Until 1984, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a world-champion bodybuilder who played exotic musclemen with funny accents in the movies.
But in 1984, all that changed with the very first “Terminator” movie. Suddenly, Schwarzenegger was a star, one of the biggest and most recognizable stars of the 1980s and early ’90s. He turned that stardom into a career as governor of the state of California, and his presence on the political stage led many to suggest the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause be changed to allow him to run for president. That’s some serious star power.
As a true child of the ’80s pop culture, I can’t help but be excited about a new “Terminator” movie, even after a pair of sequels and a failed reboot somewhat tarnished the franchise image.
But in “Terminator Genisys,” not only is Schwarzenegger “back” (thinly veiled reference to his famous line, “I’ll be baack,” fully intended), but so is the fun for the franchise.
In this reboot, audiences are again taken to a post-apocalyptic future, where a computer network called “Skynet” has unleashed robotic “Terminators” to wipe out humans on earth. Again, the human resistance leader John Connor sends right-hand man Kyle Reese (who, thanks to time travel is actually his father) back in time to protect his mother, Sarah Connor, from a time-traveling Terminator out to kill Connor’s mom before he can ever be born.
But in “Genisys,” something has changed since the original 1984 movie. When Reese arrives in the past, Sarah Connor is not the wide-eyed innocent she’s supposed to be. In fact, she’s already under the protection of a reprogrammed Terminator she calls “Pops.” The timeline has been significantly altered, and so has the threat of Skynet, leading to a whole new reason for a strong, female lead to do battle with metallic killing machines on the streets of Los Angeles.
For a fan of the original 1984 movie, it was gratifying to watch Genisys re-shoot those original scenes in order to not just homage the first film, but merge with it. It was a blast to watch 1984 Schwarzenegger do battle with an aged, 2015 Schwarzenegger – “old, but not obsolete.”
The cast was well-chosen, too. The host of familiar, but not too familiar, actors (including Jason Clarke of the “Planet of the Apes” films, Emilia Clarke of “Game of Thrones,” Matt Smith of “Dr. Who” as a much better villain than he ever was as The Doctor, Jai Courtney, doing a much better job than he did in the most recent “Die Hard” film, and a thoroughly delightful, quirky and fun J.K. Simmons) playing off a revived Schwarzenegger in “Genisys” is a real treat. The cast is solid, but not so good as to detract from Arnold in the key role, and the movie comes off as a bit of action, a bit of sci-fi, and whole bunch of campy fun.
It is, however, legitimate to criticize the movie for an excessive amount of nonsensical, sci-fi gobbledygook. This is not a cerebral examination of the intricacies of time travel; it often feels like the script is just throwing scientific-sounding words at you to cover for the fact it makes no sense. Schwarzenegger delivers the lines like someone reading a script and likewise has no idea what he’s talking about. I have to admit, the plot lost me a couple of times, but perhaps that’s because I haven’t watched the Terminator sequel films (except for the excellent second film in the franchise) since their release.
But glaring plot holes and bizarrely unanswered questions aside, it’s clear “Terminator Genisys” isn’t taking itself too seriously, but is just a vehicle to give fans of Schwarzenegger a chance to see the Arnold back in action in all his glory. And if that’s all you’re really expecting from the film, you can go in and have a good time, for that it accomplishes.
From a worldview perspective, the “Terminator” films, especially the second, like to play with a sense of gravitas, as though they’re saying something really important. The iconic, thrumming drumbeat of the “Terminator” score reinforces that notion, as though audiences will be deeply emotionally impacted by the films.
But, yeah … no. “Genisys” tries to go back there with some familiar, over-the-top voiceover narration, but Jai Courtney is no Linda Hamilton. It doesn’t work.
“One thing we know for sure: The future is not set,” he says, and in homage to Hamilton’s words from the second film, “There is no fate but what we make,” or some paraphrased facsimile.
To be blunt: The idea, the mantra of the “Terminator” films, is inherently humanistic, if not atheistic.
While our individual lives may not be set in stone, while there may or may not be a nuclear apocalypse, contrary to the “Terminator” franchise, the Bible is quite clear: There will be a “judgment day,” and the ultimate future – God’s victory over death and evil and suffering – is certain. Period.
So worldview wise, I can’t recommend “Terminator Genisys.” I won’t recommend it for an Oscar, either. Hard core sci-fi fans may roll their eyes at its contorted explanations of time travel.
But because it excels at being fun, brings back Arnold Schwarzenegger the way he needed to come back, cleans up its act considerably (see below) and gives good return investment on a movie ticket and a bucket of popcorn, “Terminator Genisys” gets an official “child of the 1980s” thumbs up.
- “Terminator Genisys,” rated PG-13 (and that’s an improvement from at least the original film), contains roughly 25-30 obscenities and profanities.
- The plot of the “Terminator” films dictates that people are naked when they time travel. It was originally just a ploy in the first film to show off Arnold’s bodybuilder physique. Though the first film also threw in a graphic sex scene. In “Genisys,” several character time-travel, including a male and female at the same time, which would dictate lots of nakedness and even some serious sexual tension. “Genisys,” however, plays this respectfully, with almost all shots simply from back and from the waist up. Even where a fuller body shot is seen, it’s brief, from the side, and PG-13. There is, however, a scene where the woman is changing and the shadow of her full, naked form is seen on the wall. There is one kiss, some jesting talk about Sarah Connor “mating” to give birth to John Connor, and a reference about the awkwardness of being pushed together naked in the time-travel bubble. It’s all pretty tame, even for PG-13 standards.
- Naturally, however, this remake of an action film contains plenty of violence. Gun fights, stabbings, car chases, helicopters crashing, explosions, etc. Ghoulish robotic skeletons walk about and fight, and liquid metal robots get plenty of holes blown in them. Here again, however, the film may be violent, but doesn’t dwell on gore or a high body count, but sticks to a PG-13 level of mayhem.
- The film has no overt religious or occult elements, save for its repeated premise that there is no “fate” and the future is not “set.”