Human Resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) launches a final offensive against Skynet, an artificial general intelligence system seeking to eliminate the human race, in 2029. Before the Resistance can triumph, Skynet activates a time machine and sends a T-800 (Model 101) Terminator back to May 12, 1984, to kill John's mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke). John's right-hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), volunteers to travel back in time to protect her. As Kyle floats in the machine's magnetic field, he sees John being attacked by another Resistance soldier (Matt Smith) and has visions from his childhood about Sarah Connor.
When it arrives in Los Angeles 1984, Skynet's T-800 is disabled by Sarah and "Pops" (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a reprogrammed T-800 sent to protect Sarah when she was nine years old. Kyle arrives shortly afterwards, and is intercepted by a T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun). Sarah and Pops join Kyle and destroy the T-1000 with acid; she and Pops reveal that they have constructed a makeshift time machine similar to Skynet's, and Sarah plans to travel to 1997 (the year Skynet becomes self-aware). Realizing that the timeline has been altered, Kyle is convinced that the future has changed because of the warning he received in his childhood vision and persuades Sarah to travel to 2017 to stop Skynet.
In 2017, Kyle and Sarah materialize in the middle of a busy San Francisco highway and are apprehended by city police. While they are treated for injuries, Sarah and Kyle learn that Skynet is called "Genisys" (a soon-to-be-unveiled global operating system which is embraced by the public). John suddenly appears and rescues Sarah and Kyle; Pops arrives and unexpectedly shoots John, revealing that John is an advanced T-3000 Terminator. While Kyle was traveling back in time a T-5000 (Smith), the physical embodiment of Skynet disguised as a member of the Resistance, attacked John and transformed him into a nanocyte infiltrator. John, tasked with ensuring Cyberdyne Systems' survival, traveled back in time to assist them with the development of Genisys and thus safeguarding Skynet and its machines' rise.
Able to escape to a safe house, Sarah, Kyle, and Pops make final preparations to destroy Cyberdyne's Genisys mainframe. They head toward Cyberdyne's headquarters with the T-3000 in close pursuit. During an airborne chase, Pops dive-bombs into the T-3000's helicopter and causes it to crash. The T-3000 survives the crash and enters the Cyberdyne complex, where it advances the countdown from 13 hours to 15 minutes. Kyle, Sarah, and Pops plant bombs at key points in the facility while holding off the T-3000.
In a final battle, Pops traps the T-3000 in the magnetic field of a prototypical time machine. Both are destroyed, but just before the explosion the T-3000 throws the remains of Pops into a nearby experimental vat of mimetic polyalloy. Kyle and Sarah reach a bunker beneath the facility and the explosion sets off the bombs, preventing Genisys from coming online. Pops appears, upgraded with mimetic polyalloy components similar to that of the T-1000, and helps them escape from the debris.
