When one travels through time enough times over, things are bound to get skewed. Parallel worlds emerge, and what we once thought to be reality has morphed into something new, braced by a new past and inevitably, birthing a new future.
This is the basis of Alan ("Thor: the Dark World") Taylor's sequel, "Terminator: Genisys". Incidentally, Genisys is a program linked to the infamous Skynet, which as any "Terminator" fan knows, spells trouble. To add to this, that essential, time-traveling element of mother/father/son resurfaces, with both a cyborg assassin and sentinel nearby, but now with the '84 classic's foundation hauntingly redesigned.
In fact, the Terminator 800 dispatched to track and kill is now confronted by a mature edition, nicknamed "Pops", who we learn arrived a good number of years prior, prepared to face his imprint to protect Sarah Connor. The implication is clear: a Terminator-vs-Terminator confrontation is set, but thanks to Leata Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier's crackling script, this is only the beginning of the twisting, turning alternate-reality fun.
Within the refurbished formula, our old favorites return, but in new forms. Now we have Emilia Clarke as the determined Sarah Connor; upcoming action star, Jai Courtney as the destined-daddy-to-be Kyle Reece; and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the mechanical star attraction(s), yet again proving himself menacing, charismatic and when need be, humorous.
Co-starring is Lee Byung-Hun as the liquefied T-1000 (a nice tribute to Robert Patrick); Matt ("Dr. Who") Smith as a most intriguing impostor with a most surprising secret; and J.K. ("Spider-man") Simmons as the insightful but tormented Detective O'Brien: a role originated by Lance Henricksen in the James Cameron original.
The revolutionary legend, John Connor, is now portrayed by Jason Clarke, who made a significant impression in last year's alternate-reality mega-hit, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes". What's unique about Clarke's portrayal is that he's not only the John Connor we've come to admire from past films, but this time he's recycled into a tenacious T-3000. The duality here isn't exactly Jekyll/Hyde, but the abrupt personality contrasts certainly insinuate such.
Clarke's altered guise is also the driving force behind the film's conflict. His villainous tenacity is relentless, but unlike with Terminators past, the Connor model exudes a calm, sinister charm, more in tune with a Bond villain than an entity manufactured to kill.
As with any "Terminator" yarn, "Genisys" delivers exciting action sequences, and not just for the sake of hollow glitz. The escapades have a practical purpose, logically bridging events to the "present", while spewing a steady flow of alternate circumstances.
Indeed, for fans of action-based science-fiction, "Genisys" will satisfy. Sure, it's not the breakthrough that the first two films were and nor does it try to be as boldly revisionist as "Salvation". That's okay. "Tarzan's Secret Treasure" isn't as innovative as "Tarzan and His Mate", but that doesn't make it any less worthy within its franchise. Also, more than the other sequels, "Genisys" returns to the roots of Harlan Ellison's "Outer Limits" stories: its mood contemplative and sometimes eerie, despite the blazing visuals.
For die-hard "Terminator" fans (which includes even those of the wayward "Sarah Connor Chronicles"), this one demands a view and box-office support. Let's hope the fans back it. Though doomsday won't strike if this latest endeavor falters, it sure as hell wouldn't hurt, either, if it spawned another. The door is certainly open for a new path of thought-provoking thrills.