San Francisco takes a beating in “Terminator Genisys,” the fifth movie in the sci-fi/action series – but the terminators keep on going.
After disappointing third and fourth chapters, the new movie is a bit closer to James Cameron’s originals, “The Terminator” (1984) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991).
“Terminator Genisys” begins on the night, in the future, when the first Terminator is dispatched to the past, to 1984, to kill Sarah Connor. Shortly thereafter, her grown son John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to protect her.
Directed by Alan Taylor (“Game of Thrones,” “Thor: The Dark World”), the movie lovingly re-creates some of the memorable scenes from the first film, but then establishes something new: an alternate timeline.
Now Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, also of “Game of Thrones”) is already a warrior, with her own Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — whom she calls “Pops” — to protect her.
Arriving in the past, Reese has new memories of a computer program called Genisys designed to exterminate the human race. So he convinces Sarah to journey from 1984 to 2015, in San Francisco, to shut it down.
Unfortunately, the rest of the movie basically consists of the heroes shooting, pummeling, smashing and blowing Terminators to smithereens, only to watch them re-form again — borrowing images from decades ago — so they can start over.
Genisys, conveniently, has a countdown timer, so we know the heroes won’t even get close to it until it comes down to the final moments. So there’s a lot of time to kill with not much story.
The alternate timeline gimmick is fun, and, truthfully, it makes more sense here than it did in the “Star Trek” reboot, given the “Terminator” series’ roots in time travel. However, it raises some interesting questions that, frankly, the movie either answers too quickly or drops altogether.
The characters have “business” they can fall back on: repeated themes about “straight lines,” or use of the word “theoretically,” etc. But they don’t connect with anybody. There’s no real love story, nor anything personal at risk.
Recent Academy Award-winner J.K. Simmons turns up in a vaguely comical role as a former cop who helps his fellow humans, but doesn’t do much. (He won’t be nominated for an Oscar this time.)
In one scene, he tries to figure out what’s going on, and Sarah replies with, “We’re here to stop the end of the world.” If only someone had a better answer.
Two and a half stars
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes