It's interesting when you can tell from a press release that the studio is being very careful about what they say.
“[Matt] Smith will play a new character with a strong connection to John Connor,” is how they phrased it in the announcement today, “alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, and Byung Hun Lee.”
To be fair, they're being very careful about everything involving this film and the cast. They've revealed some basic information. We know that Emilia Clarke is Sarah Connor. We know that Jason Clarke is John Connor. We know that Jai Courtney is Kyle Reese. And we know that Dayo Okeniyi is playing Danny Dyson, the son of Miles Dyson, the man credited with creating Skynet in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”.
But beyond that, it seems like people are still trying to make sense of what the film is and when it takes place. There are actually three major time frames in the film. It opens in the future in the final days of the war with Skynet, particularly centered around the moment where Skynet sent the first Terminator back to 1984 and John Connor sent Kyle Reese to stop him. There's a pretty big chunk that's set in 1984, and while it's familiar at moments, this is a very different 1984 than we saw in James Cameron's original movie. There's also a third time, but I won't reveal if it's before or after 1984. It's in that third time that we're going to meet Matt Smith's character, and where it will become clear what that “strong connection” the press release refers to actually is.
I know I've seemed skeptical about this film in the past, but I'll give them this… they're trying to build something different this time around. We'll see all sorts of different Terminators, and I think there's actually a pretty simple, elegant explanation for why Arnold Schwarzenegger looks like a man in his 50s when he shows up this time. I was prepared to scoff at the visible passage of time, but they've folded it into the way they imagined his character, and it works. It's a totally natural approach, and it allows him to play a different spin on the character he's already played for three other films.
Instead of trying to show us the Future War, a trap I think “Terminator Salvation” fell into, this is a film about what it means to say “no fate but that which we make for ourselves,” and how hard it is to live by that when you're trapped by what feels like destiny. The script by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier gives director Alan Taylor a solid starting point, and while Smith's part isn't huge, it is pivotal, and it seems like Taylor has worked hard to find an interesting cast to take one more shot at extending the story that Cameron so neatly wrapped up by the end of his second film.
Production is underway now, and “Terminator: Genesis” will be in theaters July 1, 2015.