The trio travels to Kyle's childhood home, where Kyle tells his younger self about Genisys and instructs him to repeat the warning in a mirror – critical insurance that the events lead to their arrival in 2017. Sarah, Kyle, and Pops drive off into the countryside. A mid-credits scene reveals that the system core of Genisys, located in a protected subterranean chamber, has survived the explosion.Arnold Schwarzenegger as "Pops" / Guardian, a reprogrammed T-800 (Model 101) Terminator and Sarah Connor's mentor and protector.Brett Azar stood in on-set as the body double for the Young Guardian in 1973, and Guardian's doppelgänger (the T-800 Terminator from the first film who time-traveled to 1984).Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, a Resistance soldier and John Connor's protégé. He is destined to be John Connor's father.Bryant Prince as Young KyleEmilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, Pops' protégée and destined to be John Connor's mother.Willa Taylor as Young SarahJason Clarke as John Connor, leader of the Resistance and Kyle Reese's mentor, who was attacked by T-5000 and turned into a nanorobotic prototypical T-3000 Terminator composed of machine phase matter.J. K. Simmons as O'Brien, an alcoholic police detective from the San Francisco Police Department who investigates Terminators and time travelers.Wayne Bastrup as Young O'Brien, a LAPD beat copDayo Okeniyi as Danny Dyson, son of Miles Dyson and Cyberdyne Systems' president; he co-creates the operating system Genisys with John Connor, unwittingly substituting his father's role as Skynet's creator.Matt Smith as "Alex", an advanced T-5000 Terminator who embodies Skynet. Alex's appearance is also used by Skynet as a holographic Avatar in 2017.Ian Etheridge as Skynet, age 10Nolan Gross as Skynet, age 12–14Seth Meriwether as Skynet, age 18Courtney B. Vance as Miles Dyson, Cyberdyne Systems' CEO, who, in the original timeline, was one of Skynet's creators; he funds his company's Genisys project.Byung Hun Lee as Cop / T-1000, a shapeshifting prototypical Terminator composed of mimetic polyalloyMichael Gladis as Lieutenant Matias, a SFPD police lieutenant and O'Brien's superiorSandrine Holt as Detective Cheung, a SFPD police detective and O'Brien's colleague
Although Terminator Salvation was intended to begin a new trilogy, the production of a fifth film was put on hold because of legal issues with franchise owner the Halcyon Company (which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August 2009). To avoid bankruptcy, Halcyon later decided to sell the rights to the franchise and valued the property at $70 million. On February 8, 2010 the franchise was auctioned for $29.5 million to Pacificor, a hedge fund which was the largest creditor in Halcyon's bankruptcy proceedings. The deal erased Halcyon's debts to Pacificor and guaranteed Halcyon $5 million for each additional Terminator sequel produced, to pay other outstanding debts. Pacificor sold the franchise again in May 2010.
In August of that year, Hannover House announced plans to develop a 3D animated film entitled Terminator 3000. Pacificor responded with a cease and desist letter, declining a $20–30 million offer from Hannover for the rights to produce the film. In February 2011 Universal Studios considered investing in a fifth Terminator film with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the title role, Fast & Furious director Justin Lin at the helm and Chris Morgan as the screenwriter. In late April 2011 a proposed Terminator package, dropping Morgan and adding Producer Robert W. Cort, was presented to Universal Studios, Sony, Lionsgate and CBS Films.
It was eventually picked up by Megan Ellison and her production company, Annapurna Pictures, in May 2011 after they purchased at auction the rights to make at least two more Terminator films (including Terminator 5). The deal was finalized on December 4, 2012, and the final price was reportedly less than the auction pledge because new copyright laws had raised concerns that the rights would revert to James Cameron in 2019. Ellison's brother David and others from his Skydance Productions agreed to co-produce the film. Director Justin Lin had to leave the project because of his involvement in Fast & Furious 6. Two screenwriters, Laeta Kalogridis of Shutter Island and Patrick Lussier of Drive Angry, were commissioned to write the screenplay in January 2013. Kalogridis and Lussier initially turned down the project three times, but were persuaded to write the screenplay by James Cameron.
Paramount Pictures (which has a financing and distribution deal with Skydance) was confirmed as the distributor in June 2013, when they and the producers announced a release date of June 26, 2015. Rian Johnson, Denis Villeneuve and Ang Lee were approached to take over direction from Lin, but Thor: The Dark World director Alan Taylor was selected in September 2013. In January 2014, Megan Ellison announced that her production company was no longer financing the film; Skydance and Paramount would provide funding, and Ellison would be credited as an executive producer.
After acquiring the rights to the franchise, Megan Ellison asked James Cameron for input on the new film. Cameron later met several times with David Ellison, where they discussed Schwarzenegger's role and how to remain true to the T-800 character. On August 6, 2014, Schwarzenegger posted a picture on his Twitter account of himself in a production chair on set. The picture indicated the correct spelling of the film's title: Terminator Genisys.
