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Alan Taylor’s Terminator: Genisys is a very odd kind of sequel. The movie doesn’t actually erase continuity, instead choosing to add to the established franchise mythology; but it also in many ways serves as a reboot/rewind, in that it basically ignores the events of not just Terminator: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation, but also the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Surely there are some completists out there who will take issue with this, but the reality is that the writers of the latest sequel have a completely justifiable reason for this approach: all of those stories did take place, though on other timelines within the Terminator multiverse.
This past weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to nerd out with Terminator Genisys screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier during the movie’s Los Angeles press day, and it was while discussing their study of the larger Terminator franchise that they described their approach to Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I asked them if an analysis of the series timeline was part of their writing process, and after Kalogridis noted the significance of branching into a new timeline, Lussier explained why the more significant role for Kyle Reese (played by Jai Courtney) allowed them some freedom of focusing more on James Cameron’s first two Terminator films. He explained,
Because we were following [Kyle Reese], everything was going to branch from his journey – the last thing he sees before he travels. This point is where everything splits, so that meant really the world that he inhabits and affects most are the first two movies, so that meant that those were going to be the main bases.
Following up, Laeta Kalogridis noted that Kyle does make appearances in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but added that even that show really stands as its own branch of the same universe because of how it links to Terminator: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation (or, more accurately, doesn’t). She said,
He inhabits and affects, quite deeply Sarah Connor Chronicles and I enjoy that continuity, but I see it very much as a separate timeline. Because of the way that it was the way that it was created, and the way that it was engineered, it doesn’t really track with the final two movies, so I saw both of them as branching timelines which sort of in a way is permission to create another branching timeline.
Of course, if all goes according to plan we will see a much bigger expansion of the new Terminator Genisys timeline in the coming years, as Paramount Pictures and Skydance have said that the idea is for this new movie to launch an entirely new trilogy. Whether or not that future will come to pass is a mystery at this stage, but fans will be able to see how it all begins when the movie arrives in theaters on Wednesday, July 1st.