Terminator Genisys Spoiler-Free Reaction: "The Best Terminator Movie Since T2"

Lets face it: You're probably not very excited about the new Terminator movie. And why should you be? The last two films were varying levels of bad, and this one doesn't look much better. The marketing focuses on a much older-looking Arnold Schwarzenegger, who seems to be regurgitating catch phrases from decades past for what might seem to be nothing more than a paycheck. And maybe that works in Terminator Genisys' favor, as it is much easier to beat expectations when they are low.

I was pleasantly surprised by Terminator Genisys, and I think you will be too. So here is my (virtually) spoiler free Terminator Genisys reaction, giving you my thoughts and observations about the latest installment in the Terminator franchise. Read my Terminator Genisys review after the jump.

Terminator Genisys Is the Best Terminator Movie Since T2: Judgement Day

Just as Jurassic World was the best Jurassic Park film since the original, Terminator Genisys is the best Terminator movie since James Cameron's two original films. Finally, the Terminator series has a worthy sequel to T2: Judgement Day. What I like about Genisys is that it is a clever take on the idea of the reboot/sequel, which really takes advantage of the series' time travel premise to make things fresh again. Genisys also marks a return to the humor and heart that Arnold brought to the series in Judgement Day. However...

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If You're Expecting Another T2, You Will Be Disappointed

Satisfying as this sequel may be, if you're expecting a film on the level of Terminator 2: Judgement Day you will be very disappointed. T2 is a masterwork of science fiction action cinema which featured milestones in visual effects, and this film can't compare, nor should it — I don't feel it's fair to compare this film with Cameron's sequel. So no, Genisys doesn't feature innovative visual effects giving us something we've never seen before. And no, Genisys isn't a grand slam like T2 was, but like Jurassic World it is a fun Summer movie which does a good job of rebooting the franchise.

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Genisys Honors the First Two Terminator Movies

It's easy to see why James Cameron liked Terminator Genisys — it honors his Terminator films and uses them to respark the franchise. Cameron even said that Terminator Genisys feels like a real third film in the series, and you'll definitely see why. And unlike other reboots and sequels, this movie doesn't just reference the older movies but revisits moments we've seen before, allowing them to play out differently than we remember. Imagine if Back to the Future II rebooted the first film.

Revisit The Terminator Before Seeing This

And because of the connections to the first two Terminator films, you probably should revisit the originally movies beforehand. This is a film that will certainly play better depending on your memory of the first two films, as it features many homages and callbacks to those movies. This is especially true of the first film, The Terminator.

I feel like a lot of people believe they saw The Terminator, or saw that first movie so long ago and don't quite remember it.  When people remember the series, its usually T2: Judgement Day that they remember. Do yourself a favor and revisit The Terminator before seeing this new movie. You will definitely appreciate it more having done so.

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The Opening Future War Sequence is Better Than Terminator Salvation

I didn't hate Terminator Salvation. There, I said it. The first half of the film actually has some interesting action and visuals. The problem is it's not the Terminator film we wanted and it lacks the humor and heart of Terminator 2. And yes, the second half of the film is a gigantic horrific mess.

Terminator Genisys begins after Judgement Day, and we get a better look at the future war against the machines and it is glorious. The opening twenty minutes of this film is better than all of Terminator Salvation. We see a laser-gun filled assault on a machine base by the resistance and it is pretty damn cool. It very much feels like what James Cameron was trying to show us in his Terminator films, but with a more epic expansion allowed by today's modern day visual effects.

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Arnold Is Back, As Is the Humor and Heart

I rewatched Terminator 2: Judgement Day last week, and while the visual effects were unmatched for its time and the action sequences are still amazing, I found what made the film so entertaining was the relationship between young John Connor and The Terminator – the heart and humor of a young child trying to teach a machine how to be more human.

And as I said before, these are key aspects that Terminator Salvation lacked and I am happy to report that Genisys has both. In Genisys, Arnold is again the main attraction. The dynamic is changed a bit, as Kyle Reese is from a future where Terminators hunt and kill humans, so its more about Reese's relationship with accepting an enemy as his friend. But Arnold has some really humorous moments in this film which will have you laughing out loud.

The Backstory Presents a Missed Opportunity

A flashback in the film shows Arnold's new "guardian" Terminator saving and taking in young Sarah Connor. Part of me wishes they had made that story the first installment of this new trilogy. I think the dynamic of Arnold taking in and trying to train a young girl to become the badass that he needs Sarah Connor to be could have been great. And that dynamic could have again played off of the T2 relationship of a young child trying to teach a Terminator what it means to be human,

I should also mention JK Simmons, who has been almost completely absent from the marketing due to his role mostly being a part of the second half of the film, is very funny in the movie. His character will be a fun surprise for audiences.

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Skynet's Origin Is Cleverly Reimagined, But the Execution Is Disappointing

The film reimagines how Skynet and the Artificial Intelligence uprising leads to the future war. In this story (very minor plot details follow), the government doesn't force Skynet upon us but the clever idea is that Skynet is essentially Apple — we aren't fighting it's adoption but instead waiting in lines around the block for the right to purchase it and welcome it into our lives. Thats a really timely clever idea, but unfortunately the explanation of what Genisys is in the film feels far more obvious and boring.

In the film, Genisys is an operating system that would connect all our devices through the cloud (something we've had for a while already, years before the timeline in the movie). I think it would have been smarter to present a vision of Genisys that actually sounded like something not already available, and maybe even something cool that audiences would relate to wanting in their lives (even though they know the end game).

I could easily imagine it being presented as an advanced artificial intelligence operating system, like Siri version 3 or something, which organizes your life and uses all your devices to connect and make decisions for you. When you're headed home, it knows what temperature to make your apartment, and it knows to put a certain show from your DVR on the television because you're going to want to watch it. And storewide, presenting Genisys as some kind of new artificial intelligence software would make more sense than just presenting it as a cloud connected operating system.

