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"TERMINATOR GENISYS"
(2015) (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A man from the future travels back in time to protect the woman who will one day give birth to the man who leads the revolution against robots that have taken over the world.
PLOT:
It's the year 2029, and for the past twelve years ever since the global computer network known as Skynet went online, humans have been hunted into near extinction by their now robot overlords. But there are resistance movements, and the biggest is lead by John Connor (JASON CLARKE). When he and his lieutenant, Kyle Reese (JAI COURTNEY), think they've finally defeated the robots, they learn that Skynet has sent a terminator -- an assassin robot with human skin over its endoskeleton to make it appear human -- back in time to kill John's mother before she's even pregnant with him, thus defeating the resistance before it ever starts.

Reese volunteers to go after it and thus he arrives in 1984 Los Angeles in hopes of finding Sarah Connor (EMILIA CLARKE) before the terminator and bringing her up to speed about her involvement in the future of humankind's survival. But he soon learns -- after having to deal with an advanced terminator, the T-1000 (BYUNG-HUN LEE), that's made of liquid metal and can shape-shift into pretty much anything -- that she already knows about the future, thanks to an original terminator machine that she's nicknamed Pops (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER), who saved her life at the age of nine and has been protecting her ever since.

Having experienced memories of a childhood he never experienced where as a young boy he told himself that an upcoming global network known as Genisys will ultimately turn into Skynet, Reese convinces Sarah that they must time travel to the year 2017 to stop that from happening.

With Pops staying behind to catch up with them in real time, the two arrive in San Francisco where a cop, O'Brien (J.K. SIMMONS), who had a run in with them three decades earlier, recognizes them and realizes something is up. They do too, when John unexpectedly shows up, this time, however, in a newly modified form that means Sarah's life and thus the future of humankind is now once again at risk.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
In a way, Hollywood has always been in the time travel business. When not making movies set in the past or about historical events, the studios are always returning to their vaults in efforts to make money. Nowadays that's mostly in the form of rebooting old franchises in hopes that fond memories and title recognition will translate into new dollars at the box office.

Of course, sometimes they actually do make time travel movies, and notwithstanding the "Back to the Future" franchise, probably the next best known features a certain former Austrian bodybuilder turned actor turned politician turned actor again. That, of course, would be none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger who appeared as the villain in James Cameron's 1984 sci-fi classic, "The Terminator" and then segued into the good guy in the even better sequel, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day."

Two additional sequels would follow (the third with Arnie in 2003, the fourth from 2009 without him), but now that it's been three decades since we first heard "I'll be back," the powers that be have decided to reboot the series.

Yet, since Schwarzenegger is so tied to the franchise, and since the storyline has the advantage of time travel, they figured why not restart the series, pay homage to the original two flicks, and insert the actor's now aged terminator character into the ever-changing "the future is not yet set" plot. The results are something of a mixed bag, particularly in terms of recreating and sometimes modifying signature elements and moments from the 1984 and 1991 films.

It starts with future resistance fighter John Connor (Jason Clarke) sending his lieutenant, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), back in time to protect John's future mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), from being killed by a terminator also sent from the future by Skynet. That's a computer network that went online in the past (also Sarah's future), only to eventually find John as its constant thorn in its robots rule side.

The theory, just like before, is that if she's killed, she'll never give birth to John and thus Skynet won't have to deal with him in the future. But unlike before when Sarah was completely in the dark about her role in the future of saving humankind, when Reese arrives she's already aware of how things have and are going to transpire.

To complicate matters, writers Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier insert a liquid metal terminator (akin to what Robert Patrick played in "T2") as another killer, while an old terminator she's named "Pops" (Schwarzenegger) has been around since she was 9-years-old to protect her. And then Sarah and Reese decide to time travel from 1984 to 2017 in order to stop the precursor of Skynet from going online, all while a local cop (J.K. Simmons) tries to prove he's been onto something weird for the past three decades, and then John shows up in a newly modified form.

The storyline ends up getting all twisty and convoluted, with a flowchart pretty much needed to keep things straight, all while a myriad of related "but what about" and "that means" issues and questions (that nearly always arise in this genre) will be going through viewers' minds as things unfold.

If you follow Basil Exposition's advice from the time traveling "Austin Powers" film ("I suggest you don't worry about those things and just enjoy yourself"), you might find the action entertaining enough to pass the just over two hour running time. And some fans of the original two films might like the various bits of homage that director Alan Taylor ("Thor: The Dark World") handles, and the variations thereof (including watching old Arnie fight a younger version of himself).

But those who view the first two films as untouchable classics might not be amused, while others who long for something creatively new will be disappointed that so much of what's present here is so much of what we already have seen. I fall somewhere in the middle as I was entertained just enough by both the action and humor not to mind too terribly the film's various issues.

Tech credits are fine, there are some bits of homage in the score, and the performances are okay, with the now 68-year-old Schwarzenegger having no problem making fun of his age (and possible acting career) when delivering lines such as "I'm old, not obsolete."

Considering his laps around the sun, I imagine the latter will soon apply to any return appearances in any future "Terminator" movies, although the sight of him young and buff again could mean a digitally recreated version of his character could just keep coming back, much like these films. "Terminator Genisys" rates as a 5 out of 10.




Reviewed June 29, 2015 / Posted July 1, 2015


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