'Terminator: Genisys' Set Visit Preview: More Story & Plot Details

Terminator reboot titled Terminator: Genisys

The Terminator: Genisys trailer is now out, giving fans their first look at this reboot of James Cameron's original Terminator films. Ever since Genisys was first announced (and Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed the project by starring in it), people have been wondering how director Alan Taylor (Thor 2) and screenwriters Patrick Lussier (Drive AngryDracula 2000) and Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island, Alexander) plan to course-correct the franchise.

Back in the middle of the summer 2014 movie season, Screen Rant got to join a select group of journalists at NASA's New Orleans location, where the cast and crew of Terminator: Genisys were hard at work on a pivotal scene from the movie's time-hopping plotline. Our group came loaded with questions about what the filmmakers have planned for this first chapter in an already-designed trilogy; and if you read our report below, you're bound to learn more about what this new vision of Terminator is all about.


Terminator: Genisys motion poster; trailer this week

A NEW RE-IMAGINING: Fans of the franchise, listen up: We were told explicitly that Genisys will preserve the events of Terminator 1 & 2 as a separate timeline, while entirely wiping away the events of Rise of the MachinesSalvation and (sadly) The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Basically we are getting something like J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot or Back to the Future II: a character seeks to play out a preordained set of events (in this case, Kyle Reese) only to find out that said events are no longer valid, and he is in the midst of an entirely new timeline. It's the sort of "have your cake and eat it" plot device that allows room for James Cameron's seminal films to still be counted as valid, while still allowing new creators to drive the story in a wildly new direction than what fans expect. It's a risky gamble - but one that could pay off dividends.

Michael Bien and Linda Hamilton in Terminator
Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) in 'The Terminator' (1984)

THE VISIT: When we arrived at NASA, we had to go through a pretty thorough check (passports and ID's, that sort of thing) before we could be admitted to the super-secretive set of Terminator: Genisys. Before entering the set, we stopped in the dining tent outside for a quick chat with actor Jason Clarke, who was just coming off a successful premiere weekend for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. In the film, Clarke takes on the iconic role of humanity's savior, John Connor  - though how much we'll see of him in the film, and in what capacity, was a heavily guarded secret.

After chatting with humanity's savior, we ventured into the set to see the people who will actually be going out to save humanity this time around: the new Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), with Schwarzenegger as a new, aged version of the Terminator who has been watching over Sarah for some time.

Terminator Genisys 5 Trailer
Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Terminator Genisys'

The set was designed to be a specific room in a facility called Cyberdyne (sound familiar?) - one that houses a crucial piece of equipment: the time travel device that has sent both humans and Terminators into the past to wreak havoc.

Most of the rest of the day consisted of talking with the cast. Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney talked about what it's like having to step into playing such iconic characters in a franchise that has seen better days. A spot of good news: Courtney gets to wear the same Nikes Michael Biehn did in the original Terminator! Meanwhile, Clarke has been pumping serious iron getting ready to become Sarah Connor.

When we got to talk to the big man himself (Schwarzenegger), we discussed what it was about this vision of the franchise that made him finally return, after being so adamant about passing on Terminator Salvation.

Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke in Terminator 5 Genisys
Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke in 'Terminator: Genisys'

Director Alan Taylor  talked to us about exploring themes of dysfunctional family (i.e., the Connors' time-warped family relations, and their connections to Skynet and the Terminators - bad and good).

Producer David Ellison of Skydance broadened the thematic focus, touching on how, in today's world (and presumably the near future), an entity like Skynet wouldn't have to conquer through force and violence: we would happily invite Skynet through our front doors via digital technology. After all, A.I. is getting close to being a consumer commodity - let alone a technical innovation. No matter how Genisys ends up as a film, we can say that the filmmakers did start with some intriguing and modern concerns for the series to explore.

Arnold Schwarzenegger talks Terminator: Genesis

We also got to talk to costume designer Susan Matheson and Diana Butler from the props department, who told us all about creating the looks and weaponry (respectively) for not just one, but three different time periods.

You can check all of this information - and more - when our full interviews from the set of Terminator: Genisys are posted online (presumably closer to release date).

WATCH: The Terminator: Genisys Trailer


Terminator: Genisys will be in theaters on July 1, 2015.

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