We’ve seen a whole mess of footage from Terminator: Genisys. The good news is, the footage looks a lot better than what we’ve seen so far in the trailers, and this new bizarro John Connor is fun. The bad news? The complications of the rebooting this franchise look really intense. Spoilers ahead...
Arnold Schwarzenegger took the stage at Paramount’s CinemaCon presentation, dressed as the T-800, complete with sunglasses and attitude. He was great — he promised the crowd of theater-owners and film professionals that he wouldn’t be acting in this movie if he didn’t truly believe in what they were making. That’s nice. Also it’s great having this actor back in this world, since he’s the cornerstone of the Terminator franchise, and to make a film (almost) without him (cough cough Salvation) is just odd.
But now onto what they screened — here’s what we saw:
The footage jumped off by re-setting Judgement Day. Again. Not entirely sure this is something that the audience really needs to have explained all over again, but sure OK. A voiceover by Kyle Reese (now played by Jai Courtney) sets the stage. He laments that people used to tell “stories of how the world once was green,” while a kid looks out the window of an passenger plane while missiles launch across the sky. This is Judgement Day.
Cut to the aftermath. San Francisco is destroyed — all that’s left is the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge. The voice over informs us all that millions perished in the nuclear fire that burned the globe. Another cut, and we’re even further into the Terminator future, looking at the world from a young Kyle Reese’s perspective. He’s younger than in Terminator Salvation, maybe 7 or 8 — but you can completely disregard Terminator Salvation, because that’s what Terminator Genisys is also doing.
Super-young Kyle Reese is running through his post-apocalyptic world, where the struggle is real. Cut to Reese’s POV looking into a shining face of hope — it’s Jason Clarke as futuristic John Connor. The new John Connor has an outstretched hand, and picks up Kyle Reese. And now we’re in the future, where John Connor and adult Kyle Reese (Courtney) are fighting the machines. The world is dark, and Connor is lecturing his troops from a futuristic compound surrounded by a red, laser fence. He’s giving them the last fight-type speech, because they are at war. CG Hunter-Killers take flight and blast Connor’s troops. Meanwhile Skynet readies a Terminator bot (the original Arnold Schwarzenegger T-800 from 1984) who steps into a time machine and jettisons off to the past.
After the T-800 disappears, the humans storm the time machine room. John Connor knows that this is a time machine and he calls it the, “first tactical time weapon.” He also knows that it was just used to send a Terminator back in time to kill his mother. Because he’s John Connor, and he’s already lived through all of this. So naturally, Kyle Reese volunteers to go back (as he did in the original film).
Another jump! Reese lands in 1984. But, as we now know, things are different. Sarah Connor greets him, not as a woman blissfully unaware that the savior of humanity will spring from her womb, but as the bad-ass Sarah Connor from Terminator 2, telling Kyle Reese, “on your feet soldier.” That makes two Kyle Reese lines that the new Sarah Connor has stolen. So Kyle Reese steals his Nikes from the recreation of the 1984 department store, but everything is different because now there is a T-1000 (a terminator from the wrong time period) waiting for him. Connor saves Reese, and introduces him to the T-800 —and Reese responds by trying to shoot his head off. The T-800 (who is older that the T-800 from the original movie because he’s being played by current day Arnold Schwarzenegger, but also because his character has been sent back in time to raise Sarah Connor from a little girl) responds by knocking Kyle Reese out. Basically the whole thing is different, but the footage still pauses to make jokes. Sarah Connor is basically Eddie Furlong from T2, making jokes about trying to humanize her T-800. And the T-800 smiles. It’s more of the same.
When Kyle Reese finally comes to, he discovers the new plan. Sarah Connor tells him, “If we can change the past, then we can change the future.” And Reese agrees that they should knock out Skynet before it’s even born. This is where things get a little bit complicated, because the next scene shows Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese (both wearing scrubs) and talking to future John Connor, who is no longer wearing his tactical Terminator-fighting gear, but a suit.
Turns out in this new timeline, John Connor is the bad guy. Jason Clarke is revealed to be half-human half-Terminator — we know this because after the old T-800 pops, in he puts a bunch of bullets in Connor’s chest. Connor bleeds out — but then his blood is sucked back into himself and he rises up, Roger-Rabbit-cartoon-villain style. Evil John Connor then attacks, showing off his new abilities and taunting his mother “I can’t be bargained with, I don’t feel pity or fear.” His mission is to help Skynet take over the planet.
This is when things change Terminator canon forever, when Sarah Connor suggests, “Maybe John is not humanity’s last hope. Maybe we are.” That’s a preeeeeetty big change. There were a few other flashes of scenes that I’m going to have to take out of context. It looks like one larger chase scene is between Evil John Connor, Kyle and Sarah. He’s the one chasing them on the bus across the bridge, and he manages to flip the whole thing over with a flick of the wrist. There’s also a moment where a burning Terminator walks out completely on fire, puts itself out and then regenerates its outer layer of fake skin and clothes, revealing Evil John Connor in a suit. That shot looks fantastic. Another out-of-context scene has J.K. Simmons pleading with a handcuffed Sarah Connor in a police station, while lights flash in the hallway. Looks like he gets that the end of the world is near. It’s kind of hilarious. But also is this a recreation of this Terminator scene but with the newly added T-1000 to a 1984 timeline? Is this scene even taking place in the year of 1984? It’s all really scattered.
Overall, John Connor as the bad guy is definitely something different that Paramount is bringing to this series (and Jason Clarke is pretty sensational as the human-machine hybrid). But they also want this new Terminator: Genisys to relaunch this franchise, and have three films (hopefully) planned including this movie. I don’t see John Connor playing the bad guy forever. But I could imagine a brand new John Connor-type character. What if Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor decide NOT to make a baby, and adopt a girl savior instead. At this point, anything could happen.