The trailer for Terminator: Genisys was probably doomed to mockery before it even hit the Internet, based on that title alone. The American consumer can tolerate some intentional misspelling—Inglourious Basterds, Pet Sematary, Bratz dolls—but Genisys makes not even a little bit of sense. It doesn’t help that public appetite for the Terminator series feels low after two terrible, forgettable films (2003’s Rise of the Machines and 2009’s Salvation) and a non-canonical TV series that never rose above cult status (The Sarah Connor Chronicles).
But even by those low standards, the Genisys preview manages the incredible feat of coming off as both uninspired and senselessly confusing. It’s adding another complicated layer to the already-twisty time-travel plot that’s been messed with for four movies now. It’s finding a way to bring 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger into the action while also featuring a digitally de-aged version of him, so that we can fondly recall the original 1984 film Genisys seeks to ruin. And it has found the umpteenth series of actors to play our human heroes: This time it’s Emilia Clarke as Sarah, Jason Clarke (no relation) as grown-up John Connor, and Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese.
We all fondly remember when Claire Danes, Christian Bale and Anton Yelchin were in those roles, right? Or Nick Stahl? No? Oh, that’s right, we don’t, because no matter how many times studios try to zap new life into this franchise, they keep forgetting that people only like the first two movies, the latter of which came out in 1991, and that no one will ever do as good a Sarah Connor as Linda Hamilton. Ever. I don’t care how flashy your time-travel device is, stop trying to change the past!
With all that said, this trailer is still baffling enough to provoke a lot of questions. If you are going to engage with this quasi-reboot (and yes, despite my complaints I foresee myself paying to see it in 2015), trying to untangle the plot of this movie is a thankless task. If Paramount Pictures and director Alan Taylor could clear up just a few of my queries:
- Why is this movie called Terminator: Genisys? Addendum: No answer to this question will ever be justification enough for that title.
- Why did John Connor and Kyle Reese wait until after Kyle was naked to shake hands and discuss the time-travel mission? Maybe leave that for last?
- Just how many Terminators are wandering around in ‘80s Los Angeles? By my count, there’s old Arnie, young Arnie (possibly deceased, possibly aged into old Arnie), and an updated version of Robert Patrick’s liquid metal T-1000, now played by Korean actor Lee Byung-hun. Yes, that’s right, they’re even rebooting villains from the sequels now.
- Just what is Old Arnie doing in this one? Sure, an Arnie Terminator came back in T2: Judgment Day to protect Sarah and John from a T-1000, but he got boiled by lava, and anyway that’s later on. Now there’s another, more decrepit (sorry, but it’s been a while) robot helping a younger Sarah? Why even send Kyle back at all? Did someone else send that robot back in a time machine?
- Just how does everyone have time machines in this movie? What kind of a post-apocalyptic wasteland is just littered with time machines?
- Why is a school bus getting flipped 360 degrees your trailer’s big closing set-piece? That trick worked to wow in The Dark Knight, but it probably won’t work again.
- Why would Sarah Connor possibly think we could stop Judgment Day? Nobody can stop Judgment Day. Every time we think they stopped Judgment Day, another sequel gets made that undoes that. Unless international audiences suddenly stop caring about these movies (hint: they will not), Judgment Day will live on
- Is it weird that two Game of Thrones actresses (Lena Headey in the TV show, Emilia Clarke here) have now played Sarah Connor?
- Does anyone else feel a slight twinge of regret that James Cameron decided to make three Avatar sequels rather than rescue this franchise?
- With Jurassic World, Star Wars Episode VII, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Transporter Legacy and a new Fantastic Four among the rebooted film properties hitting screens in 2015, will we be subjected to even more hand-wringing about Hollywood’s unoriginality? That's an easy one to answer.