There’s no need to beat around the bush; if you saw the newest installment in the Terminator franchise in the past week, you have questions. Big questions. Some of them no one can help you with. But come with me if you want to make some semblance of coherency out of this movie with our patented spoiler FAQ.
What is Terminator Genisys about?
It’s about turning the Terminator franchise into the most convoluted mess possible through the most inefficient use of time travel ever.
Oh, come on. Terminator 3? Salvation? Terminator has always been kind of messed up.
You have no idea what this movie has done. There were times I prayed for the narrative cohesion of Salvation.
Well, can you explain to me what the general deal of the movie is?
I can tell you that the movie begins with telling the story of what basically happened in the future of the first movie: the final fight with Skynet, Skynet sending the original T-800 to 1984 to kill Sarah, and John sending Kyle Reese to save her.
That sounds pretty cool.
It is, actually. But when Kyle comes back to 1984, that’s when things stop making sense.
What do you mean?
Someone has apparently been sending Terminators back willy-nilly throughout time. A T-1000 was sent in 1973 to kill Sarah when she was a kid, because it was too hard to kill her as an adult. But then someone sent a T-800 to protect her, and that’s who has become the old Terminator Sarah names “Pops.” But also Skynet has apparently also sent a new T-1000 to kill Kyle Reese when he arrives in 1984, which somehow Sarah and Pops also knew was coming. This is still in addition to the regular T-800 sent to kill Sarah in 1984.
I’m not done. In 2027, right as Kyle was about to be sent back in time, Matt Smith—who had been a regular human soldier without any lines—grabs John Connor and reveals himself to be some kind of new nanobot Terminator from out of nowhere.
Matt Smith grabbing John Connor in 2027 somehow erases the events of all the previous Terminator movies, including the original Judgment Day. And now somehow, a new “killer app” named Genisys will become Skynet and blow up the world in 2017.
So in 1984 Sarah Connor has built a time machine to travel ahead to 1997, in order to stop the original Judgment Day. But Kyle Reese now has memories from the new timeline Matt Smith Terminator somehow created where his parents gave him Genisys as a birthday present when he was 7, so he knows about it and its launch date as an adult. And Kyle manages to convince Sarah to travel forward to 2017 to stop that instead.
Wait a second. At this point in the movie, it’s 1984. They literally have 33 years to prevent the birth of Skynet. And yet they choose to move forward to the year Genisys actually goes online?
But that gives them way less time to stop it! When do they show up, anyways?
Oh, about 36 hours before it Genisys launches worldwide.
If it makes you feel any better, the Genisys system isn’t really any smarter. Mainly because it promotes its launch date in the most ostentatiously public way possible, with giant billboards counting down the exact second of the launch all over the world, and that people can give to people as empty boxes with the countdown timers in them, because everyone wants Genisys so bad.
Wait. What is Genisys supposed to be again?
Some kind of program that connects phones and online profiles and banks and everything together.
So it’s basically a glorified cellphone app. And young Kyle Reese’s parents gave this to him as a birthday present?
That’d be like giving a kid Instagram for his birthday.
Except it’s worse, because at least Instagram would function. Remember, Genisys can’t be out yet when Kyle’s parents gave it to him, because it destroys the world when it goes online. They basically bought their kid an empty box and a promises he’ll eventually get this thing when it finally launches.
As is the fact that 7-year-old Kyle looks really excited to be receiving a program at some point in the next few months that will connect his phone, online presence and banking services.
Meanwhile, the time travel antics continue as Terminator John Connor—because yes, as revealed in all the trailers, John is an evil nanotech Terminator now—has been sent to 2014 in order to safeguard Genisys and ensure the creation of Skynet. He also knows that Kyle and Sarah are arriving the day before Genisys launches and is waiting for them, although he tries to play it like he’s not an evil cyborg for a while, apparently just to screw with them. Then Pops arrives and shoots him and then basically they all fight each other for the rest of the movie.
How can John fight Sarah and Kyle? If he kills them, he won’t be born.
Well, Termi-Connor has a theory that he, Kyle and Sarah are basically special snowflakes who live outside the timestream now. Honestly, he may be right, because at this point Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are in 2017 and not only has John not been born, he hasn’t even been conceived yet.
OH MY GOD.
