Entertainment Weekly has the first look at the upcoming Terminator: Genisys with an article subtitled “How To Save A Billion-Dollar Franchise”—a strategy that includes the casting of faces new and scientifically-validated-as-old, an irritating (and therefore memorable) name, and finally, a proper marketing push. The covers kick off that last leg with a shot of Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney, from what is presumably a souvenir photo taken at Six Flags. Clarke’s leather jacket and freewheeling, windblown hair conveys Sarah Connor’s dauntlessness; Courtney’s scowl conveys Kyle Reese’s grit, as well as the fact that he really wanted to take one wearing the old-timey Western costumes.
Here’s another variation, featuring Jason Clarke’s deeply scarred John Connor—you can tell by the initials on his jacket—trying to look serious about the apocalypse next to Matt Smith’s mystery “ally,” only to be photobombed by a grinning cyborg. Truly, Skynet has become self-aware, and a bit of a jackass.
But possibly even more interesting than revealing that the Terminator reboot will continue the war between man and machine to take one decent picture, the article also promises several “shocking twists on the canon.” Among the biggest: This time, Sarah Connor is no longer an ordinary woman who becomes extraordinary by having destiny thrust upon her, but rather an edgy, disaffected child assassin who becomes a slightly older version of that. And, in keeping with the film being a heartfelt, PG-13-appropriate story, this Terminator is programmed… to love.
Twist No. 1? Sarah Connor isn’t the innocent she was when Linda Hamilton first sported feathered hair and acid-washed jeans in the role. Nor is she Hamilton’s steely zero body-fat warrior in 1991’s T2. Rather, the mother of humanity’s messiah was orphaned by a Terminator at age 9. Since then, she’s been raised by (brace yourself) Schwarzenegger’s Terminator—an older T-800 she calls “Pops”—who is programmed to guard rather than to kill. As a result, Sarah is a highly trained antisocial recluse who’s great with a sniper rifle but not so skilled at the nuances of human emotion.
“Since she was 9 years old, she has been told everything that was supposed to happen,” says [producer David] Ellison. “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.”
In summation, in this reworked timeline it is Sarah Connor who’s the robot, her inability to process human feelings—and being told at the age of 9 that she has to someday have sex with a guy she hasn’t met yet—spurring her to reject both love and destiny. (Until at least the third act, when she accepts her calling according to the programming of the “hero’s journey” arc.) Fortunately, she has Ol’ Pops Terminator looking out for her, who’s always gently knocking on her bedroom door when his scanners tell her she is in need.
“Are you Sarah Connor?” Pops will say as she gazes disaffectedly into a mirror. “Well, are you?”
Training her sniper sights on her heart, Sarah will sigh and agree that she is.
“Then that is all the information required,” Pops will declare, his mission completed. “I’ll be back… with cocoa.”