On June 13, 2013, Schwarzenegger said that he would return for his fourth film as the Terminator. By early November, Garrett Hedlund and Tom Hardy were under consideration for the role of Kyle Reese. That month the choice for Sarah Connor was narrowed to Emilia Clarke, Tatiana Maslany and Brie Larson, and Clarke was selected in December. That month, Jason Clarke began negotiations to play John Connor. In February 2014 the studio considered Jai Courtney and Boyd Holbrook as Reese, and later that month Courtney was confirmed for the role. J. K. Simmons began talks for the role of Detective O'Brien in March. According to late-March announcements, Dayo Okeniyi would play Danny Dyson and Lee Byung-hun, Michael Gladis and Sandrine Holt joined the cast (Lee in a lead role). Matt Smith joined the cast in May, as did Douglas Smith in June.
Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier were invited to write the script while they worked on another project with David Ellison and Dana Goldberg. They agreed to write a Terminator film when James Cameron, a friend of Kalogridis who worked with her in Avatar, gave it his blessing. The starting point of the script was to retain Schwarzenegger as a central character, unlike the Star Trek reboot with Leonard Nimoy as an older Spock in a minor role. They had to write in the actor (now 67 years old), and followed a suggestion by Cameron that the Terminator's living-tissue exterior was vulnerable to aging and their idea of Skynet sending a Terminator after an infant Sarah Connor. Kalogridis and Lussier extended this to the core characters of Kyle, Sarah, and John Connor, despite each being from a different time period. Although the writers reportedly enjoyed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, they opted to escape its suggestion that Judgment Day is inevitable because of a causal loop in favor of all Terminator timelines existing simultaneously in a multiverse. To map out the timelines and plot, Kalogridis and Lussier had five whiteboards "covering every wall in the office". They eventually reached a central plot thread in which the Skynet of one universe, defeated in several timelines, sent the T-5000 to the Genisys timeline hoping to defeat the humans by "having the best weapon that humans have": John Connor. The first draft of the screenplay, to attract a director, was delivered in July 2013.
Principal photography began on April 21, 2014 in New Orleans and ended on August 6 in San Francisco. The Oracle Corporation headquarters in Redwood City was the exterior of Cyberdyne; Oracle was founded by the Ellisons' father, Larry. Legacy Effects, successor to Stan Winston Studio, created the Terminator robotic and make-up effects led by John Rosengrant (who worked on the previous four Terminator films). Jeff Dawn, lead make-up artist for the first three installments, did not return.
The production tried to match the cinematography of the first two Terminator films. Scenes set in 1984 favored blue, green and black tones to match the look of The Terminator, and those set during the future war against the machines were modeled after similar scenes in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Visual-effects supervisor Janek Sirrs oversaw approximately 1,200 visual-effects shots generated at Double Negative, Moving Picture Company (MPC), Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Lola VFX, One of Us and Method Studios. Double Negative was the lead company, with 900 shots which included the T-1000, T-5000 and T-3000 Terminators, the helicopter and bus-chase scenes and the Cyberdyne explosion. The complexity of the T-3000, which had to be shown as a living mass of nanomites with the ability to transform in successive layers, required as much as 20 hours to render a single frame. The mechanical cells aimed to resemble the material on stealth aircraft, with a result described as "more matte than metal" and resembling a slightly-iridescent ceramic carbon. Since the T-3000 was a man transformed into a robot, the design aimed for a human shape streamlined for better combat efficiency. The T-1000 was built from fluid simulations, their environments filmed with high-resolution cameras to ensure proper reflection. Its acid destruction was realistically depicted after studies of acids burning aluminum ingots and other metal. Double Negative's artists shot many reference plates of San Francisco, including scans of the Golden Gate Bridge, to ensure that the city was recreated properly in the bus and helicopter chases.
