Last week I had to choose between seeing Jurassic World or Terminator: Genisys with some friends. First-world problems, I know.
I’ve never really cared for the Jurassic Park series. I saw the first film at age 11 and even then I was unimpressed by it. I had heard it was really scary and that it might be too intense for me, but I found it frankly dull. Over the years I’ve gained an appreciation for its technical achievements, but I still don’t think it’s that great. The two awful sequels it spawned didn’t help, either.
The Terminator series is another story. I grew up being infatuated with the first two films. They both live up to their hype and have an amazing combination of ideas, character development, action, and visual style. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is my favorite of the two. Sure, the next two sequels in the series were lackluster, but when I heard someone was doing a Terminator reboot, I was intrigued.
So I saw Terminator: Genisys, and I’m glad I did. I don’t understand why reviews have been so negative for this film. It tells a compelling story and it gave me pretty much everything I could want from a story about time travel and killer robots from the future.
There are some pretty major spoilers ahead, so please watch the movie before continuing. I would hate to give anything away for you because I really like all the twists and turns this movie offers. With that caveat, let’s find out why Terminator: Genisys is a good movie.
Revisits Without Being Redundant
I love the attention to detail in this film when Kyle Reese and the Terminator make their familiar entrance into 1984. It’s almost a shot-for-shot re-creation of the first film. But they’re not doing that just for the sake of copying earlier greatness. They’re doing it to add to the surprise when everything changes. Instead of killing some dim-witted thugs with his bare hands, the Terminator comes face to face with an older, wiser version of himself. The older Terminator and Sarah Connor have planned their attack perfectly, and they quickly take him out.
Then Kyle runs into a very scary situation when a police officer who’s chasing him turns out to be a deadly T-1000. As Kyle runs through a department store and grabs clothes, he also has to fight for his life every step of the way. I was jumping every time something unexpected happened to disrupt the normal rhythm. The first part of this movie had me on the edge of my seat, wondering how Kyle would survive and what the characters were going to do about the T-1000. Luckily, this movie has some brilliant payoffs, which constantly threw off my expectations and left me totally satisfied with the result.
Superb Schwarzenegger Performance
Arnold Schwarzenegger is 67 years old. I didn’t know if he could pull off playing a killing machine one more time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I never questioned his presence in this film. He is completely comfortable in his skin, and he gives a wonderful performance. The film has a solid explanation for why he looks old, and their mantra for his character is “Old, but not obsolete.” So true. I’m glad Schwarzenegger came back for one more round in his most iconic role.
Emotional Connection Between the Terminator and Sarah Connor
The ending of Terminator 2 has always frustrated me. Not because it’s bad, but because I desperately want the Terminator to stay with young John Connor and continue being the surrogate father the boy needs. Instead, as soon as his mission is complete, the Terminator asks to be destroyed. Such a waste. Terminator: Genisys does something really interesting. It changes the timeline and has John’s mother Sarah saved by a Terminator as a little girl. Her parents are killed, so the Terminator stays with her to protect her. They are together for more than a decade, and he gets to see her grow up.
As a child, she draws pictures of herself and the Terminator holding hands and just being together. And he keeps those pictures for decades, even though they would serve no purpose to an unfeeling machine. Clearly, he’s evolved to care about Sarah on a deep level. And she loves him, too. They show their feelings in subtle but meaningful ways, like when she calls him “Pops,” and he calls her “my little Sarah.” This is what I’ve wanted to see in a Terminator film. Not just a few days of bonding, but years of a child and their Terminator living together. Witnessing the emotional relationship between Sarah and her Terminator is well worth the price of admission.
Perfect Hybrid of the Two Sarah Connors
Sarah Connor has a unique role to play in the first two Terminator films. In the first one, she’s a helpless everywoman who gets caught up in an out-of-control situation, and is forced to adapt in order to survive. In the second film, she acts a lot like a Terminator, doing her best not to feel emotions and only wanting to protect her son so he can grow up to be the leader of the human resistance.
In Terminator: Genisys, she is transformed into a new character. Kyle is surprised to find that she is not weak and in need of being rescued. But she’s also not an assassin who believes that everyone around her is dead already. She’s more of a sad, lonesome figure who believes that anyone she gets close to will get killed. She claims that she pushes people away because she’s trying to protect them, but she’s really trying to protect her own heart from being broken. I like the love story in this film even better than the one in The Terminator because Kyle has to coax her out of her shell and she has to accept that falling in love means letting go of some of her control and giving it to someone else. Kyle and Sarah aren’t destined to love each other; they just choose to, no matter what timeline they find each other in.
Clever Use of Time Travel
I like how the earlier films use time travel to introduce chaos into a calm setting. The time travelers arrive and immediately start surprising the heck out of everyone they meet. But this movie does one better by surprising the very people who thought they had the element of surprise. I’m not sure where Sarah’s Terminator came from. His memory was wiped, and I don’t think the film ever explains who sent him to protect her. But I don’t mind the mystery. Maybe they’re setting something up for a sequel.
Later, by having Sarah and Kyle travel several decades into the future while the Terminator gets left behind and has to wait for them, we get the best of both worlds. Sarah and Kyle get shocked by all the technological changes that occur from 1984 to 2017 and the Terminator has plenty of time to stockpile weapons and prepare for their arrival. Time travel in films is usually just a means to an end, but in this film it feels a lot more dynamic and unpredictable.
John Connor and Skynet
Big spoilers here, so turn back if you want to be surprised by the film. Okay, John Connor and Skynet have always had intertwined fates. Neither John nor Skynet could have existed if they hadn’t sent a Terminator and Kyle back to 1984. The brilliance of this movie is that it takes the ultimate freedom fighter against the machines and turns him into the ultimate protector of the machines.
John is transformed into a living machine by Skynet and gets sent back in time to ensure the supercomputer is created and initiates a nuclear holocaust against humanity. I like this twist. John has to fight against everything (and everyone) he holds dear. Unlike every other Terminator film, this one isn’t about ensuring the survival of the human race through the preservation of John Connor. Sarah and Kyle could be killed, and it wouldn’t matter to this evil version of John because he’s certain he would continue to exist through some alternate timeline. This time the fight is to destroy both John and Skynet at the same time. That is heavy stuff.
Old, But Not Obsolete
The more I think about Terminator: Genisys, the more I like it. And I can’t wait to see it again. That is the hallmark of a good movie. This movie uses old catchphrases cleverly, and it does a great job building suspense in its action sequences and even recreating some of the claustrophobia and terror from the first film. Plus, the ending may feel a bit truncated, but it puts a smile on my face, which is something none of the other films in this series did.
Even if this film doesn’t do well enough at the box office to warrant another sequel, I’m glad it was made. It ends the series on a high note by bringing back a lot of what made me love this series in the first place. It shows that all that stuff may be old, but it’ll never be obsolete.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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