I’m a sucker. You know how I know? When I saw the Hollywood Reporter headline that the first full Terminator: Geniysis trailer had landed I didn’t hesitate for a single second to follow the link and take in 2 and half minutes of piping hot crazy. In fact, I was genuinely excited to see footage from a new Terminator movie starring a nearly 70-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man who hasn’t made a genuinely amazing movie in decades. This is the new Terminator movie whose every piece of marketing to this point, beginning with that dreadful title, has been lackluster, and whose every insane plot rumor (a T-800 has now gone back in time and raised Sarah Connor since she was 8-years-old?) has sent the internet into conniption fits. This is coming after two disappointing sequels, the better-than-you-remember Terminator 3 and drab, joyless Termination: Salvation. The world wasn’t demanding a new Terminator movie, especially not one neutered by the modern need for most big movies to be four quadrant-targeting, PG-13 affairs. Couldn’t the $170 million Paramount spent to make Geniysis have gone toward making something more original? God knows the money Sony spent on their Total Recall remake was probably an unwise investment, and if not for the saving grace of China the same would have likely been true of Sony’s other recent action remake, RoboCop.
But I’m a sucker. I watched the first Terminator well before I was actually old enough for it meaning the first sex scene I ever saw was the one with Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn. I suddenly fear that I have over shared. I was there opening day for Terminator 2, again technically too young to actually be there (thanks to my fellow Terminator-loving stepdad), and despite my wiser impulses I was there opening weekend for both Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation. I will be there opening weekend for Terminator: Geniysis when it arrives July 1, 2015. One of the film’s producers, David Ellison, told Entertainment Weekly that T2 is one of the films that inspired him to want to make movies for a living, and those first two Terminator movies are what helped make me a lifelong sci-fi fan, along with the Back to the Future and Star Trek movies.
So, if I’m duty-bound to see this thing what exactly am I in for?
Here’s the trailer:
Around the time I was rolling my eyes and telling myself, “You know you don’t actually have to see this movie, right?” is when Sarah Conner (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) upended the surprisingly faithful recreation of Kyle Reese’s (Jai Courtney) arrival in the 1980s by rolling a freakin’ truck into the familiar department store and getting a badass turn with the iconic “Come with me if you want to live!” line. Not only that, but one of the random cops who chased Kyle into that department store in the original Terminator is revealed to be an Asian T-1000 in this version! And Sarah just jumped straight to T2 territory by barking “Now, soldier!” at Kyle.
And also maybe pretty stupid, in an “Oh, the time travel logic in this movie is going to hurt my head, isn’t it?” kind of way.
If you haven’t been following the plot rumors or didn’t quite understand the way it was explained in the trailer, here’s the big pull quote from Entertainment Weekly’s relatively recent cover story:
“Sara was orphaned by a Terminator at age 9. Since then, she’s been raised by Schwarzenegger’s Terminator-an older T-800 she calls ‘Pops’-who is programmed to guard rather than to kill. As a result, Sara is a highly trained antisocial recluse who’s great with a sniper rifle but not so skilled at the nuances of human emotion.”
This idea was partially keyed off of the fact that no one involved with Genisys could envision making a new Terminator movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger, an obvious problem since he’s much older now. James Cameron, not officially involved with the new movies, pointed out that the living flesh over metal endoskeleton nature of the terminators meant that the living flesh would appear to age just like a normal human being’s. Plus, the screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) steered things toward a J.J. Abrams Star Trek-like alternate reality scenario wherein the new films can restart the franchise without having to say that the first two Terminator movies no longer happened.
It all has the potential to go very wibbly wobbly, timey wimey on us ala modern Doctor Who, especially considering that the film will apparently travel between three different time periods, presumably flashbacks to Sara’s childhood, the 1980s with ‘Pops,’ Sarah, and Kyle, and the future with John Connor and Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, who has a small role which will grow bigger in the sequels (should they happen). As best I can tell, Smith is not actually seen in the trailer. However, it occurs to me that while the Terminator films are clearly entirely dependent upon time travel they’ve never taken full advantage of the fun storytelling possibilities of time travel, not in the way something like Back to the Future 2 did. It has usually been The Resistance/Skynet from Point A in the future sent hero/villain to Point B in the past, run for your life but make sure to stop long enough to ruminate on fate and whether or not time can be unwritten. Now, we’re getting into alternate timelines, and I’m finally and truly intrigued by this movie, no longer because I simply loved the Terminator franchise when I was a kid.
The rest of the trailer is a real mixed bag. There are plenty of clearly (or at least hopefully) unfinished special effects, Jai Courtney makes no real lasting impression as Kyle Reese, the scar over Jason Clarke’s eye as the future John Connor is a bit dodgy, and the “Let’s CGI Arnold’s head on a stand-in’s body” moment doesn’t look much better here than it did in Salvation. But I didn’t expect anything as clever as that moment with Sarah in the department store, and I also didn’t expect Emilia Clarke to seem so badass. In an era forever concerned with the lack of strong women in film, both in front of and behind the camera, it is definitely notable that Sarah is the one telling the guy “Come with me if you want to live” in this new version of Terminator.
This could all easily turn out to be a hot mess, but I’m now of the opinion that it could at the very least be a really fun mess. Who knows, maybe after another trailer I’ll switch over to thinking we might actually have a legitimately good movie on our hands. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
What about you? What do you think of the trailer? Let me know in the comments.
Terminator: Geniysis is due out July 1, 2015, from director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World).