New Sarah, same Arnold – Can Genisys Redeem the Terminator Franchise?
Okay. I’ve seen this movie five times now, so the initial surprise and elation is gone, faffing about over Jai Courtney and his abs is over, my deep seated affection for ‘Big Arnie’ has been put back in the box, and I’m ready to talk about Terminator: Genisys, sensibly, or at least as sensibly as one can when they are moving across multiple time lines and back and forth through nexus points and having all their myths shattered in the process.
As always: SPOILERS – If you haven’t seen this yet, go and watch it, have a think, watch it again, and then come back. I’ll wait here and ponder…
The moment I heard they were going to reboot Terminator I was filled with dread. I’ll blame Christian Bale for that, since I still believe that his casting as John Connor in Terminator: Salvation was woefully ill advised. After sitting through that film I had just about reached the limits of my faith in this universe and was starting to believe, like a great many others I’m sure, that Terminator might be best left untouched. After all, the first two films were near perfect and to improve upon them is almost impossible. A lot of fans might also lump Terminator: Rise of the Machines in with Salvation, or worse, categorise it as inferior even to Salvation, but I thought highly of that effort. Yes, there were instances where the plot was traded for cheesy laughs, but I thought Nick Stahl made a solid contribution to John Connor mythology. He was believable as a slightly broken John and yet you could see the shadow of him having the potential to one day rise to meet his destiny. I also thought the closing monologue made the whole film worth sitting through Claire Danes abysmal performance for. Plus – there was Big Arnie. Anyway, maybe it was trauma from Salvation or hope for something at least as good as Rise of the Machines or a multitude of these factors that gave me my initial reaction to Terminator: Genisys, because I’ll be honest with you, the first time I saw it, I thought it might be the Salvation of the franchise. But then, little things started to niggle at me and the more I think on them, the more I can’t let it go and it’s changing my whole attitude towards the film.
So, here’s what sticks in my craw:
Firstly: JOHN CONNOR. I accept that John went bad. That’s fine. It might have been better if that plot point wasn’t given away in the trailer (seriously, why do they do that?) but now we are left with a far bigger issue and I don’t know how it can possibly be resolved without things getting majorly f*cked up in any sequels. I’m sure we can all agree that John needs to be born, but more than that, he needs to be born BEFORE Kyle. In this latest instalment we are left in the final scene with dead John, no sex, and very little romance, between grown Kyle and Sarah, thus no hint of them producing a new John 2.0, and 12 year old Kyle working away on his electric pushie. The issue: If Kyle and Sarah remain in 2017, that is going to make John at least 12 years younger than Kyle. Let’s imagine that John somehow becomes a Judgement Day prodigy and manages to lead the resistance to victory by his 25th Birthday. That’s still going to make Kyle 37… sorry… 37 year old Kyle is probably a bit too old to go back in time to save 20 year old Sarah and look, the whole John/Kyle dynamic just doesn’t work with that kind of an age difference. The only way to fix this is to send Kyle and Sarah back in time… but sigh, that’s just all getting too complicated and really defeating the purpose.
Second: How did John travel through time at all? In the final scenes of the movie, the new John is destroyed by being exposed to that huge magnetic field in the time displacement machine. That’s all well and good, but ultimately it would have been the same machine that sent him to 2014 in the first place, so if he could travel back in time then without the magnetics screwing with his magnetic field, then why not later? This could be explained away by the big glowing red orb we see in the scene that appears in the credits. Maybe there’s another time travel device? Maybe there is another John? Maybe there’s a legion of Johns? Good lord, maybe there is someone else totally different coming to 2017 from another time line? You just never can tell, can you?
Oh, and of course there is that third issue of WHO SENT POPS BACK IN THE FIRST PLACE?! Which is, frankly, infuriating… The records were erased. Well, that’s nice, but if we don’t end up with a sequel then it’s going to leave a gaping hole in the Terminator universe. (Maybe a new John can time travel through said hole and get everything back on track, who knows?)
Of lesser concern – How much further back are we going to go into the Connor family timeline in the pursuit of trying to kill off John? At this rate it is plausible that Kyle and Sarah are going to have to go back to the Old West, the Renaissance or the Stone Age in order to stop a cyborg killing her forebears so that John will never be born. Killing Sarah, mother of John, in 1984, on the eve of his conception – okay, makes sense. Killing Sarah’s parents, with the ambition to kill Sarah, to kill John. You’re pushing your luck…. Unless, of course, John no longer exists in this new time line and Sarah becomes the leader of the resistance (sorry Kyle, you still need to die), which would really be turning shit on its head.
I don’t want to be totally negative here, because (apart from Salvation) I can always find a reason to watch a Terminator film and so;
Big Arnie – I loved you in this. I appreciate the attempt to explain away your ageing, but how did you manage to age 40 years in the space of 10? Also, I wonder, if your skin and tissue gets all burnt off, why doesn’t it grow back young and new? In the scheme of confusing issues, these are minor though, so I can just settle on the fact that you were awesome and, if any cyborg ever comes back through time to protect me, I hope it’s you… hell, even if you’re coming to kill me, I’d still be okay with that.
Emilia Clarke – Sarah Connor is a heroine with big shoes to fill. No one will ever be Linda Hamilton, but I liked you a lot in the role. The only thing that pissed me right off, was this:
Come on love, we both know there is no way that your 50kgs of bad-ass is going to be able to hold onto 120kgs of smokin’ hot Kyle muscle, plus his magnet thingy and your bag of guns, no way, not for love or money.
Jai Courtney – Damn it all to hell man! You’re so fine it makes me sick. The almost bro-mance with you and Pop’s was some light hearted comic relief, while the initial scenes with you and John in 2029 were one of the high points of the film. Kyle Reese is my sci-fi dream man. I never thought I’d accept anyone other than Michael Biehn in that fantasy, but here we are. Well played, sir.
Jason Clarke – You were probably the person I liked least when I saw the casting, but, I was wrong about you. Again, those early scenes with you and John in 2029 were so good. I almost wish they’d built the plot more around that time. I was pretty shattered when your John went bad, but you know what? I believe in you. You can manage to come good again. After all, the future is not set…
I’ll probably end up watching this again at least 3 more times before I decide if I hate it or not. Despite my current feels of confusion and mild anger, I’m still leaning towards the not. I know the point of a franchise reboot is to give an old story new life, I just hope that (possible) sequels don’t mess with things too much more. When Judgement Day finally does come and Skynet or Genisys does take over the world, you’ll want the whole army of Terminator fans fighting on the same side if the resistance is ever going to make it.