Look, I realize that I love going to the theater, and it’s something I only do a few times a year, so sometimes the theater-high gives me rose-tinted glasses. But I really think once that fades, Terminator Genisys will still shine as the first worthy sequel to the Terminator film franchise since 1991.
I’m keeping this review spoiler-free aside from what was shown in the previews. If you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen the preview for Genisys, I highly recommend you go see the movie before doing anything else.
And that uncertainty hung around for a little bit. In the opening future sequences, I still wasn’t sure about Courtney and J. Clarke, and while I was impressed by the dedication that went into recreating 1984 scenes from the original Terminator film, at the same time, they were a little boring. Because I saw that already in a version that had bonus Bill Paxton with a blue mohawk.
And then things started to change. Reese is chased by a T-1000 and Sarah has her own personal Schwarzenegger-style Terminator protector with an adorable nickname, and suddenly Genisys becomes everything I didn’t know I wanted (and a few things I did).
It’s great seeing a Sarah Connor who’s as youthful as T1 Sarah and as rough-and-tumble as T2 Sarah without the added baggage of an unprotected son and years in a mental institution. Watching her and Kyle interact as equals is a delight, and as they take off on that familiar task of trying to stop Skynet before it’s born, we get to see Kyle in a new light, too. Not having to be the sole protector of an uninitiated waitress gives room for more personality to shine through. He’s not just the emotionally stunted battle-weary soldier in love with a photograph.
Of course, it’s not a perfect movie. Superficially, I was really hoping for some reason for spelling Genisys that way. Less superficially, there are some deliberate information gaps. The audience just has to accept that somebody in some time sent a T-101 back in time to protect Sarah as a young girl but scrubbed their fingerprints from its memory banks. And the multiple timelines concept — while certainly helping to cement the idea of No Fate that Terminator 3 took a giant dump all over — is introduced in a mildly confusing way. But it’s a summer action blockbuster. There’s a certain degree of rolling with it that’s required.
And as a summer action blockbuster, it really works. There are Terminator fights and car chases and drama, and at times it is legitimately and appropriately funny. And once it gets over the moments of being a carbon copy of the original, the twists that turn expected things on their ear are divine.
And I even came around to J. Clarke’s John Connor, who exists in a capacity we’ve never seen him in before and gets perhaps one of the most chilling monologues of the franchise, second only to the one it references.
I don’t know if Genisys would be as good as it was without the abomination that was T3 and the underwhelming Terminator Salvation (which I will always think of as Transforminators for the rest of my life), but I suspect it would. And after 24 years, it feels like a film that fits with the modern climate of movies while doing its best to recapture magic that’s long been missing. And it does so admirably.
Leisure Time is on Twitter! Follow @theLTtweet for post updates and smaller thoughts on fannish fun.