Yes, just in time for holiday fireworks, the Governator is back with the franchise that made him the monosyllabic action start we all know and… tolerate. However, everything else has been retconned for this summer blockbuster. So GeekDad is here to tell you what you need to know as a parent before you decide to plunk down a small fortune and get your family out of the holiday weekend heat and into the movie theater.
1. Okay, so this is a new Terminator movie with Arnold. Do I (or my kids) need to have seen the preceding four in the series (or the TV show)?
T:G plays sequel most closely to the first two moves, The Terminator, and Terminator: Judgement Day, even recreating scenes from the former, so if those two are the only ones you’ve seen, you’ll do just fine.
2. You said something about a “retcon;” what did you mean?
For those not familiar with comic book terminology, a retcon is short for retroactive continuity, where a later story in a series may change the meaning of something previously established as fact. In the case of T:G, something has changed, and we literally get to see pieces from the previous movies play out in different ways (also, with different actors, but more on that later). It’s fun, and adds to the nostalgia.
3. Okay, there’s time travel. Does it all make sense in the end?
No, not really. There is smart sci-fi that sets down parameters such that all the crazy things that follow makes sense. This is not that kind of sci-fi. This is summer blockbuster time travel, where things don’t make sense, they just exist as plot devices to justify sequels.
4. Well, then, is it a good movie?
Again, it’s a summer blockbuster. It exists outside of such artificial constructs as “good” and “bad.” It’s enjoyable in its own way, but if it doesn’t beat “Jurassic World” or “Inside Out” at the box office this weekend, I won’t be surprised.
5. How about the acting? I hear Arnold is back…
Arnold is indeed back, and is one of the — yes — charming parts of the movie. He’s playing an older, almost paternalistic role here that’s one of the good ideas hidden in this film. Also, Emilia Clarke is a worthy successor for the Sarah Connor mantle. The same can’t be said for Jai Courtney, who is no Michael Biehn. But big props to J.K. Simmons for his funny supporting role.
6. What about Matt Smith? The Doctor is in a time travel movie, that’s got to be great!
The problem is that Matt Smith isn’t so much in this movie as he pops up once physically, and then a couple more times as a voice, and does nothing notable. In theory, he’s being set up for bigger roles in the sequels, but that’s IF there are sequels.
7. What about the violence levels? How young is too young for this movie?
As we usually say on GeekDad, only you really know what your kids can handle. But this is a pretty bloodless, boobless, expletiveless action movie. We don’t even get much in the way of machines climbing over piles of skulls from earlier movies. So, if your kids like big action movies, they’ll probably do well down below the PG-13 rating it gets.
8. Okay, how about a pee break. When’s good for that?
Pretty much any time, really. Losing 5 minutes of this movie at any point won’t really lose you anything. But best bet might be the down time as the heroes prep for the final assault in their secret bunker near the Golden Gate Bridge (no, that doesn’t make sense to anyone with local knowledge, but this is movie logic).
9. Is there any shawarma (i.e. mid- or post-credits sequences)?
Yes, there is, solely there to set up a possible sequel.
10. Bottom line: should we see it?
Maybe. I’d say this one ranks at #3 out of the 5 movies, and is pretty derivative of what came before. But it’s fun summer fare, and worth a matinée.