[MILD SPOILERS for Terminator: Genisys ahead!]
2015's addition to the Terminator movie franchise, Terminator: Genisys, has long been rumored to feature some X-Men: Days of Future Past (or Star Trek (2009) if you prefer) style timeline resetting. Today, we have a pair of magazine covers that offer the first look at several key characters in the film - now played by different actors than in previous Terminator installments - as well as some concrete details about how the Genisys storyline begins (which carry some interesting implications for where it might go from there).
Genisys stars Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) as Sarah Connor, Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard) as Kyle Reese, and Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as the grown-up John Connor. These key characters featured in previous Terminator installments (released over the past thirty years) figure into a story that also includes Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his iconic role, albeit this time as a T-800 whose biological exterior has aged.
So, what's been keeping Arnold's T-800 busy for long enough that it now resembles a nearly 70-year old man? Well, as revealed by EW, the robot has been guarding the Emilia Clarke version of Sarah Connor - who, in a certain timeline, was orphaned by a Terminator when she was 9 years old, and was thereafter raised by the Terminator that Schwarzenegger is playing in Genisys (a character Sarah calls "Pops"). Producer David Ellison (Star Trek Into Darkness) explained to EW that this new take on Sarah Connor is different than any of the previous versions (played by Linda Hamilton and Lena Headey).
"Since she was 9 years old, she has been told everything that was supposed to happen. But Sarah fundamentally rejects that destiny. She says, 'That's not what I want to do.' It's her decision that drives the story in a very different direction."
Genisys begins in the year 2029, as the war between humanity (led by the adult John Connor) and the A.I. force Skynet rages on, while Reese is selected to go back in time and protect Sarah Connor when she's a young woman under attack. However, when Reese gets there, he's shocked to encounter the Emilia Clarke version of Sarah - a character described as being "great with a sniper rifle but not so skilled at the nuances of human emotion" (not a shock as she was, quite literally, raised by an emotionless killing machine).
Get your first look at the Genisys main cast (sans Schwarzenegger) in character, along with Doctor Who alum Matt Smith (who plays "a close ally of John Connor" in this new Terminator film), by checking out EW's magazine covers, featured below.
Genisys costar J.K. Simmons (Spider-Man) previously referred to the film's screenplay - written by Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) - as being a "well-rounded and heartfelt" love story; that was presumably a reference to the relationship subplot involving Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor in the film.
However, it's safe to say that Sarah Connor's new backstory is not the "left-field" plot twist (and potential "franchise killing turn") to the classic Terminator mythology that Genisys allegedly contains, according to an insider who commented on the matter very recently. Not to mention, there's still the question of where Simmons' character (whoever he is) and Smith's character from the 2029 setting fit into the film's larger storyline, after Reese winds up in a different past timeline than he expected.
Smith, as it were, is rumored to be lined up to play a bigger role in the Terminator sequels currently scheduled for release in 2017 and 2018. That alone, if accurate, would have strong implications for future Terminator films... and could be a sign that the human player lineup may change in the planned second and third chapters in the Genisys trilogy.
By the sound of it, Courtney's recent claim that Genisys starts in a familiar place before "circumstances change" is, in fact, an accurate description of where the movie's narrative will start out. For example, the love story between Kyle and Sarah (instead of being just rebooted with different actors) looks to be handled in a genuinely none traditional fashion, relative to previous Terminator films - as will the chain of events that follow their initial encounter, no doubt.
Whether this re-imagining of the Terminator mythos ultimately prove to be a smart one in action, is another matter - and depends heavily on how the film's writers and director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) manage it. That said, feel free and let us know in the comments how these official story beats read on paper to you.
Terminator: Genisys opens in U.S. theaters on July 1st, 2015.