Trying to Make Sense of the ‘Terminator Genisys’ Trailer and Its Convoluted Timeline
If you’re anything like us here at ScreenCrush HQ, you were left a little confused (among other things) by the ‘Terminator Genisys’ trailer. Specifically, how it fit into ‘Terminator’ and ‘T2’ and their existing timelines (we’re assuming that ‘Rise of the Machines’ and ‘Terminator: Salvation’ have been completely written off). Is this a reboot? A sidequel? A bootquel? Because it started to break out brains a little bit, Managing Editor Matt Singer and I say down to try and parse the plot of this film (with the help of some GIFs and screencaps) to see if we could get to the bottom of things.
Mike: So, I don’t even know where to begin trying to make sense of this trailer. And of the film in general.
Matt: It’s a pretty confusing mythos to begin with, and this movie looks like it’s going to make it infinitely more confusing. It seems to be a reboot AND a sequel all in one. Which is sort of an interesting idea, but at least in the trailer the premise seems so lean so heavily on the earlier film for the plot and for callbacks that I wonder if it will be accessible to new viewers. Hell, I wonder if it’ll be accessible to old viewers.
Mike: I think we can agree that the beginning of the trailer, with Jason Clarke as John Connor, is the same timeline as the original film. That far in the future shouldn’t have changed.
But, if that’s the case, why does Kyle Reese look like Jai Courtney, who looks (and acts) nothing like Kyle Reese? And if it’s the future that has changed, why does Emilia Clarke look (and act) so much like Sarah Connor?
Matt: This is part of the problem with this concept, and why it’s different from something like Abrams’ 'Star Trek', which tried a similar time-travel reboot/sequel thing: In 'Star Trek', they recast all the classic characters, but they let them go off on a whole new adventure. 'Genisys' (which my autocorrect, bless its Skynet heart, keeps changing to “GENIUSES”) recasts all the classic characters (except Arnold, who’s still around) and has them do all the same things from the first movie. It feels less like a clever homage and brand extension than cruddy cover version.
And with all the alternate timelines already existing in this world, it IS confusing. It might have made more sense if Arnold was gone and replaced by a new Terminator, but of course half the reason they made the movie was to get Schwarzenegger in another Terminator.
Mike: OK, so we’re pretty sure that the Sarah Connor timeline has changed. Do we have any idea what year this is taking place? It’s obviously not the mid-80s.
A little research indicates that the John Connor year is 2029. So, at least the Sarah Connor year cannot be 2014.
Matt: This is an excellent question. At least some of the scenes have to take place in 1984, when the original movie is set. We see them in the film; Sarah Connor and a good Arnold Terminator kill the original bad Arnold Terminator from the first movie. (I think.)
But on the other hand, Sarah Connor looks about the age she was in the first movie... she’s certainly not the age Linda Hamilton is in 2014.
Mike: No. Nor does she look the age of Sarah Connor in T2.
Matt: How do we know the whole thing isn’t set in the mid 1980s?
Mike: Sarah and Kyle walk up to wall of what looks to be very modern monitors at around 2:02. Also, I noticed a Pepsi Max vending machine.
Matt: Terminator Genisys makes no sense TO THE MAX. Perfect product placement tie-in.
Mike: Zero calories. Zero sense.
Matt: As for the monitors; they look more recent than 1984, but I could see them sort of fitting into ‘Terminator 2’ era America. So maybe it’s set around the early 1990s? That would jive with having a new T-1000.
Mike: I could buy this being 1991. It doesn’t make perfect sense, but it makes enough movie sense that I could suspend some reality.
Matt: They’ll CGI the Max machine and make it a Crystal Pepsi machine. Problem solved.
Another bizarre aspect is in that part with the monitors though. When Sarah says “We can stop Judgement Day from happening.” That’s basically the plot of T2 (lending credence to my theory that this is set around then). But also: This timeline is so screwy with multiple layers of Terminators, that it seems hard to believe anything could stop Judgement Day at this point. Plus, the fact that NO ONE and NOTHING could stop Judgement Day was the entire point of ‘T3.’
So at best it’s negating the previous movies. And at worst it’s just rehashing them yet again.
Mike: But, why would John Connor send Kyle Reese to the mid-90s to save Sarah from being killed before he’s born when John was Edward Furlong age in the 90s. Unless he’s accidentally sent to the wrong year. Like someone pushes the wrong button on the control panel.
Matt: Or he’s struck by lightning as he’s time traveling, a la ‘Back to the Future Part II.’
Mike: Let’s assume that. There’s some disturbance that alters his time travel. As much of a stretch as that is, it’s the only thing that even sort of makes sense.
Matt: Or they’ve totally changed everything. But then why keep certain key elements? Other than desperate and shameless callbacks.
Mike: If this is taking place in the T2 era, why is the original T-800 so old? He should only have aged about 6 years or so. He’s aged as if it’s 2014.
Matt: I believe, based on what was discussed in that Entertainment Weekly cover story, that that Terminator arrives when Sarah is a child, and raises her from that age. We see her as a child being held in the Terminator’s arms at 1:50.
Mike: And we’re assuming Skynet sent that T-800?
Matt: Couldn’t be; why would it save her if that was the case? John Connor or some other humans must have sent it. So at some point *after* the future scenes in this movie, John Connor (or someone else) sends a T-800 to protect Sarah Connor as a child (sort of how he sends a T-800 to protect him as a child in T2). This Terminator protects Sarah Connor from something (yet another Terminator?), and isn’t destroyed, and hangs around for decades, raising her.
It’s still there in 1984 when the original T-800 from ‘The Terminator’ arrives looking to kill her. And it’s still there in whatever later year this movie is set in.
This is also why he has gray hair when he says “I’ll be back” and dark hair when he nosedives out of the helicopter.
Mike: This is starting to make a little sense, I’m still not sure though how the ages work. Clearly they’re just fudging with numbers to cast younger actors. The Terminator has aged, why hasn’t Sarah? I hate to keep harping on this. I feel like Kyle Reese. "WHAT YEAR?!"
Matt: Well the one that’s the biggest issue is Sarah Connor. Kyle Reese can be young (and incredibly hunky, I guess) because he’s being sent from the future where he’s still a young man. But assuming they haven’t pushed forward all the dates in the original timeline (and maybe they have), Sarah Connor should probably be older than she looks.
Mike: Kyle Reese is a whole different issue because of how completely different - both in looks and attitude - Jai Courtney is from Michael Biehn.
Matt: We also haven’t addressed the most important question: Where is the Terminatrix?
Mike: Wandering around Tech Noir somewhere very, very confused.
So, what did we learn? We're not really sure, but I do know that my heads hurts. In the end, this movie probably isn't meant to make sense. It's Hollywood logic. Do they really care if it all adds up as long as people buy tickets. As Nancy says in the original film, "Look at it this way: in a hundred years, who's gonna care?"