There was a meme a while back where this befuddled guy is saying, “Star Wars? Jurassic Park? Terminator? Mad Max? What year is this?” You may be saying that as well, as you’re taking your kids (or grandkids) to movies you saw when you were their age. The jury’s still out on the fourth movie (November) but of the three out this summer, Terminator Genysis is the only one I’d care to invest three hours of my time (and the price of a ticket) on again. The filmmakers did three things so well you almost forgive them for the things they got wrong.

1. That Was Then, This Is Now. How do you tell a story that’s been told for the last thirty-two years, four previous movies and a television series? You take a page from the Star Trek Reboot Handbook: you declare that everything that happens in this movie is happening in an alternate timeline. None of the stuff that happened in 1984 (and since) actually happened, and if it did, it doesn’t count. Thus, any omissions, anachronisms, inconsistencies, can be explained: Alternate. Timeline.

2. Respect The Source Material. And Then Move On. When the home edition of this movie comes out, you can get totally hammered from the drinking game you can make spotting all the homages to the previous movies and the television series, sometimes small tweaks, sometimes shot-for-shot recreations. (They even recreated some of the product placements!) But the movie also asks What if? questions: Skynet was a creation of Cold War, a single-source defensive system would not be the first choice in this Post-911 world—so what would take Skynet’s place today? Since the events of 1984 (and thereafter) didn’t happen… What if Miles Dyson didn’t have to sacrifice himself? What if you witnessed a Terminator-attack first-hand, and lived to tell about it--would you try to forget it ever happened or would that be a life-altering (or life-defining) incident? What if it was your fate to save the world, but that’s not the fate you'd chose for yourself?

3. Have Fun! All the other BIG SUMMER MOVIES tried for gravitas. They tried to put their characters in “the real world,” coping with guilt, ambition, existential angst, in movies that were meant to be “escapist fun.” It was as if the filmmakers were saying, I don’t want people feeling bad that they really paid ten bucks just to see Hulk smash/dinos chomp/Max get mad. The Genisys filmmakers seemed to say, Hey, preventing the end of the human race is pretty serious, but no reason we can’t lighten things up a little bit. In many places the characters stand in for the audience, saying what we would be saying if we could be snarky while being pursued by implacable killing machines. It acknowledges the fact that the guy playing the lead isn’t the same guy he was a generation and a half ago. The technobabble is frequently interrupted by someone saying, essentially, “You’re just making all this up, right?”

Of course, this is not to say there are no faults with the movie; as mentioned earlier, that alternate timeline thing doesn’t explain everything (like, if none of the stuff in the other Terminator films happened, how would you know?) Cameos from some of the people from the earlier movies would have been nice (Joe Morton and S. Epatha Merkerson are still working) and you don’t put that many top-flight actors in a movie without already having a sequel in mind. (I mean, you got Doctor Who and you only use him for two scenes?)

Terminator Genisys fits firmly into the reboot/sequel movie model we seem to be suck in these days. While certainly not original, it is a fresher take on the same old story.

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