We already knew that the next Terminator was going to be super weird, but just how strange was finally revealed during Paramount’s CinemaCon presentation earlier this week.
The panel was introduced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in full Terminator costume, so that’s pretty awesome. He seems to really believe in the project, and told the crowd that he wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t think it was a great film. That’s somewhat reassuring, although he also did T3, so yeah.
Then Paramount showed off some footage, and this is where things get a little nuts.
Terminator: Salvation is Out
So our first big revelation is that Salvation is being completely ignored. The footage began with Judgement Day, again, before cutting to a young Kyle Reese living in the midst of the Terminator/human war.
So how do we know Salvation is out of the picture? Well for one, Kyle Reese is like 8 years old in the footage, whereas he was much older (and Anton Yelchin) in that fourth film. Additionally, Genisys retcons how they met, with Connor becoming something of a father/Messiah figure to kid-Reese.
It seems Salvation is joining The Sarah Connor Chronicles in Terminator-canon limbo, although that’s probably for the best. Removing Salvation from the picture actually fixes a few of the more egregious inconsistencies in the timeline, although as we’ll soon see, it won’t stay fixed for long.
It’s Still a Single Timeline Though… Somehow
The footage then skips ahead a decade or so to the battle we saw in the trailers. Connor’s human resistance assaults a Terminator compound, while Skynet prepares to send a T-800 back through time. Just after this happens, Connor’s troops manage to overwhelm the Terminator defenses, and take the room containing the time machine.
John Connor sees it, and calls it the “first tactical time weapon.” How does he know this? Because he’s already lived through the events of Terminator 2, so this isn’t his first rodeo. This raises some serious questions about the nature of time and predestination in this series, but I’m guessing the film is hoping you’ll ignore the horrifying implications of this scene.
So of course, Kyle Reese offers to travel back to the 80s in order to stop the T-800 that Skynet sent, and Connor doesn’t seem too bothered by the fact that he knows Reese will die there. Regardless, Reese makes the trip, and ends up in 1984 as planned. Or, not as planned, because the “past” is all kinds of wrong.
And Then Everything Goes Crazy
Reese arrives, looking for clothes, only to be welcomed by a freakin’ T-1000, a Terminator that shouldn’t have arrived for another decade. He’s saved by Sarah Connor, who isn’t exactly the woman we saw in the original Terminator.
Instead, she’s accompanied by a friendly T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and has been preparing for Judgement Day since she was a kid. How you ask? Well somehow, a T-800 was sent back in time to her childhood, saving her from yet another Terminator attack, and raising her ever since.
I’m assuming we’re meant to just go with it, because at this point, I have no idea what the Terminator series is trying to do with its time travel shenanigans. My brain is finding it impossible to reconcile how two Terminators could have arrived in Sarah Connor’s childhood, yet still lead to the events of the first film, so that John Connor could be born and grow up to lead the resistance, capture a time machine, and send Kyle Reese back to get down with his mom. Ow, my head.
The New Plan
Given that Sarah Connor got a 15 year head start on her preparations, she of course has a new plan. Well, not a new plan. She still wants to take down Skynet, a la Terminator 2, although I assume it’s not by assassinating Miles Dyson this time.
We don’t actually find out, because the next scene jumps forward in the movie a bit to show off that absolutely bonkers reveal from the previous trailer. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese meet John Connor (who looks like he does in the “future”) at a hospital. Somehow Connor has managed to follow them back in time, and now he’s a human-Terminator hybrid who’s there to help Skynet take over.
Did sending Kyle Reese back in time somehow lead to a version of the future where John Connor becomes a Terminator? Or would that always have happened? Either way, how exactly can Sarah and Kyle stop that from happening, if whatever they’ve done has already caused it? Ugh, ok, let’s move on.
So evil John Connor is back in the 80s, and he’s on a mission of some kind to help Skynet win the war. This might mean that Judgement Day isn’t in the cards anymore, and as we guessed from the last trailer, it probably has to do with something called “Genysis.” Perhaps it’s a plan to convert all of humanity to machine-people hybrids.
From here on out, the footage is mostly just showing off how crazy the John Connor Terminator is. He sucks his blood back into himself after being shot, he flips a bus with his bare hands, and after catching on fire, he regenerates his entire body and clothes.
In the mish-mash of out-of-context scenes, we also spot J.K. Simmons and a handcuffed Sarah in a police station, likely a version of the iconic police station scene from the original Terminator.
That’s in line with previous rumors we heard that Genysis would be revisiting certain scenes from the first two films, playing out differently now that the past has changed. In this case, it sounds like the T-1000 might be attacking that police station, instead of the T-800 in the original movie.
At some point, Sarah Connor ruminates that maybe her son isn’t the savior of humanity, maybe she and Kyle Reese are. If so, and if that’s the direction of the series from here on out, that’s a massive departure. Literally every Terminator movie so far has been about keeping John Connor alive. If Genysis reveals that the end-game of that plan is that he gets converted into a Terminator super-weapon, man, does that paint these movies in a different light.
The most confusing thing is that this isn’t so much as a reboot, as an attempt to use the series’ time traveling to fit everything together (minus Salvation of course). That seems messy, and unwise, but we really haven’t seen enough of it yet to definitively say one way or the other. All I know for sure though is that I’m very confused. Intrigued, but oh so confused.
Terminator: Genysis is out on July 1, 2015.