MPC's most elaborate effect was the digital recreation of the original Terminator, which required 12 months for 35 shots (completed 30 minutes before the final print was submitted to the studio). Performance capture was used only for facial animation, since Schwarzenegger was scanned reading his lines. The studio's artists studied archive footage of the actor, focusing mainly on The Terminator and Pumping Iron, and were given a 1984 plaster cast of him. On set, the fight between both Terminators had Schwarzenegger and Brett Azar (a bodybuilder chosen for his resemblance to the actor in 1984) and, in more dangerous scenes, Azar and a stunt double—requiring effects artists to replace the face of Pops. MPC also handled the future battle, with set extensions and Skynet robots and vehicles based on models by Legacy Effects. Industrial Light & Magic did the opening scene in which San Francisco is wiped out on Judgement Day, inspired by the Los Angeles nuclear destruction in Terminator 2, and the Terminator vision. For the IMAX 3D release, the film was remastered with IMAX DMR technology to create 3D effects and a high-resolution film print.
Lorne Balfe composed the film's score. Balfe aimed to create a soundtrack which stood in its own, since Terminator Genisys is "not a prequel and not a sequel", incorporating Brad Fiedel's iconic theme in The Terminator: "have a nod to the past but also bring it into the future." Chinese pop singer Jane Zhang and hip hop artist Big Sean contributed "Fighting Shadows", released by Def Jam Recordings on June 30, 2015, as a soundtrack bonus track. The track is Zhang's first English-language recording and Big Sean’s musical feature-film debut. A music video of the single, produced and directed by Robby Starbuck, included footage from the film. The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated", OneRepublic's "Love Runs Out" and Inner Circle's "Bad Boys" are heard in the film but not included in the soundtrack.
All music composed by Lorne Balfe, except the bonus track.
Terminator Genisys saw its European premiere in Berlin, on June 21, 2015, and had its North American premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood one week later, on June 28. The film was first released in ten markets on June 25; the following week, it was released in 35 countries (including the United States) in regular, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D formats. On July 26 the film was playing in 64 countries outside North America, and was released in China on August 23, 2015.
On December 2, 2014 Paramount released the film's first motion poster, showing a T-800 disintegrating into dust before the logo appeared. A preview trailer was released the following day, with brief clips from the film accompanied by "I'd Love to Change the World" by Jetta. Differing from past Terminator releases, the preview had forced-looking camera motion in aerial-effect scenes and a first look at the color grading used to evoke the look of past films. The full trailer debuted on December 4. A second trailer (released In April 2015) was noted for spoiling the scene in which John Connor becomes a Terminator, a decision criticized by Alan Taylor and the writers.
WWE's March 29, 2015 WrestleMania 31 promoted the film with an elaborate entrance stage for Triple H in his match with Sting. On the stage, Triple H donning a Terminator outfit and a video played of Schwarzenegger saying: "Judgment Day is here. It's time to play the game." Several brands were promotional partners.
On June 14, Schwarzenegger visited Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton for an advance screening of Terminator Genisys. Two days later, Waze added Schwarzenegger's Terminator voice as a voice-navigation option. On June 19, he and Emilia Clarke appeared on The Graham Norton Show to promote the film. Schwarzenegger released a video that day of himself walking around Hollywood dressed as the Terminator and posing as a wax model at Madame Tussauds Hollywood. The video promoted a fundraising contest to benefit the After-School All-Stars which would bring selected donors to the Terminator Genisys premiere.
Several YouTubers appeared with Schwarzenegger in a YouTube miniseries, Terminator Genisys: The YouTube Chronicles, produced by Heresy and released on June 22. Consisting of videos uploaded by Machinima, Toby Turner and Lilly Singh, the series also included Olga Kay, Sean Klitzner, Lloyd Ahlquist and Matthew Santoro. On June 24 Schwarzenegger spoke to attendees of an early fan screening of the movie in New York City (announced on Reddit), which was followed by an interview and selfie session.
The film was released for digital download on October 20, 2015, and was released by Paramount Home Entertainment on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D on November 10. Terminator Genisys debuted as the bestselling Blu-ray and the most-rented film of the week, and was second in overall home-video sales to Inside Out. It has grossed over $25.1 million in total domestic video sales, bringing the film's gross to $465.3 million.
