Thrills, spills, guns, fistfights, explosions, crashes—Terminator Ginisys has it all—but in addition, it has mind games where the identities of the main characters move back and forth in time and even morph into someone else. Although of the latter, we’re not always sure; maybe their true identity was disguised all along. And then there is The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) who is challenged by a younger version of himself.
The plot is relatively straightforward; an evil force named Skynet has almost been successful in doing away with humans altogether and replacing them with machines. And amazing contraptions these are in their abilities to reconstitute themselves after injuries or at will—sometimes into moving metal beings, sometimes into humans, and they can even make their hands grow into very long swords that are able to cut through steel doors. But there is a small group of humans and one Terminator who will risk their lives to save humankind.
The story begins with a rebel group of humans led by John Connor (J. Clarke) whose plan is to destroy the heart of Skynet, a machine built to go back in time and kill Connor’s mother so that he will not be born. So Connor has a brilliant plan to turn their scheme against them; that is, to send his most loyal follower, Kyle Reese (Courtney), back through time to his mother Sarah (E. Clarke), who could foresee the future and told John all about it. Kyle is to rescue her and destroy the death machine so that Skynet and “Judgment Day” (i.e., doomsday) will never come to pass.
Kyle successfully goes back in time, but the situation he encounters is completely different from what he has expected. But as expected, it is very dangerous, and Kyle will be lucky to escape with his life.
The conception of this film by screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (three Dracula movies) is complex, and they use comic relief from time to time to counter the tension and constant battles and explosions. For instance, J. K. Simmons has a cameo role as a somewhat bumbling police detective who knows exactly what Kyle and his cohorts are up to; however, no one listens to him. And The Terminator makes comments about being old but not obsolete, which always brought up a chuckle in the screening.
Director Alan Taylor, probably best known and awarded for co-directing prime-time television series such as “Mad Men” and “Game of Thrones”, seems well up to the task here in a major feature. Excitement abounds, and the production design (Neil Spisak) and special effects are noteworthy, especially the morphing actions on all the terminators—unless, of course, you’ve seen earlier versions.
Schwarzenegger is in his usual fine form, and he, Emilia Clarke, and Courtney fit together mostly, although I would have liked to see less bickering, which was probably supposed to be funny, but I found it grating. I’ve been a fan of Jason Clarke for a number of years, especially his work in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. His performance here is just as good.
This is a film primarily for those who have not seen the previous Terminator versions (1984, 1991, 2003, 2009) or love them so much they never tire of repeat viewings. This is the fifth film in the series, and whereas the first two were hits, the last three seem to be stuck in time—which is highly ironic.
The Terminator returns…again!