Editor’s Notes: Terminator Genisys is currently out in wide theatrical release.
Too often are franchises afraid to take risks and explore new avenues of storytelling, completely avoiding expanding the cinematic universe in place of offering more of the same. The Terminator franchise is a refreshing exception to this weary Hollywood trend, continuously finding ways to further its story in interesting and exciting ways. 2003’s Rise of the Machines continued the story and gave John Conner an involving arc, while 2009’s Terminator Salvation offered an interesting glimpse at the future war against the machines, though admittedly the overall quality of the film itself was incredibly lacking.
Is it as good as the original films? Of course not. Is it a good Terminator sequel? Absolutely.
Though its title could use some work, Terminator Genisys is a highly entertaining return to form for the franchise, reinvigorating a franchise in danger of extinction. Director Alan Taylor and screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have created something that not only interests new and interesting twists into the mythology, but tells its story in such a way it reminds us why we loved Terminator in the first place. Is it as good as the original films? Of course not. Is it a good Terminator sequel? Absolutely.
Though many have and continue to angrily tweet about the reinvention of the timeline, the concept fits the nature of the franchise perfectly. Terminator is easily one of the top go-to series where time travel is concerned, and the idea of the machines trying to kill a young Sarah Conner and subsequently the Kyle Reese we met at the start of the first Terminator makes complete sense when you consider what Skynet has done in the past. It’s a testament to the writing by Kalogridis and Lussier that their ambitious plot beats, some of which would be enough to carry an entire movie, never reach a point of incoherency. The Terminator mythology treated with a surprising amount of reverence, and the ways in which Genisys puts its own unique spin on iconic moments from the franchise make for an involving narrative. As a result, the creative intelligence at play makes it easy to overlook the fact that this another Hollywood reboot.
Genisys puts its own unique spin on iconic moments from the franchise make for an involving narrative.
One of the negative side effects of Paramount’s hopes to appeal to a wider audience is the PG-13 rating, and while absence of the blood-soaked violence and salty language is definitely felt, Alan Taylor tries his best to stage explosive action sequences, and for the most part he succeeds. The director at work in Terminator Genisys is unrecognizable compared to his work in the abysmal bore that was Thor: The Dark World. Taylor employs an actual color palette here that is more than various shades of shadowy blacks. Taylor stages scene after scene of exciting action, employing CGI in ways that work and don’t feel lazy or cheap. Did I mention it looks like Arnold does a good portion of his own stunts?
Like it or not (and I really don’t understand how you 100% couldn’t), PG-13 Terminator films are here to stay for a while, with Paramount having two additional films slated before the rights revert back to James Cameron in 2019. Terminator Genisys succeeds in setting up a new world rich in spectacle and intrigue. If the remainder of this planned trilogy wants to be remembered, it needs to work on its characters. While all of the cast is game and usually enjoyable to watch (yes, even Jai Courtney gets props in this), the emotional current present in the other Terminator films is curiously absent here.
Even when it didn’t work or even earn it, Terminator films have always ended with an emotional moment that acts as an ode to humanity. Genisys cares more in its final moments about setting up a sequel. If that emotional aspect of the franchise was actually present in the film, perhaps the third act wouldn’t have felt as much of a redundant drag. Regardless, Terminator Genisys is a worthy addition to the decades-old franchise, and I am eager to see where the filmmakers take the story next.
Though its title could use some work, Terminator Genisys is a highly entertaining return to form for the franchise, reinvigorating a franchise in danger of extinction.