Terminator Genisys grossed $89.7 million in North America and $350.4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $440.2 million. Of the Terminator franchise, only Terminator 2: Judgment Day earned more at the box office. Because of its $155 million production budget and an estimated $50–100 million spent on marketing, Bloomberg Business reported that the film would have needed to earn at least $450 million in its theatrical run to break even. In August 2015 Forbes cited Terminator Genisys as the first American film to earn $400 million worldwide without grossing $100 million in North America, earnings comparable to the French film The Intouchables. It was the first Hollywood release to earn $100 million in China and less than that in North America; both were duplicated the following summer by Warcraft.
The film opened on July 1, 2015 in the United States and Canada (the same day as the comedy-drama Magic Mike XXL) in 3,700 theaters, and previewed the previous evening in 2,527 theaters. The two films and the holdovers Jurassic World and Inside Out were each projected to earn $45–55 million during the Independence Day holiday period and $27–30 million over the three-day weekend.
Box-office analysts noted that Terminator Genisys would have to compete with Jurassic World and, to some extent, Ted 2 for male moviegoers. They expected the film to have the upper hand, replacing Jurassic World in IMAX theaters, but good earnings were needed overseas to make up any deficits. It made $2.3 million from the Tuesday-night preview – a record for Paramount Pictures, surpassing the $2.1 million earned by Hercules (2014) – and $8.9 million on its Wednesday opening day. The film earned $42.4 million over the five-day opening stretch, including $27 million from 3,758 theaters over the weekend, placing it third at the box office behind Jurassic World and Inside Out. Scott Mendelson of Forbes suggested several possible explanations for its box-office performance: poor marketing, negative reviews, competition from the family-friendly Jurassic World and Inside Out, the decline of Schwarzenegger's star power and American indifference to another Terminator film.
During the weekend of August 2, 2015, Terminator Genisys was playing in 65 countries (including the U.S. and Canada); the film was released in China on August 23. Comparisons of overseas box-office performance were made with Paramount's Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), Pacific Rim, Lucy and World War Z rather than the preceding Terminator Salvation (2009) and the other Terminator films. The film was released in ten countries before its North American debut beginning on June 25, earning $8.4 million over its opening weekend. During its second weekend it expanded to 46 countries, earning $73.3 million and topping the international box office before being passed by Minions the following weekend. The film led in box-office receipts outside North America for four non-consecutive weekends.
Terminator Genisys had the franchise's biggest opening and Schwarzenegger's best in Singapore ($1.4 million) and Colombia ($1.3 million); both exceeded the opening of Terminator Salvation and that of 28 other countries, including Russia, Korea and Mexico. The film topped the box office in Peru, Vietnam, Turkey and 28 other countries, was Paramount's biggest Argentine opening ($2.3 million), and was the biggest July opening and the fifth-biggest of all time in Russia and the CIS ($12.5 million). In the UK and Brazil it opened behind Minions, earning $5.8 million and $3.9 million respectively, and was second in France to Les Profs 2 with $3.8 million. Other notable openings were in South Korea ($11.2 million), Mexico ($6.1 million), Japan ($5.4 million), Australia ($4.4 million), Germany ($3.1 million) and India ($3 million). Its largest markets outside the U.S. and Canada were South Korea ($23.5 million), Russia ($21.8 million), Japan ($19 million) the UK ($16.1 million) and Brazil ($11.1 million). Terminator Genisys earned $2.2 million from Chinese midnight showings (the fourth-largest of all time) and $27.4 million on its opening day, the fourth-biggest opening day of all time for a Hollywood film (behind Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Transformers: Age of Extinction). It topped the international box office with a one-day gross from China. The film earned $82.8 million in its eight-day opening week (Sunday to Sunday), $58 million from Monday to Sunday and $23.4 million in its three-day opening weekend (Friday to Sunday). Rob Cain of Forbes attributed the successful opening in China to Schwarzenegger's popularity, audience appetite for films with robots, disasters and machines and its being the first Hollywood film released after a 60-day blackout of non-Chinese films. As of September 12, 2015, Terminator Genisys had grossed $112.8 million in China.
