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Movie Review

The story feels like one we've seen before. And it is … but isn't.

Future soldier Kyle Reese is sent back in time to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor, the woman who will one day give birth to an important child. Her son, John Connor, will grow into the iconic hero who leads the human race in battle against a self-aware computer defense system called Skynet—a construct seeking nothing less than mankind's total destruction.

Unleash the nuclear bombs and deadly Terminators, and let the ominous music pl—but wait!

What if there were a few hitches this time around? What if, while Kyle was making his fateful temporal jump, there was a nexus time flux? What if the timeline subsequently skewed into an alternate chain of events? What if Sarah wasn't the helpless waitress she's supposed to be when Kyle touches down in the past, but an already-seasoned warrior who'd been training since she was nine? And what if the expected 1997 Judgement Day was cancelled and a new Skynet threat was already in the making—set for implementation in 2017?

For that matter, what if, by some trick of networked number-nudging and secretive circuit-clicking, Skynet was able to out-think all the human tacticians and apprehend the great John Connor himself to use in its chronology-circumventing plans? Would humanity even have a chance?

OK, now you can play the ominous music.

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Positive Elements

When she was nine years old, Sarah was rescued by a T-800 robot sent (by someone unknown) to protect her from Skynet's future threats. She dubs the Guardian 'bot Pops, looking to it as a father figure after her parents are killed. And it, interestingly, develops an uncharacteristically human-like sense of affection for the girl over the years—protecting her selflessly and even pinning up crayon pictures she drew as a child.

When Kyle shows up from the future, the three eventually form something of an action-adventure "family unit" as they work together and to fight for one another. In fact, it's quite evident that these three are fighting for the future of the human race and would readily choose to sacrifice their own lives in that cause if necessary.

And, of course, they're hardly the only ones willing to lay their lives on the line to beat back Skynet's Terminators.

Spiritual Content

Because of John's outstanding ability to predict Skynet's actions, some of his soldiers dub him "the Prophet." The movie's credits are underscored by a song that talks of "going through hell" and it also mentions that "every room has got a Bible."

Sexual Content

Kyle, Sarah and a T-800 (in the form of a young and ripped Arnold Schwarzenegger) all go through time machine devices naked. Kyle and Sarah materialize in the middle of a busy highway without clothing. We see their bare backs and legs (and the men's bare chests), but everything else is strategically shadowed or covered by bent arms and legs. While getting undressed, Sarah strips down to a black bra and pants.

Pops has already revealed to Sarah that she and Kyle will eventually be John Connor's parents. So after Kyle shows up, the robot repeatedly asks if she has "mated" with him yet. (They do fall in love, but never consummate their relationship.)

Violent Content

Terminator Genisys features massive amounts of thumping, smashing, exploding destruction. For starters, we see a Skynet-launched missile strike that obliterates cities and landscapes, reportedly burning up three billion people in the initial nuclear conflagration. (We witness the massive blasts without seeing the human casualties.)

On a smaller scale, we watch as our heroes are hunted by Terminator villains in a helicopter chase and in several speeding highway pursuits. Cars, trucks, tankers and buses get blown up in huge explosions or sent spinning and crashing like children's toys. In one scene, for instance, a school bus (with no kids inside) gets upended and flips end-over-end to crash-land in the middle of traffic. Elsewhere, a tanker truck is purposely blown up, consuming at least a dozen other vehicles in the flames. Though we're spared the sight of the vehicle's occupants dying in the flaming carnage, it's implied that the unseen body count is high.

Large caliber rifles, machine guns and RPGs are used throughout. And in a couple of instances, Pops uses his own body as a weapon, smashing face-first into a police car and a helicopter's whirling props. Policemen and federal agents are shot and/or impaled by robotic foes (though their deaths are relatively free of blood and gore).

Then there's the slugfests between various Terminators. These robotic monsters slam and smash at each other and demolish any scenery around them. Some of the flesh-and-metal combatants have massive holes blown through their torsos and skin stripped from their silver skeletons. One robot has its head blown clean off. Others meet even more "creative" ends.

When Kyle and Sarah materialize in the middle of a highway, they're struck by a truck, scraping and cutting them. Both also get tossed around and smashed through thin walls by their Terminator foes.

Crude or Profane Language

One f-word and a half-dozen s-words are joined by a handful of uses of "h---" and "a--" and one use each of "d--n" and "b--ch." God's name is combined with "d--n" four times; Jesus' name is abused once.

Drug and Alcohol Content

John longs for a cold beer when the war against the robots ends.

Other Negative Elements

After appearing from the future, a naked Kyle steals a homeless man's pants and later takes a shirt and pair of shoes from a local store.

Conclusion

In my review of 2009's Terminator Salvation, I commented on how things rarely change much in this gritty, deadly franchise. If you've seen one of these gotta-stop-those-killer-'bots sequels, you've pretty much seen 'em all.

Well, director Alan Taylor and crew definitely aimed to alter that perception. And with this hard reset of the Skynet-vs.-humanity story, they've thrown every creative time-travel twist and automaton-transforming turn they could think of into their franchise reboot.

Those time-swirling loop-da-loops work for the most part (if you don't think too hard about a few scattered paradoxical wormholes here and there). And they bring the old-school, defense-system-gone-wild conflict resonantly into our Wi-Fi-connected present—something that freshens the original concept, throws in welcome surprises and explains the movie's mysterious misspelling of Genisys.

Another big change concerns the Terminators themselves. Yes, there's a new hybrid threat-'bot in action. But it's the old T-800 that gets the real makeover here. Since these humanoid robotic are covered in real, live human tissue, we're told that they actually age and look older as time passes?

Who'da thunk it?

That works well for actor Arnold Schwarzenegger—who became one of the world's top action film stars after the 1984 James Cameron-directed original hit theaters. And now Ahhnuld is back, tossing his graying bulk around with father-figure code heroically humming away in his processing core. And that "Robo-Pops-will-do-whatever-it-takes" charm actually works in the film's favor, adding to the humor and making the action feel more like a superhero flick and a bit less like some of this series' blood-and-guts progenitors (especially the original).

That's not to suggest, however, that everything is completely stainless (steel) here. There's still a whole lotta blow-'em-up to go around … and to potentially keep younger viewers awake at night. Robots still rage with glowing-eyed scariness, for instance. And like many (if not most) PG-13 actioners of this stripe, high-caliber weapons and screaming missiles rip and rend, buildings crumble and burn, police officers and others take a bullet or a morphing metallic blade to the chest, and seemingly hundreds of innocents are "incidentally" obliterated by explosive battling in the city streets … not to mention the three billion or so incinerated by nukes.

All of which underscores the reality that no matter how much a director strives to change a franchise's cinematic past when rebooting it, all that change can really only go so far before those explosions and inexorably attacking robots start creeping in again.

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Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

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