To cleanse the palate, we all understand that this won’t be a good movie. But I’ve gotta say — to my own amazement, despite my contempt for Hollywood’s lazy habit of remaking moneymakers, I’m not convinced it’ll be bad either. The first third of the trailer feels pathetic: It’s the backstory of the original “Terminator,” seen from the moment in the future when John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect his mother Sarah from a Terminator sent by Skynet to kill her before she gives birth. It’s a reboot! And a badly acted one too. But wait. The Sarah Connor that Reese finds in present-day L.A. isn’t the unwitting wallflower that Reese found in the original “Terminator.” How’d that happen? And why is 2014-vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger pointing a gun at 1984-vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger? Not all the specifics are clear here (read the Wikipedia plot synopsis for that) but it’s clear enough what they’re doing. Rather than rebooting the franchise, they’re playing with the public’s cultural memory of the Terminator series to create an alternate history in which someone goes back even further in time before Reese to let a young Sarah know what’s in store for her. If the movie industry’s going to limit itself to reboots, prequels, sequels, and spin-offs of the same dozen film franchises, doing something creative with the conventions of the franchise is more interesting and ambitious than just farting out yet another Spider-Man series every 10 years with state-of-the-art FX. We could do worse than this. We will do worse.
The Atlantic crapped all over it, though, so if you’re hating what you’re seeing here, enjoy that. I’ll add one sour note: While the premise is intriguing (if maddeningly convoluted), it seems here like it’s mainly just a way to put Sarah Connor in ass-kicking mode from the beginning of the film — which we’ve already experienced in “Terminator 2.” There had better be more twists to this paradox than that. Fortunately, the age of Schwarzenegger’s character in one of the scenes suggests that there will be, even if it’s unclear why, er, a robot would age.
Update: Commenters are nerding out on me, reminding me that the Terminator isn’t a robot, he’s a cyborg, a.k.a. cybernetic organism. His flesh is organic and thus he appears to age over time. Which means, presumably, that a Terminator unit that ran for 200 years would end up either gradually losing its skin and reverting to the pure robo-skeleton beneath or else looking like the Cryptkeeper. There’s an idea for Terminator 6.