The Los Angeles Times said critics found the film to be a "messy sequel" that was a "convoluted retread" of past films. According to TheWrap, critics found the time travel storyline to be "convoluted" and that the performances were "unremarkable" aside from Schwarzenegger reprising his role. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 25% based on 232 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Mired in its muddled mythology, Terminator: Genisys is a lurching retread that lacks the thematic depth, conceptual intelligence, or visual thrills that launched this once-mighty franchise." On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average to critic reviews, the film has a score of 38 out of 100, based on 41 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.
Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal criticized the film, saying that it "plays like the worst of all outcomes". James Rocchi of TheWrap compared it negatively to The Terminator, writing that Genisys "comes back from the past to water down a whole season of summer moviegoing". Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune criticized the film's lack of originality, calling it "simply business and dull business at that".
After seeing a pre-release screening of the film, James Cameron voiced his support for Terminator Genisys. Describing it as respectful to the first two films, Cameron said he felt like "the franchise has been reinvigorated". Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post enjoyed the film: "Genisys goes back to what made the franchise work in the first place: not the machine inside the man, but vice versa". Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair also gave a positive review, writing that the film "makes a surprisingly compelling case" for itself. Mark Hughes of Forbes called many of the negative reviews a result of "cynical nostalgia" which "distrusts change and anticipates failure", calling the review-aggregator ratings "ridiculously and undeservedly low".
In December 2013, The Hollywood Reporter reported that a television series was in the works which would tie into a new Terminator trilogy. On September 5, 2014 Paramount announced that Terminator Genisys would be the first film in a new stand-alone trilogy, with two sequels scheduled for release on May 19, 2017 and June 29, 2018. On February 24, 2015, Schwarzenegger confirmed that he would return for the first sequel. While promoting Genisys in Berlin in June 2015, Skydance CEO David Ellison and COO Dana Goldberg said that the spin-off TV series was still in development. On July 26, The Hollywood Reporter said that Paramount and Skydance declined to comment about the status of the sequel and TV series, although they confirmed that international box-office performance would be taken into consideration. Deadline reported on September 22 that the film failed to earn the required $150 million in China to fast-track a sequel.
On October 1, The Hollywood Reporter said that the sequels and television spin-off were on hold indefinitely because Terminator Genisys failed to break even. About the franchise's future, Goldberg said on October 6 that she "wouldn’t say [it's] on hold, so much as re-adjusting". According to Goldberg, despite Genisys' disappointing domestic performance the company was happy with its worldwide numbers and still intended to make new films and the TV series. Production of a sequel would begin no earlier than 2016 because the company planned market research to determine its direction after Genisys.
In January 2016, Paramount announced that the sequel had been removed from its release schedule. According to Schwarzenegger, a sixth film will still happen. In April, Emilia Clarke said that she would not return for any sequels.
On January 20, 2017, Deadline reported that James Cameron, who regains the film rights of the franchise in 2019, will produce the next Terminator film which is set to reboot and conclude the franchise. Skydance's David Ellison continues to be involved and is searching for a writer among science fiction authors with the intention that Tim Miller directs it. The author of the article describes the film as a reboot, suggesting the Terminator Genisys storyline has been discarded. On March 18, 2017, New York Daily News reported the studio chose not to pick up the options of Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke, as the sequel to Genisys has been canceled.
On March 21, 2017, David Ellison was quoted by Collider.com saying there will be an announcement regarding the future of the franchise before the end of the year, and it's going to be in a direction that will provide "the continuation of what the fans really wanted since T2".
On April 3, 2017, Schwarzenegger said that he is looking forward to being in another Terminator film, and there are negotiations for another studio to pick up the franchise from Paramount and Cameron producing, but he couldn't give any details before the announcement.
In May 2017, Schwarzenegger confirmed he will appear in the next Terminator film, with Cameron overseeing the production.
In July 2017, Cameron said that he is working with Ellison to set up a trilogy of films and supervise it. The intention is for Schwarzenegger to be involved to some extent, but also introduce new characters and "pass the baton".