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Retro Movie Reviews: 'Terminator Genisys'

Kent Martinez |
December 18, 2015 | 10:45 a.m. PST


The Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in "Terminator Genesys" (Paramount Pictures)
The Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in "Terminator Genesys" (Paramount Pictures)

"Genesys" is a definite change in the franchise, albeit beautifully shot.

In the year 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading an army to defeat Skynet (a highly advanced intelligence machine) from taking over the world and wiping out all of mankind. Just as Skynet is defeated, the intelligence machine sends a robotic figure back in time to kill his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), in hopes that John Connor would never come into existence.

The plot consists of John Connor sending his “best friend” Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to the year 1984 with the primary purpose of saving his mother from these cybernetic machines sent out to destroy her.

Multiple versions of the T-800 robotic machine seek out Sarah, but the guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) protects her from all of these machines. It becomes apparent that Sarah is aware of the entire operation that Kyle is there to fulfill, which is to protect her. She explains to him that the 1984 that her son sent him to is not the 1984 that currently exists.

The guardian and Sarah reveal that they have built a time machine that will help them get to the year 1997 which is the year that Skynet becomes active. However, do to a constant flashback that Kyle has of events that took place in 2017, he feels that it’s best to travel to that particular year and destroy Skynet rather than going further back in time to the year 1997.

However, John Connor visits them in the year 2017 to help them fight this battle. The guardian returns from his original timeline to shoot John and expose him as a half-human, half-robot breed. It is also later revealed that Kyle is John's dad. Their main quest is to destroy Skynet even if it means killing John Connor. The guardian ultimately defeats the T-3000 by placing himself along with this machine in the magnetic force field of the time machine, where they are both destroyed (or so it seems). The guardian survives the blast, destroying Skynet and the T-3000 (or so it seems).

Confused? You have every reason to be. The storylines in this particular film are intricate, but the timelines just don't add up. 

The plot starts off in the year 2029, as John Connor is fighting the intelligence machine Skynet. But Kyle is fighting alongside John as his best friend in their battle against Skynet, not as John's dad. So does that mean that the year 2029 is an alternate reality and not their current present? That would have to be the case as John was the one who saved Kyle as a little boy from a terminator who was trying to kill him. So that would mean that John never went back to his original time. 

Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) getting ready for battle (Paramount Pictures)
Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) getting ready for battle (Paramount Pictures)

Once John realizes that the machines have sent a robot back in time to kill his mother, he sends his best friend back to the year 1984 to protect her from these prototypes. But on his arrival, Kyle is told by Sarah that he is in a different 1984 than from the one John sent him to. They decide to go ahead to the year 2017 to fight these machines and defeat them. But is that an alternate 2017 or the real 2017? When they finally defeat these cyborgs, they stay in the year 2017. So is that the time they should be in, or is that an alternate reality? And how did Kyle have flashbacks of events that took place in 2017 as a little boy? Wouldn’t he be a grown man by then, as he was fighting alongside John in the year 2029?

I am all for a complex storyline, as these types of plots tend to be the most successful in keeping audiences engaged. But, at some point, the complexity just has to stop. This film is an example of cramming too many plot twists into one action flick. I was 77 minutes into the film and new information was still being thrown at us. I didn’t know from the moment the movie started if the timeline was accurate or if it was fictional.

Turning John Connor into a villain is definitely a franchise changer and not necessarily for the better. When "Terminator" first began in 1984, the franchise had one key purpose and that was to showcase the dystopian future that would come about, if technology became too highly advanced for humans to control. The Terminator had one mission and one mission only, and that was to “Protect John Connor.” Connor is the only man strong enough and intelligent enough to lead a revolution against this agency.

However, by having him turn into one of these robots signifies that there isn’t anyone left who will put an end to these machines. The battle has just ended and humanity has lost. "Terminator 1" and "Terminator 2" have been altered forever as audiences will look at this movie and will know that in 40 years from then, the little boy they see protected by Arnold Schwarzenegger will become one of these cybernetic figures.

Not all is lost, though, as Sarah Connor became an even bigger figure than John and one has to question whether Sarah was always bigger than John throughout this franchise. Sarah knows everything there is to know about what it takes to defeat Skynet and has become just as fierce as John -- if not more. The fact is, there is no need for John as Sarah has become the prime target that these robots are aiming for and at the same time has what it takes to win. 

The CGI effects in this film are spectacular. The T-800 resembled very much the physical specimen that Arnold was during his time in the 80s. For a second, I really believed that Arnold had turned back the hands of time and somehow managed to look the way he once did. Eventually, the robotic face came out and it became clear that CGI played a big role in his transformation. CGI is a key element in today's cinema and this film exemplifies how advanced these effects can be.

It is amazing to believe that technology could eventually lead us to a dystopian future. Could it really be that someday, some intelligence machine will so advanced for us to control that it might alter our future lives for the worst? It is scary to imagine that just maybe, machines like the ones showcased in the film could really come into existence and attempt to wipe all of society out. The films open up a discussion and questions about what our future holds in this era of high technology. 

Retro Movie Reviews is a weekly column by Kent Martinez, published every Friday. Read other Retro Movie Reviews here.

Reach Columnist Kent Martinez here. Follow him on Twitter here.



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