It turns out we should stop thinking of Terminator: Genisys as the fifth movie in the Terminator franchise, and instead as the first movie of a rebooted franchise. At least, that’s what Paramount’s plan is, according to this Entertainment Weekly cover story. Genisys is the first of three planned films intended to “reconnect fans to what made [the] first two movies so cool, while tweaking audience expectations.”
The first way they’re going to do that? By going back in time and making Sarah Connor into a completely different person.
Minor spoilers for the film, though the fact that they’ve released this in a magazine cover story means that it’s more premise than spoiler.
It’s certainly fitting that they cast Emilia Clarke, Mother of Dragons, as the Mother of the Resistance. Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) plays her son John Connor, who we meet in the future. Alas, no word on who Matt Smith is, aside from “an ally of John Connor.” When you first look at the synopsis, things sound a lot like the original Terminator film:
The beginning of Terminator: Genisys… is set in 2029, when the Future War is raging and a group of human rebels has the evil artificial-intelligence system Skynet on the ropes. John Connor is the leader of the resistance, and Kyle Reese is his loyal soldier, raised in the ruins of post apocalyptic California. As in the original film, Connor sends Reese back to 1984 to save Connor’s mother, Sarah, from a Terminator programmed to kill her so that she won’t ever give birth to John. But what Reese finds on the other side is nothing like he expected.
Divergent’s Jai Courtney (pictured above with Clarke) plays Reese, making him younger than his eventual son. At least, we’re assuming Reese is still John Connor’s baby daddy. But here’s where the canon gets twisty. Remember how sweet we thought it was that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator gets stuck in the past and has to live out his life? We didn’t think about the repercussions of who he meets in the past:
Sarah Connor isn’t the innocent she was when Linda Hamilton first sported feathered hair and acid-washed jeans in the role. Nor is she Hamilton’s steely zero body-fat warrior in 1991’s T2. Rather, the mother of humanity’s messiah was orphaned by a Terminator at age 9. Since then, she’s been raised by (brace yourself) Schwarzenegger’s Terminator—an older T-800 she calls “Pops”—who is programmed to guard rather than to kill. As a result, Sarah is a highly trained antisocial recluse who’s great with a sniper rifle but not so skilled at the nuances of human emotion.
Wait, what? So, instead of Sarah Connor knowing nothing about why a muscular robot is trying to kill her, now she basically spends her whole life waiting for a younger version of her “Pops” to try and murder her. Talk about daddy issues up the wazoo.
And clearly this is some sort of time loop that Future John Connor doesn’t know about, because he might have mentioned to Reese his childood memories of playing with Grandpa Terminator.
That’s not to say that Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is the only acceptable version. Lena Headey was great in the short-lived Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show. Interestingly, now two Game of Thrones actors have taken on the role. What’s next, Maisie Williams playing teenage orphan Sarah?
We’re just not sure if Genisys can sell a Sarah Connor who already knows her future. Especially when she’s good with a sniper rifle but “not so skilled at the nuances of human emotion.” Womp womp. It’s like there’s a Venn diagram where the two circles say “Woman Shoots Gun” and “Woman Feels Emotion,” and the intersection says “Strong Female Character?!” and there’s nothing in it.
Terminator: Genisys comes to theaters July 1, 2015.
Photo: Entertainment Weekly