Yes. Sarah and Kyle have jumped to the future, and by doing so they should have rendered John completely non-existent—or at least delayed his birth by over 30 years, which means he didn’t lead any revolution against Skynet and none of this nonsense should be happening.
OH MY GOD.
Yep. Do you have any other questions?
Do I? Goodness yes.
- Who sent the T-800 Pops to protect Sarah? It couldn’t have been John because he became Termi-Connor immediately after sending Kyle Reese to 1984.
- What the hell was that new T-1000 doing before it went to intercept Kyle Reese? Just hanging out?
- Why not just call Genisys Skynet? Did they think they were fooling Sarah and Kyle? And why not spell Genesis correctly?
- From a story standpoint, what does giving Skynet a new name, especially one spelled so poorly, gain the narrative at all?
- If a T-1000 was attacking young Sarah Conner and her dad on a boat, how did the dad have enough time to look soulfully into his daughter’s eyes, run his finger across her palm, and tell her “A straight line. You just go forward and never look back” when a T-1000 can kill an unarmed person in about 0.2 seconds?
- How did Reese not die when that car hit him at a minimum of 65 miles per hour? While Reese was butt-naked, by the way?
- Why did Termi-Connor spend three years making getting Skynet up and running but not getting or creating any additional support to help him protect Genisys? He was even making robots! Why weren’t they ready?
- And why would Termi-Connor cancel the security alert when he’s like Chief Technical Officer of Cyberdyne and his minions would be totally willing try to stop three intruders on his orders?
- If Pops could manage to secretly input Sarah Connor into Cyberdyne’s security system, why couldn’t he do any more substantial hacking to at least slow Genisys’ construction down?
- Better yet, when he was helping build the Cyberdyne offices, why didn’t he plant some goddamn explosives ahead of time?
- Or, how about, instead of literally helping Cyberdyne and Skynet get made he spent his time trying to stop them instead of just waiting for Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese to show the hell up?
- What was Termi-Connor building a time machine for in 2017 anyways?
- If Skynet can move up the time of the launch—which it actually does on at least two occasions during the movie—why can’t it actually just launch the damn program early?
- How can Pops somehow be unable to hit the detonator because Termi-Conner would kill Sarah, but somehow be completely fine with passing the detonator to Reese to press which would also totally make Termi-Connor kill Sarah? That’s just sloppy programming right there.
- Why does old Kyle Reese make a special trip to visit li’l Kyle Reese to tell him about Genisys, when they haven’t paid attention to maintaining continuity in any other way?
- Does Li’l Kyle Reese not understand the meaning of Stranger Danger??
Interestingly, these all have the same answer. Do you want it?
You’re a dick.
But at least Emilia Clarke is a great Sarah Connor, right?
Hey, come on! Sarah Connor is a badass female character, and Daenerys is a badass female character. What’s the problem?
It’s—and I don’t want to blow your mind here—but some women are actually awesome in different ways. They aren’t totally interchangeable like Legos. Emilia Clarke is a great queen in Game of Thrones, because she radiates authority, majesty and has a ton of charisma. But Sarah Connor is much more of an action hero, and running around shooting robots does not seem to be Clarke’s strong suit. That’s no fault to Emilia Clarke, because she can be a really good actress. But I think this was the wrong role for her.
Bummer. What about Jai Courtney as Reese?
Jai Courtney is this generations’s Sam Worthington.
Are we due for another Sam Worthington?
I don’t know and I don’t care to think any harder about it. He should make for a perfectly adequate Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad, which I believe is the very definition of “damning with faint praise.”
So how’s Genisys end?
John Connor is dead even though he’s never been born. Skynet has been wiped out, meaning it never built the time machine that sent Kyle Reese into the past, nor did it send any Terminators at all meaning nothing in the movie has happened. And now young Sarah Connor is living in 2017 with the non-existent father of her non-existent child who she helped murder. Oh, and Sarah and Kyle finally kiss, implying they may one day have sex, even though them creating John Connor seems to be the one potential thing that could somehow re-doom humanity.
What’s the best thing you can say about Terminator Genisys?
Well, as a $150 million PSA for birth control, it’s pretty effective. All the killer robots, time travel, near-death experiences and the apocalypse itself could have been averted much more easily if Reese had just gotten a damn vasectomy.
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