Terminator Genisys ***

For action fans, there probably isn’t anything more irresistible than a revisit to the venerable Terminator franchise created by James Cameron over a decade before he became Hollywood’s billion-dollar box-office meister and that made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name, including his signature moniker “I’ll be back!”  Since then, there have been two other sequels starring Arnold, a prequel starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington, and a TV series, The Sara Connor Chronicles, which introduced Lena Heady to the world prior to her scheming and plotting as Circe Lannister in Game of Thrones.

And since all the afore-mentioned projects were a success of at least some magnitude, why not another “reboot” of the franchise, especially since Arnold hasn’t been able to find his action-star footing again since his “Governator” days save doing parodies of himself in the Expendables franchise?

And so this week we have Terminator; Genisys, and like the other more successful outings of this franchise, it’s at its best when its tongue is in its cheek and the screen is exploding with ridiculously over-the-top action set pieces.  Aside from Arnold, the stars are all new, and the story is the familiar mash-up of time-bending sic-fi speculation centered on preventing “Judgement Day” and machine-on-machine mayhem not unlike what takes up most of the 2-plus hours of every Transformers movie you’ve ever seen.  The difference is that in the Terminator films, you actually care about the characters, which is refreshing.

John Connor (Jason Clarke) is all grown up in this version of the tale, which picks up in the future.  Seems just as total victory over the machines has been achieved, the machines have activated their ace-in-the-hole; they’ve sent the original T-101 (rip-offs of footage from the 1984 film) back to kill Sarah Connor, John’s mom, and now, one of the human soldiers must be sent back to save Sarah from this menace.  In other words, we see the “genesis” if you will, of the original Terminator film from the other side of the looking glass.  And so John’s best buddy Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney doing at least as good a job as Michael Biehn did in the original) goes through the time portal, finds the bum in the alley, and we’re back to the original story, right?

Wrong!  Arnold’s original T-101 character offs the punk-head bozos and grabs their clothes, but then runs into an aged version of himself, who announces that “I’ve been waiting for you” and summarily dispatches him.  Meanwhile, Reese runs from cops with barely any clothes on and is found by Sarah Connor (smartly played by Emilia Clarke; Danyres Targarian for you Game of Thrones fans), but there’s a twist–she already knows who he is, and she’s no terrorized waitress either.

And with that intro, I won’t even attempt to explain all the other time-warped transcendencies that constitute the remainder of the plot.  You can have fun figuring it all out while you watch the mayhem and get re-introduced to the shape-shifting T-1000 terminator, and even a farther advanced model, the T-8000, as the show goes along.

Through it all, the writers and cast have a great time poking fun at the franchise’s iconic phrases and images (I think Arnold parodies his “I’ll be back” line in some form or other at least a half-dozen times), and the action is outrageous to the point of being laughable, which is a good thing in this show, because underneath it all, there’s still the essential human elements that have  been the engine that made all the other silliness work; a brave soldier who protects a young woman of destiny, a boy/man who will one day save the world, and an “old, but not obsolete” machine that, against all odds, keeps them all safe from the nefarious monsters sent to destroy them.

For fans of the franchise, this is like coming back home for a while.  For newbies, it’s worth jumping in.  You’ll most likely enjoy, and head to Netflix or Target to watch the previous installments.  For kids, tons of fun as long as you’re older than pre-teen age and enjoy action films.  Terminator Genisys is summer movie fun at its better-than-average best.