First, let's just lay down some timeline stuff real quick, because things are starting to get confusing considering all of the time travel and sequels of the 'Terminator' franchise. To put it simply, we're going 'Terminator', 'Judgment Day' and now this. 'Rise of the Machines', 'Salvation' and 'Genisys' now all exist in an alternate timeline, and this is sort of pulling a 'Halloween, 2018' on us.
With that said however, I couldn't compare this movie to much more than I could compare it to 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'. By this, I mean that what we have here is essentially a soft reboot. Plot-wise, it's pretty much a collaboration of the first two films, leaning heavily on 'Judgment Day'. The Sarah Conner of this is now Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), the Terminator sent to hunt her is now a "REV-9" (Gabriel Luna), and the protector is now an enhanced human woman named Grace (Mackenzie Davis). And really, no kidding, it is pretty much the same thing all over again.
For a bit of fan service, however, we also know that the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and classic Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) make a return. While Hamilton does a great job as a casual bad ass here, though, Schwarzenegger is officially playing a "retired" Terminator, living life out in the wilderness, and the whole thing honestly never sat well with me right from the trailer. But the good news is, he's not brought into it so much so that we get annoyed with him representing a sort of goofy fan service. I hate to admit it, but some of it is kinda cringe-inducing.
I also have to admit that I'm not at all a fan of Dani's character, only because she's so incredibly rushed into things. The film never stops to take a moment to get to know her as a person, she's pretty much simply the next target. Hamilton and Davis both completely overshadow her with their performances, and it's enough to make you wonder why you care about Dani at all. In just about any horror movie, one would expect her not to make it because there's no time invested in her.
However, for all the bad, there's still quite a bit of good here. Once again, we have a reverse aging CG process going on here in the beginning of the film (which reaches a decision paralleling 'Alien 3' plot), and it's getting to a point where I might have to say that aging CG is kind of at a plateau now. This year has shown us so much of it, brought up namely in my 'Endgame' and 'Gemini Man' reviews. It's hard to imagine it getting much better. But digressing from that, the overall point here is that the CG is massively impressive, and they aren't stingy on the practical side of things either.
For the action buffs who appreciate these movies more for that than anything else, there's plenty here for you, and a lot of it is perfectly edge-of-your-seat. There's plenty here to be entertained by. But speaking for myself, I can't help but recognize that the franchise is kinda just spinning its wheels now, and at the end of the day, it mostly just feels like familiar territory that is meant to get butts in seats, using the title, and two franchise-heavy actors. Aside from a few things here and there, again this is to 'Terminator 2' as 'Force Awakens' was to 'A New Hope'. It's enjoyable, it's fun and "safe" for the hardcore fans, but it's all just too familiar, and even adds a bit of silliness to the whole thing. While it's one of the more solid sequels, 'Terminator' and 'Judgment Day', i'm fairly certain, will just never be dethroned at this point.