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The 'Terminator: Genisys' Trailer Is Here, but What Does It Mean?

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in his most famous role—the time-traveling robotic assassin known as the Terminator. The first trailer for the new film is out, so we looked at just how similar this film might be to its predecessors.

by Dave Schilling
Dec 4 2014, 7:54pm

After a deluge of poorly received promo images were published in Entertainment Weekly, Terminator: Genisys—the movie whose title journalists from around the country have to constantly google to make sure they're spelling it correctly— released a trailer to YouTube in the hopes of getting public opinion back on the film's side. 

The fifth installment in the increasingly convoluted time-travel-based series hopes to reinvent the franchise for viewers who have only a vague understanding of the elaborate continuity laid down by the previous entries. To recap: In the first Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger's title character was sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor, the future mother of anti-robot warrior legend John Connor, but he was stopped by a human soldier who was also sent back in time. For the next three movies people and robots keep traveling back in time and changing history because the movie-watching public does not care if action films make sense. 

​Edward Furlong, Michael Edwards, Nick Stahl, Thomas Dekker, and Christian Bale are now joined by Jason Clarke as actors who have played resistance leader John Connor. There are as many John Connors as there are ​Rusty Griswolds. The character has ranged from smartass delinquent to morose loner to stoic badass. The lack of consistency with this pivotal character—a messiah figure who is meant to save humanity from Skynet's robotic aggression—is just one of the reasons Genisys (yes, I had to look it up again) is attempting to wipe the slate clean and clear up the confusion. Will it succeed?

Well... maybe. Let's have a look:

At about  ​1:14 into the trailer, Emilia Clarke, the new Sarah Connor, utters the famous line, "Come with me if you want to live" spoken by Kyle Reese in the first film and the T-800 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. From there, the trailer sprinkles in liberal amounts of callbacks, visual cues, and references to the two Terminator films people like.

That's the T-1000, the liquid-metal killing machine played by Robert Patrick in T2. He's back, but not played by Robert Patrick. I don't know who this dude is, but he looks like an Asian Robert Patrick. Go on, Asian Robert Patrick! It's your world now! Just don't stab me while I'm trying to ​drink milk out of the carton.

This is a CGI recreation of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 from 1984's The Terminator. He kinda reminds me of ​this. Old man Arnold blows away the CGI Arnold with a shotgun on top of Griffith Observatory, which is where our Austrian Adonis ​first appeared in the original film. Are you confused yet?

During a montage of what look like pretty impressive action scenes, a voiceover of Sarah Connor explains to Kyle Reese—John Connor's best friend, dad, and underling all rolled into one—that the future we know from the franchise no longer exists and that everything has "changed." This is followed by Sarah yet again saying they can stop Judgment Day from happening (which is what every character in every Terminator movie except for the last one has tried and failed to do so far).

At  ​2:22, Arnold says "I'll be back" yet again, and you have to wonder, has everything actually changed? From the brief glimpses we've seen up to now, Genisys (I scrolled up while writing this to make sure I spelled it right) seems to want to split the difference between the nostalgia act of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the bold stylistic departure of Terminator Salvation. It's a little bit of both, and maybe that's a good thing. The success of the recent Star Trek and Superman reboots and the last ​James Bond show that a healthy mix of the old and the new is what modern audiences want. The question is, did the makers of this new Terminator get the formula right?

One of the most well-known quotes from T2 is "No fate but what we make for ourselves," which implies that the future is unwritten, just like Joe Strummer said. The last two films did much to contradict that line, instead implying that Judgment Day can't be changed and humanity is doomed to fight the machines no matter what—taking what was a hopeful story of love and hope in the face of certain destruction into a cynical statement about predestination. Let's hope Genisys (OK, I think I've got it) can swing us back around to the other side.

If it doesn't, I guess they can always reboot the entire franchise and start all over.

Follow Dave Schilling on ​Twitter.