Like Jurassic World before it, Terminator: Genisys is a smart amalgam of the Terminator films that came before starting with the premise that all roads to the Terminator start with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It should be more than a premise, it should be a promise. The faces change in this series, but the one thing the audience wants is Arnold. As Tom Cruise has the Mission Impossible series, Matt Damon owning Jason Bourne, Sylvester Stallone and his Rocky, there’s an audience-based reason why these stars can fall back into their comfort zone, Ray Davies observation that you must “give the people what they want.”
Also like Jurassic World, market research groups and computer analysis must have been employed because, oh my God, Hollywood gets it right two times in a row. Jurassic World dove into the past to go back to the future, and so too does the Terminator series, wild twists and turns with the same old formula re-booted with superb elements drawn from the Matrix, Star Trek (both original and Next Generation) and certainly Jean Claude Van Damme’s 1994 epic, Timecop. Indeed, where Van Damme traveled through time to land on a highway and almost get hit by a truck, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese splash onto a crowded highway with the expected result.
The film is terrific, from start to finish, and has thoroughly rebooted this series to bring its relevance back, with – clearly – lots more Terminator flicks to follow. That being said, let’s explore the Terminator myth and this film’s importance to the series.
Perhaps character actor Earl Boen was too busy doing voiceovers in videogames (X-Men Legends for one) to appear in this, which is a shame. His Dr. Peter Silberman was an established component of the series. Here they opt for J.K. Simmons – alias the shrink, Dr. Emil Skoda from Law & Order SVU and/or J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of the Daily Bugle from Toby Maguire’s Spiderman series (and Oz, and commercials, and so much more) to play Officer O’Brien. Essentially, Earl Boen’s Dr. Silberman is hijacked by a TV shrink to play a cop who allegedly was in this series previously. I don’t remember him, and I’ve studied the Terminator series at length and more than most.
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The T-1000, South Korean Byung-hun Lee, looks so much like a young George Takei (who is of Japanese descent) that it is amazing, almost like Robert Patrick with Asian roots. And where is Patrick, and Edward Furlong and, most notably M.I.A., Linda Hamilton? It’s a different timeline, for sure. Heck, Rick Rossovich – who, as Sarah Connor’s roommate’s boyfriend, Matt Buchanan, got beat up by Arnold back in 1984 when he was 27 years old – could have come back as a Terminator. But they decided to circle this mostly around Arnold, and the film works on that level very nicely.
Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor was born in London, her onscreen son, John Connor, is played by Jason Clarke, born in Australia, and the confusing last names may remind you of the James Bond line from one of my all-time favorite films, 1989’s License to Kill. Timothy Dalton as Bond introduces Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier to Q as his niece, referring to Q as his uncle:
Desmond Llewelyn as Q: “We must be cousins!”
It’s no coincidence that the familial relationships in Terminator: Genisys are all over the map, the timelines criss-crossing where – as the late Ron Silver (as Senator McComb) gives his younger self keys to the future, older Kyle Reese tells his younger self something to remember. That character has evolved from Michael Biehn’s original to Anton Yelchin in Terminator Salvation and other actors on the TV series and in films, younger and older. The need-a-scorecard approach actually works in Genisys, it just takes the confusion of merging timelines and uses it to superb advantage.
Where Star Trek had the Genesis Project, and went back and forth in time, where Stargate has its machine to other worlds, Terminator: Genisys makes playing video games and use of your iPhone a stark reminder of how with cameras on the streets and GPS in your phones, you are not alone. Big Brother is here, and that is the moral of the story.
After the screening of TERMINATOR GENISYS on June 29th a fellow walking by as the audience was leaving the theater (I stay for the credits…and good thing, there was a bonus look at the next Terminator follow-up fifth sequel) saw me writing and shouted out “It’s great, give it a good review.” Not only is the audience participating in the film with 3-D glasses, the audience now wants to participate in the review!
From the film company, synopsis:
When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: To reset the future…
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.