons

Written By: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier Directed By: Alan Taylor

The Shot

Terminator: Genisys hits the reset switch on the classic franchise, and the results make for a fun ride and a great summer movie.  Arnold is back, and fans should be glad of it.

The Highball

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Remixed and tasty.

Pairs Well With...


The brown bottle beer has returned to retro, and the results make for something well suited for kick-back enjoyment.

“I’m old, not obsolete.”

It was first during The Terminator that Arnold Schwarzenegger told audiences “I’ll be back,” but few could have expected that he’d still be coming back in his signature role thirty-one years later, especially given that the franchise had effectively tanked long before in the wake of Terminator: Salvation.  Even in era defined by remakes and reboots, how could that possibly work, anyway?

As it so happens, it works very well.

Terminator: Genisys assumes the first two films as canon, may or may not accept the third, and definitely ignores the fourth; in other words, it derives its universe from the court of prevailing audience opinions over time.  After quickly reminding returning audiences (and bringing new ones up to speed) about the circumstances of the franchise’s apocalypse story and establishing the relationship between the heroic John Connor (Jason Clarke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and his faithful lieutenant, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, I, Frankenstein), the movie picks up at the final battle in the war between the humans and the machines.  The scene is the future side of something familiar to everyone who’s seen the original Terminator: the humans learn that SkyNet has sent a Terminator back to 1984 to kill John’s mother before he’s born, and Reese volunteers to go back himself to stop it.  So far, so good, but the 1984 that Reese goes back to isn’t the one that he was prepared for.  For one thing, there’s a T-1000 (Byung-Hung Lee, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA) waiting for him, and it turns out that Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, best known as Daenerys from “Game of Thrones”) has been expecting him, too… and she’s brought a friend.

Apparently, neither the future nor the past are what they were supposed to be anymore…

Reboot/reset via time travel can be a dicey thing.  Some movies – like Star Trek – do it well, while others – like X-Men: Days of Future Past – make an incoherent mess of it.  Despite a massive wave of popular skepticism leading up to its premiere, I found Terminator: Genisys to fall very firmly into the first category.

The story provides just enough in the way of plausible explanations for the reset to make sense in the context of its already paradox-treading universe, and the questions it doesn’t answer lend an air of intrigue rather than one of frustration.  (Grey haired Terminator?  There’s an acceptable reason for that!)  Suspension of disbelief thus adequately taken care of, it’s possible to just kick back and enjoy this two-for-one reimagining of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the fun ride that it is.  (At least for those who walk in without prejudice.)

If anything’s crystal clear here, it’s that Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly having fun with the ride, and with giving yet another new dimension to a venerable T-800 Terminator character that started as a villain, turned into a hero, and has now evolved into… something I’ll let you experience for yourself.  I will say that it’s a role that Schwarzenegger has obviously embraced as something meaningful for himself, and that there are lots of subtle moments wherein it’s obvious that he wants to do right for his fans.  I think he succeeds, and as most who’ve seen the fourth film in the series will attest, a present and successful Schwarzenegger is necessary for any Terminator flick to work.

On the flip side, Emilia Clarke does a wonderful job stepping into the role of a revitalized Sarah Connor, presenting a character that’s tough as nails but who still retains her basic humanity, combining the best aspects of the Sarah audiences knew from the first two films.  (I’ll be honest: blasphemous though this may be to some, I like Clarke’s performance better than Linda Hamilton’s.) Jason Clarke (no relation) seems to be channeling Rufus Sewell for his take on John Connor, but that happens to work here, though perhaps not quite as intensely as intended.  Rounding out the top bill, Jai Courtney’s Reese is definitely the weak link here (though he does earn positive points for being way less creepy than Michael Biehn) – it always feels as though he’s being dragged along for the ride rather than playing the part of an active participant, even when he’s the one making a critical decision – but, thanks to decent pacing and lots of other fun things (like explosions and chase scenes), that really doesn’t end up being an issue of great concern.

Because yes: explosions and chase scenes.  Terminator: Genisys knows its place as a tentpole being released dead set in the middle of the summer action season, and it delivers the goods – surprisingly so, given its eye-rolling PG-13 rating.  (This is, of course, most obvious during the horrendously blocked naked time travel sequences, which couldn’t be more obviously censored if someone had just thrown black bars over the actors’ bodies.  As for the rest, guess that’s one of the benefits of fighting robots: they don’t bleed in ways that bother the ratings committee.)  People run, things go boom, vehicles crash, and buildings blow up, all with the “pop” of shiny and expensive visual effects that don’t disappoint.  However – and this is important – those effects never feel like a substitute for the story, nor does the story ever feel like a simple excuse for effects.  There’s a balance, and Terminator: Genisys is a much better movie for it.

I’m not sure if there’s enough to support the inevitable tease at sequel fodder that shows up mid-credits without getting silly, but for this flick?  Oh yeah.  Terminator: Genisys is a satisfying summer flick for the cineplex, and should prove well worth the addition to the permanent library come home video time.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, July, 2015

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