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This Is Kyle Reese’s Story

The interesting thing about this story is it is presented through the eyes of Kyle Reese. Although you wouldn't know it when looking at any of the posters for the film. You would think it may have been easier to reboot The Terminator franchise with John Connor or Sarah Connor in the spotlight. The choice of making Kyle Reese the lead allows many interesting things to occur with this story, which I won't spoil in this reaction.

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Jai Courtney Has No Charisma or Chemistry

There one major issue I have with Terminator Genisys is that Jai Courtney is a boring action star and has almost no charisma on screen. As Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke tries to make the love story work, I don't feel any chemistry between the two actors. Courtney, who is even handed some funny lines that should pop, delivers them so horribly that the audience in my press screening was left in stunned silence.

I'm still not sure what Hollywood seems to see in Jai Courtney. To be fair, I have yet to watch the Starz' TV series Spartacus: Blood and Sand which seems to be the main source of the actor's buzz. (I guess it could be akin to wondering why Hollywood tried to push Taylor Kitsch as a major star a few years back without seeing Friday Night Lights.) So far I've been very unimpressed by Courtney, who seems to be handed franchise after franchise. First he was John McClane's son in the Die Hard series, then he appeared in the Divergent series, and now he's a lead in the Terminator franchise. Does this guy have a fan following? I've seen nothing but negative responses to his big blockbuster roles thus far.

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The Marketing Has a HUGE Spoiler Which Ruins a Big Reveal

When the later Terminator Genisys trailers hit, people were outraged that the trailer seemed to reveal a major spoiler. At the time, I theorized that the moment in question was an early film reveal and probably wasn't as big of a deal as most people were thinking. I was wrong, this twist is a big half way through the movie reveal.

I've even argued in the past that spoilers will rarely ruin the movie watching experience but I believe knowing this one ruins a rather cool tension filled moment. If you've seen the trailer or the final theatrical posters, then you pretty much know the outcome and the tension of the sequence is deflated.

That said, I completely understand why Paramount Pictures used the moment in the advertising campaign. How can you sell a movie without showing the story's villain? And how can you market a Terminator film without showing a villain with fx-filled powers that do something different than the T-1000's from T2? Its disappointing but I now feel its the screenwriter and filmmakers responsibility to consider how their film will be marketed and figure out a way to present their story so that it can be sold to the public without huge spoilers like this.

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Time Travel Logic Contradicts the First Three Movies, But in Exchange For a Fresh Story

If you're a huge fan of James Cameron's original two movies you might have a nerdy issue with the time travel logic presented in the new film. If you're not a big Terminator fan, you might be left confused about how time travel works in this new film.

The original films present a time travel that is presented in one timeline. John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to not only protect his mother but to father him. How can John Connor exist before he sent Kyle back in time? Unless everything that has happened in the future (and the past) has already happened and we are just watching it play out. Basically there is one timeline and any changes that have happened are already present in that one timeline. This is partially the idea behind the dour ending of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

This film's tagline is "reset the future" and the story attempts to do just that. By being able to change the events of the past that we've seen in the first two installments of the Terminator franchise, it allows the movie and future sequels to explore new ground and not be stuck within the construct of those earlier films. So while some nerds might have an issue with the idea that the time travel logic changes in this movie, I think they'll enjoy the ride.

Back to the Future is my favorite film of all time, and I'm a huge time travel fanatic, so I personally didn't find any issues with how the film presents the time travel but he time travel logic might confuse some moviegoers. When I left my theaters I overheard some critics trying to figure out how everything worked.

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Matt Smith Has a Very Small But Important Role

Doctor Who fans are probably wondering why I haven't said anything about Matt Smith. Those fans shouldn't go into this film expecting to see a lot of him  — the BBC star has a small role in the film, but the character has a huge impact that is likely to affect future films in the series (if they happen).

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Sets the Ground Work For a Franchise But Feels Like a Complete Movie

I said something similar in my Jurassic World review, but the same can be said of Terminator Genesis. Paramount and Skydance have made it clear that this is the first film is a planned new trilogy of Terminator films which are already written. So when I went into the movie I was expecting a huge amount of set-up for the future sequels and came out surprised that there wasn't a huge cliffhanger ending. Like Jurassic World, Terminator Genisys plants a few seeds for the sequels throughout the film in non-obvious ways. There's also a mid-credits scene that teases future installments.

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Final Thoughts

Finally Terminator Genisys provides a worthy sequel to T2: Judgement Day, rebooting the future of the Terminator franchise in some interesting ways. However, Alan Taylor's film can not compare to the James Cameron classic, and if you're expecting another T2 you will be very disappointed. Genisys honors the first two Cameron films in a number of ways, and you would really benefit by revisiting The Terminator before seeing this movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger is this film's main attraction, bringing humor and heart back to the franchise, which were missing from both Terminator Salvation and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

The film's biggest problem is that Jai Courtney, as Kyle Reese, lacks the charisma to lead this blockbuster film, and thus the chemistry at the heart of this story's love story seems non existent. Also, if you can avoid trailers or any of the film's marketing materials as they unfortunately give away a rather huge middle of the film twist.

If you're a fan of the first two Terminator films, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by Terminator Genisys as I was. It's a fun summer movie that lets us re-explore the characters and universe we enjoyed, without feeling like just another money-grubbing rehash.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

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Full Disclosure: Skydance Productions, the company that produced Terminator Genisys, flew me to Berlin to cover the world premiere of the film and participate in a one hour sit down interview with Skydance heads David Ellison and Dana Goldberg, which will be published later this week. The majority of this review was written before that trip, and even before I had been invited to cover the premiere in Berlin.