With audiences growing far more wary of, and sometimes downright venomous towards remakes, studios have been searching for new ways to reinvigorate recognizable brands. The answer has been something comic book fans have been all too familiar with for some time: the retcon. Or put another way, the reimagining. You don't have to totally start over, just ignore or delete enough stuff to basically start from a difference place. It's a tricky thing to pull off without alienating your entire fan base. X-Men: Days of Future Past managed to use alternate timelines to build an entirely new history for its heroic mutants. But what about something like James Cameron's Terminator; a cold metal sci-fi classic that basically forged our understanding of time travel in modern genre movies? Terminator Genisys, the fifth movie in the vaunted franchise, attempts to embrace and completely devastate everything we know and love about James Cameron's time-bending story, and as one might expect the results are a bit scattershot.
Rest assured Terminator Genisys is a heck of lot better than the maligned Terminator Salvation, and a fair bit more like a true Cameron Terminator movie. Despite the narrative pretzel it twists into, the film has all of the recognizable nuts and bolts, literally in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800, who was notably absent from 'Salvation' except for a lousy CGI version. This time around the hard-to-kill cyborg is considered a "guardian" rather than a terminator, sent back in time to protect the life of Sarah Connor, played now by Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke, sporting her "Mother of Dragons" attitude. So how does something like that work? The story begins as we expect. Future rebel badass John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads a human resistance against Skynet and its army of killer machines. When Skynet realizes it will lose, it sends a terminator to 1984 to kill Sarah while she's weak. So John calls upon his pal Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to go back in time to protect Sarah from harm. Oh, and let's not forget that John also needs his buddy to sleep with his mom so he can be born in the first place. Don't forget that little detail; it makes for some awkward sitcom shenanigans later on.
Things take a turn when Kyle arrives in 1984 only to discover that Sarah doesn't really need his help. She's already one tough soldier; she's gone full-blown Linda Hamilton (minus the biceps) and has been protected by the Arnold T-800 since she was a child, nicknaming him "Pops". How? Why? And is that wrinkled skin and graying hair on the Terminator? What? The explanations are convoluted, bog down the story, and frankly are a little ridiculous, but fortunately this film doesn't slow down enough for you to analyze whether it makes sense. There's always a new Terminator to fight (there are a few, including one that has been spoiled by desperate marketing), a new bus to flip, another helicopter chase through the city, and the CGI-heavy action looks great courtesy of director Alan Taylor. He keeps the pace moving faster than a T-1000 can shapeshift forms; those who simply want to watch robots fight and stuff get blown up will leave very happy. Not to say he's quite on Cameron's level when it comes to blending digital and real-world effects but the film looks impressive.
In what must feel like the tagline for Schwarzenegger's latter career, the T-800 constantly asserts, “I am old, not obsolete." At 25 years, Cameron's Terminator is an "old" franchise no matter how many times they try to revive it. But Terminator Genisys, despite it not always making a ton of sense, is still the best and most relevant Terminator film since 'Judgement Day', and that means it will never be considered obsolete. Die hards I will recommend this to casual fans however not so much.