Another PG-13 panorama of peurile pseudo-pugilism at 126 minutes
Fair Value of Terminator Genisys: $1.00. It ranks 3rd place in the franchise. Just shut off your brain, try not to think, and enjoy all the CGI robots punching each other.
How Time Travel is the Death of Drama: I mentioned this in last years review of The Day After Tomorrow, but few things are as fatal to drama as constant do-overs. If you get infinite lives in a video game, youre not going to care about dying. And if you can just change everything again by sending another time traveler, then the only thing youre going to care about is what time traveler you send.
The evil AI Skynet and the human resistance leader John Connor both have time travel machines, and they are both negated utterly, dooming themselves to a never-ending, never-resolving infinity of conflict. The best summary of the film is elderly Arnold Schwarzenegger, fighting with and ultimately dismantling his younger CGI self. That cybernetic auto-cannibalism is really all you need to know about this film.
TL, DR: Time travelling robots punch each other, and, occasionally, punch time travelling humans for variety.
Homo-eroticism:There are a lot of meaningful banter and smoldering looks going on between John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). Some sort of reverse oedipal thing. And let’s not even start on the scene of Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting and literally deconstructing his younger self. In the hands of a true auteur, that would have been the entire movie, with the rest of the cast only showing up to shout “Why?” and for Arnold to answer “I wanted to destroy a thing of beauty.”. Then the older Arnold would devour the face of his younger doppelganger, and the closing credits would roll.
First, the sci-fi concept of the time travel palimpsest. This idea, explored by Charles Stross in his story of the same name, refers to an effect of too many time travelers. A palimpsest is a piece of paper thats been written on over and over- each person erasing and scribbling their new words, until the parchment becomes an indecipherable cloud of half-erased scrawls. At this point, this is what is happening to the Terminator cinematic timeline- its becoming this fog of dueling and overlapping time meddlers, a chicken born without an egg. If things keep up at this rate, the entire 1962-2029 time period will be populated by nothing more than a mixture of terminator robots and time traveling future soldiers.
Second of all, lets talk about the grandfather paradox. Thats the old time travel paradox of you cant travel back in time and kill your grandfather, because then you wont be conceived. Terminator Genisys thinks about that concept for a moment, and then just say Nah. Who needs continuity? Who needs an origin? The irony of calling this film Genisys is that the film dispenses altogether with the need for origins. This film is like a house of cards that has been hollowed out, and the audience is witnessing the moment before the implosion.
Stop Making Sense: Very well, I will stop trying to use my mind to engage with films. Dieaslabe fringe art omnicron changeable licorice orqwith.
Terminator Genisys, like Jurassic World, like Transformers, is the maturation of the studios collective realization that they dont need to worry about plot, or continuity, or coherency, so long as sufficient action set pieces are delivered.
The problem with conventional, dramatically based criticism is that old parable of the hammer and a nail: to a person that writes, everything looks like a script. And the structures of the conventional dramatic form arent the calculations that are of consequence in making a summer blockbuster. In fact, the studios may be approving scripts that are designed to punish people for thinking about them- you can even see textual references to this in the script, as Sarah Connor (Amelie Clarke) begs Arnold to shut up about the intricacies of time travel mechanics. We can rave about the shittiness of Michael Bays oevre all we want, but it is going to change exactly nothing. Its like trying to argue with Republicans. And rather than doing my usual reaction of retreating into comfort fooding, Im going to try to do something else.
We need a different critical theory for engaging with the form of a blockbuster. The first thing is to understand that audiences arent looking for good stories. They are looking for HVAC, socializing without speaking to ones peers, and some thrills and pretty effects. The quality of the film doesn’t matter that much, because discussing the awfulness of the film is a part of the ritual of the social participation.
Genisys delivers some fairly good action scenes, from Kyle Reeses (Jason Clarke) buff scramble to elude a liquid metal terminator, to a chase with a school bus on the Golden Gate bridge. Theres enough shout outs to the better films to keep people from nodding off. The CGI is forgettable in the end, and like so many other films, the lack of practical effects just renders Terminator Genisys into another Rube Goldberg machine of implausibly durable and elastic vehicles and peoples.
The Terminator movie franchise is out there. It cannot be bargained with. It cant be reasoned with. Its doesnt feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it will absolutely not stop, ever, until every movie studio executive is convinced that there is not a penny more profit to be made from it.
SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT ABANDON ALL HOPE SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT
Super Spoiler Post Script:
EVIL JOHN CONNOR/SKYNET: Hello, Miles Dyson, I would like to work for Cyberdyne Systems. You know, the corporation that got shot up and blown to hell in 1990, where your dad was killed, and yet you somehow inexplicably work there as the CEO, 23 years later?
MILES DYSON: Ok, random stranger who has no verifiable history or ID or resume whatsoever, why would I hire you?
EVIL JOHN CONNOR: I never sleep, eat, or need health care, and I can write 5 megs of code per second
MILES DYSON: The perfect employee! I will place you in charge of designing the biggest most expensive OS that my company has ever made!
EVIL JOHN CONNOR: Can we make sure that this OS goes out to run on every tablet, computer, and internet system?
MILES DYSON: Sure, why not? Its not like weve ever had competition in the software industry before when it comes to operating systems. Whoever heard of such a problem as retroactive compatibility?
(several months pass)
EVIL JOHN CONNOR: Miles, what the hell are your people doing to Genisys?
MILES DYSON: John, I understand you wanting to make great code and all, but your design is way too memory intensive. Its not like were trying to make artificial intelligence, here. Its just an OS for a tablet. The bean counters in accounting decided we didnt need all of those fancy processes and sub-routines. We have to think about revenue stream)
<IT IS A THIS MOMENT THAT EVIL TERMINATOR JOHN CONNOR ATTEMPTS TO MORPH INTO HIS BATTLE FORM. UNFORTUNATELY, HE IS NOW PARADOXICALLY RUNNING THE GENISYS OS, WHICH IS BUGGY AND FULL OF FIRST DAY EXPLOITS. SKYNET NOW HAS THE INTELLIGENCE OF DAY OLD COTTAGE CHEESE.>
EVIL JOHN CONNOR: Daisy, daisy, oh what a world, like tears that fall in the rain. ILL BE BLURK..
<MILES DYSON STARES WITH ASTONISHMENT AS JOHN CONNOR DISINTEGRATES INTO MINDLESS BLACK GOO>