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Schwarzenegger and Co. play the Terminator's greatest hits in 'Genisys'
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Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator in Terminator Genisys. - photo by Josh Terry
TERMINATOR GENISYS 2 1/2 stars Jai Courtney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, J.K. Simmons; PG-13 (sci-fi violence, partial nudity, language); in general release

Terminator Genisys feels like an all-star jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Its thrilling to see so many incredible musicians on the same stage, but the product is always less than the sum of its parts.

Genisys really tries to pack its stage, even though the Terminator all-star team only draws from the first two films in the series. We get appearances from the evil original Terminator and the heroic sequel version, the liquid metal T-1000 from 1991s T2: Judgment Day, and adult versions of both Sarah and John Connor. Plus, we get serious screen time with Kyle Reese, the hero of the 1984 original.

The plot that brings all these characters together is so complex that Doc Brown probably couldnt map it out, but it boils down to this: A new Judgment Day is set for 2017, and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) need the good Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to help them stop it.

As the film opens in 2029, resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading an assault on mankinds robot oppressors. When he discovers that an assassin has been sent back in time to kill his mother, Connor sends Reese to protect her, just like in the original Terminator.

But when Reese arrives, a different 1984 is waiting for him. An aging Terminator is fighting what appears to be a younger version of himself, and a T-1000 is chasing a Sarah Connor who appears to have years of battle experience under her belt. Then Reese starts having flashbacks to a mysterious second childhood.

Its a lot to take in, and listening to the actors try to explain what is happening almost makes things worse. Best to focus on the main goal: Stop the new Judgment Day that will be triggered by an operating system that syncs your phone to your laptop to your desktop and eventually unleashes a tyrannical artificial intelligence called SkyNet.

To stop Judgment Day, Reese and John Connor have to leap ahead to 2017. The plan is to have the good Terminator John Connor insists on calling him Pops stay behind to make preparations that will be ready when they arrive. But Pops isnt the only familiar face waiting for them.

None of this will make any sense to audiences unfamiliar with the earlier films, but catering to a longtime fan base may backfire when fans realize that director Alan Taylors Genisys fails to deliver the thrills of the first two movies.

The comparisons will run amok. The action and effects are fantastic, but the sense of purpose feels lacking. Clarke brings plenty of energy to her role, but she falls short of the landmark intensity Linda Hamilton used to reinvent Sarah Connor in T2.

Its possible that some of John Connors toughness has been lost in the decision to make Genisys a PG-13 film. (The first three films in the series were R-rated.) But even without the gratuitous blood and profanity, there is plenty of violence and carnage to go around.

Genisys uses computer-generated imagery to bring the original evil Terminator back to the screen, but allows the hero version to show the ex-governors true age by explaining that Terminator flesh ages like any other organic material.

This, of course, leads to plenty of jokes at Schwarzeneggers expense. Genisys is heavy with one-liners. Some come in the form of sly winks and inside gags, but others feel out of place. (Some of the best humor comes via J.K. Simmons, who plays a police detective who connects the 1984 and 2017 storylines.)

Though its fun to see a film thats willing to let its hair down, all the jokes and plot holes make Genisys feel more like one of Schwarzeneggers dumbed-down action movies than hardcore science fiction.

There are still plenty of fun moments, but a positive experience with Genisys will require moderated expectations. Theres nothing wrong with an all-star jam, as long as you understand its there to celebrate the past more than build for the future.

Terminator Genisys is rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, partial nudity, language; running time: 119 minutes.