“The rules have been reset,” reads the tagline for Terminator Genisys. Translated into practical English that means, “We can re-write the Terminator mythology and do what we damn well please with it. So there.” Since I don’t particularly think that re-writing this mythology is any big deal, I’m OK with that. If you take your Terminator history seriously — I’m guessing this is possible — you may feel differently about that. Basically, I got what I expected. It’s a noisy, cluttered actioner with loads of explosions, fights, chases and gun play — featuring a star who built a career on spouting badly-crafted one-liners badly, and an otherwise mostly ho-hum cast. I’ll use the phrase “massively OK” to describe my feelings — and note that it’s at least more entertaining than the last entry in the series. This does not mean I’ll ever watch it again.
Now you may be wondering how it is possible to re-set the rules. That’s pretty simple really — time travel. Time travel can excuse a multitude of sins, explain just about any change you can think of, and — best of all — it doesn’t have to make any sense. Yes, you can sit there and puzzle over how all this fits together if that appeals to you. Me, I’m taking the just-go-with-it path of least resistance — if time travel is inevitable, just settle back and enjoy it. That’s so much easier than wondering how Der Arnold’s Terminator — now called the Guardian or (Clapton save us) Pops — made the crossing from Point B to Point C by taking “the long road,” since he can’t use the time machine. Or wondering why — apart from explaining how Pops has aged like the guy playing him — it was deemed advisable to make these Terminator thingies with real skin that ages. However, if you can keep from wondering if anyone involved really thought the CGI’d young Arnold looked like anything other than a computer vision of a bad facelift and an overdose of Botox, you’re doing better than I am.
The plot runs something like this: John Connor (Jason Clarke, The Great Gatsby) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, A Good Day to Die Hard) back in time to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, TV’s Game of Thrones) from the Terminator, but when he gets there, things have changed. Sarah no longer needs to be saved from the Terminator, because the Terminator has been taken care of by the Guardian/Pops, who also got there via time travel and is already protecting her. There is considerable misunderstanding, but it turns out that Sarah ends up saving him from one of those new-and-improved T-1000 Terminators (Byung-hun Lee, I Saw the Devil). If this isn’t entirely clear to you — assuming you don’t know the series and have already forgotten the explanation at the beginning — it really makes very little difference. It will only get more murky and preposterously convoluted. If you think the relationships in soap operas and Russian novels are like trying to unravel a golf ball, this is in that realm. It’s also one of the movie’s more appealing traits.
The movie is a riot of action and nonsensical visions and memories and duplicity and re-written rules — while Der Arnold is…well, himself. The film’s best gag probably lies in giving him all the scientific mumbo-jumbo to spout in his inimitable way. He gamely plows through it (even if he can’t pronounce “cellular”) and it’s so absurd that you don’t care whether or not what he’s saying makes any more sense than an Austrian-accented recitation of the lyrics to “Mairzy Doats.” If you take the whole movie in that spirit, it’s moderately entertaining. Also pleasing is J.K. Simmons as a cop-turned-conspiracy-freak, thanks to his encounter with our heroes as a young man. Simmons is at least given things to say like, “Goddamn time-traveling robots covering up their goddamn tracks!” Yeah, the plot about a “killer app” that’s really the launch of Skynet isn’t all that much different from Samuel L. Jackson’s evil free cell phones in Kingsman: The Secret Service (this is probably coincidental), but who cares? Only those who take all this seriously, I presume. Since I don’t, I didn’t mind it. Does the PG-13 rating hurt it? Not much, though you, of course, don’t see Arnold’s willy in the 1984 scenes — if that matters to you. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gun play throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language.