I’m not exactly sure how to explain the difference between a sequel, a remake and reboot, but Terminator Genisys is the rare film that can be described by all three. The fifth film in the Terminator franchise is a reimagining of the roots of the series, complete with several new actors taking over the pre-established characters and a new director at the helm. The first two films in the franchise are classics of the genre, but I haven’t really cared about any of the films since. I had extremely low expectations for Genisys, which actually ended up being a good thing; if you’re not expecting much, this is actually a pretty enjoyable summer flick. It’s messy, bland, convoluted and visually uninteresting, but somehow it works on such a basic level that it remains a surprisingly easy and entertaining watch.

The year is 2029 and the human race is fighting a resistance against Skynet and an army of Terminator robots. Leading the charge is John Connor (Jason Clarke), who has determined that all it takes is one last push to win the war. But as they defeat the army, they soon discover that a Terminator robot was sent back in time to murder John’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and prevent John from ever being born. John’s right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers to travel back in time and protect her. But when he arrives in the year 1984, he soon discovers that Sarah is already being protected by a Terminator, nicknamed “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). With Sarah safe from harm, the group travels back into the future in an attempt to stop Skynet from unleashing a sentient artificial intelligence program, named Genisys.

If that plot synopsis sounds like a confusing mess, you’ll get a good sense of how the rest of the film feels. The first 20-30 minutes are essentially a remake of the original film, but when things take a different turn in the second act, the story begins to get much more convoluted. Plot holes are bound to be a problem in any time travel film and usually you can just overlook them. But the plot of Terminator Genisys offers up so many dizzying time travel contradictions that it’s enough to make one’s head spin. I highly suggest not looking too meticulously at what’s going on, because if you’re able to just go with the flow of the story, things are actually pretty easy to follow. It’s nice to see the writers change things up a bit from the original films and prevent this from being a by-the-numbers remake. It’s also worth noting that the villain who emerges in the film’s second half is pretty interesting, even if his existence may not hold up under close time travel scrutiny.

Director Alan Taylor is best known for his work on TV shows and for helming Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World and here he does a fine, albeit unspectacular, job in the director’s chair. There’s a lot of action in the film and a lot of it just blends together, never making much of an impression. This isn’t true for an awesome sequence that takes place on the Golden Gate Bridge. As Sarah Connor drives an out of control school bus, it flips over and hangs off the side of the bridge. It’s reminiscent of a similar sequence in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, but there are enough differences here to help it stand on its own. None of the action in the film comes close to being bad, but this is the only truly memorable sequence.

Stepping in for Linda Hamilton and Lena Heady, Emilia Clarke proves to be a pretty great Sarah Connor. She may not quite have the believability as an action star like Hamilton had, but she slips comfortably into the role and remains both likable and beautiful throughout. Jason Clarke proves to be a great John Connor, giving a solid performance and bringing a consistent believability to a character who could have easily become a cliché. Jai Courtney is the weak link in the cast, not necessarily bad, but lacking any charisma or personality. But if there’s a clear standout in the film, it has to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. The guy’s getting old, but he still knows how to deliver a perfectly cheesy one-liner. In a similar fashion, the Terminator franchise is also aging, but Genisys proves that it can still provide a goofy, fun distraction.

Terminator Genisys receives 2.5/4

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