Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
Directed by: Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”)
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis (“Shutter Island”) and Patrick Lussier (“Drive Angry”)
Nearly a quarter century after James Cameron gave us “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” Hollywood is still throwing Terminator franchise-extending ideas at the wall hoping that they stick. Sequels, TV series, and whatever the hell “Terminator Salvation” was supposed to be have come and gone, seemingly wringing the movie going public’s goodwill dry in the process. After all, how can we be expected to stay invested in this series when it features an ever-rotating cast and keeps using time travel to re-write its own continuity with every new project? Regardless, along comes “Terminator Genisys” with one ace up its sleeve the franchise hasn’t had for 12 years: the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s good to see Arnold in his iconic role once again, especially since he’s the only positive thing “Genisys” has going for it.
For what seems like the millionth time, this “Terminator” movie opens in the post-apocalyptic future, after world-destroying computer program Skynet has decided to wipe humans off the face of the earth. The human resistance, led by thinly-veiled messianic character John Connor (Jason Clarke), has identified the last stronghold of Skynet and its army of Terminators—one that houses an ultimate weapon. Along with his right hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), Connor and the resistance infiltrate the base to find a freshly-used time machine. Figuring out Skynet send a Terminator back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Reese volunteers to go back to the past and save her. As he’s being transported away, he catches a glimpse of a Terminator attacking John Connor…or something. Unable to help, Reese arrives in 1984 to relive the events of “The Terminator” (complete with CGI young Schwarzenegger!) only to be interrupted by an aged T-800 Arnold (nicknamed Pops) and a Sarah Connor already well-versed in kicking Terminator ass. Someone changed the timeline even further back, and now it’s time for Sarah, Reese, and Pops to sort all the bullshit out.
While the first two films in the series focused on fate—or the lack thereof—the time travel elements always made little sense within the logic of the movies’ universe. That plot device ridiculousness is ramped up to ridiculous heights in “Genisys,” where time travel is regarded as an ultimate weapon (okay), a 20-something woman and her aged robot from the future can build a time machine in the LA sewers (what?) and one of the main characters from a future that no longer exists can travel to a tangential past and then back to a different future to stop something from existing that didn’t create the future that he’s from, but creates yet a different apocalyptic future than the seemingly endless versions this series has spat at us over the years (ugh, fuck it). The movie also seems to have some half-assed nonsense to say about stuff like smartphones and tablets and whatnot ruling our lives, but it’s all so poorly plotted out that literally none of the plot is engaging. The same can’t be said of Arnold, though, who becomes the only thing onscreen to elicit even the slightest bit of interest. With some liberal CGI, Arnold appears as three different versions of the iconic T-800, and its admittedly pretty fun when the old man version dukes it out with the 1984 version. But the computer-enhanced exploits of a 67-year-old former governor aren’t enough to balance out the sheer “who the fuck cares?” of everything else haphazardly thrown on the screen.