Terminator Genisys is not remotely on par with the greatness of the first two films, but is a definite improvement over the last installment of the franchise. I had major issues with the casting and some of the plot elements, but found the film entertaining overall. The action scenes are well staged with amazing special effects. I didn't think that much more could be done with the 'liquid metal' effect, but it's used here with deft aplomb. I especially liked Byung-hun Lee as the T-1000. Unfortunately he has ten minutes of screen time, which is a total head scratcher; but those scenes were indeed memorable.
The film begins in the future with the decisive battle against Skynet. John Connor (Jason Clark) leads Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and the victorious humans to Skynet's time travelling device. John then reveals that the machines have sent a terminator into the past to kill his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), and prevent his birth. As planned, Kyle, who is John's father, volunteers to make the fateful journey. But as he enters the time displacement field, he sees John attacked by a new kind of terminator. Then is overcome by visions of himself as child with Sarah. Memories of a life that did not exist.
Kyle's arrival in 1984 Los Angeles is even more bewildering. A T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) is not only awaiting him, he is rescued from near death by Sarah Connor. Incredibly, Sarah has her own terminator protector, an older, slightly wise-cracking cyborg, who she affectionately calls Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Kyle discovers that the timeline has been mysteriously altered. Skynet sent a T-1000 to kill Sarah as a child, but she was saved by Pops; who has no memory of how he got there. But knew that his mission was to protect Sarah with his life, prepare for her eventual 'mating' with Kyle Reese, and stop Skynet at all costs. As they compare notes on the different timelines, Kyle remembers the most vital part of his visions: Skynet is Genisys.
If you had never seen any of the Terminator series, you could sit through Genisys and get a solid kick out of the action scenes. At the basic, Neanderthal level, the action and special effects are awesome. Explosions, gun-toting cyborgs, liquid metal guys, cities being obliterated spectacularly in nuclear explosions, that's worth the price of admission right there. If you're a diehard fan, who's really into the mythology of Terminator, the redux storyline may have you seeing plot holes like Swiss cheese. This is a spoiler free review, so I've avoided any specific plot details. But there are a few things that categorically don't add up. It's entirely possible that these unresolved threads are the groundwork for the inevitable sequel. I'll hope that's the plan and not just a lazy script that fails to round off loose ends.
The primary fault in Terminator Genisys is the casting. Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney are miscast as the leads. They're not terrible. They are annoyingly mediocre. Linda Hamilton was absolutely superb as Sarah Connor. She went from being a frightened girl, to the most badass, shotgun pumping mom in probably all of cinema. Clarke looks almost identical, but she doesn't hold a candle to the way Linda Hamilton played Sarah Connor. Jai Courtney has shown little range as an actor. While Kyle Reese has not been explored to the level of Sarah Connor as a character, Courtney is the generic good guy shooting a gun here. He certainly doesn't show the affection that Michael Biehn did as Kyle Reese in the original.
The good outweighs the bad in Terminator Genisys. The anchor of the film is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who adds a few humorous tweaks to his normally stoic performance as Pops. The Terminator fan base will be happy with the franchise back on track. This film is no masterpiece, but the groundwork is certainly laid for the sequels. Be sure to stick around after the credits. Totally worth shelling out for the IMAX 3D.