Why Every New ‘Terminator’ Movie Is Failing
So we got around to watching Terminator: Genisys and…well…it was not a good movie. It recycles chunks of the old films and the plot is a confused mess, with 90% of it being exposition. And every one said that even if it wasn’t good, at least it would be better than Terminator: Salvation.
I was sharpening my knives for a review, but we need to widen the scope because every one of these new Terminator movies keeps on making the same stupid mistakes. Let’s line ’em up.
The Terminator Movies Are Not About Arnold Schwarzenegger
As weird as it may seem, there was a time when nobody who knew who Arnie was. He used to feature in awful bodybuilding movies and porn under the name ‘Arnold Strong’. The Terminator was a star making role for him, allowing him to play to his strengths and not highlighting his accent or lack of acting chops, the two things that had been holding him back at this point. After being impressed by the Austrian giant, James Cameron revised his concept for the character. Keeping in mind that the T800 was designed to infiltrate human society, they wanted someone who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd and had Lance Henrikson set up for the role. Still, Arnie stepped into the role and an icon was made.
After Salvation everyone went on about the Arnie scene (although he looked like plasticine) as though it was some kind of saving grace, but here’s the thing: not only do these movies not need Arnie, his presence is actively holding them back. Putting a 67 year old man in a padded jacket and trying to act a badass is ridiculous, and they have to come up with long winded explanations as to why he’s there and why he looks like a 67 year old in a padded jacket. The other option, taken in Genisys and Salvation, is spending years and millions of dollars replicating his youthful appearance digitally and making my uncanny valley scream out in terror. Then using him for comic relief anyway. He does not need to be in these movies. In fact, it makes no sense for him to be in them. A robot built for infiltration will only be useful once, after that you need to make it look different otherwise there’s no point. Everyone will call bullshit it on immediately. It makes no sense that they’d build multiple identical infiltration units. In The Sarah Connor Chronicles they had ones who looked different and it was much, much more effective as both a plot device and an infiltration unit.
Arnie, we wouldn’t have the movies without you but this is silly.
The Terminator Movies Are Not About Time Travel
That isn’t to say time travel doesn’t happen in them, because it totally does and makes for a great plot device. After sending the Terminators back in time to bullet up the Connors it does not need to be mentioned again because these aren’t time travel movies. Predestination is a time travel movie. Looper is a time travel movie. Back to the Future is a time travel comedy. When you boil it down to the original Terminator movies are very simple in their delivery. There’s an unstoppable peruser hunting down the heroes. They have to get away and eventually put a stop to it. When you start pissing around with ‘timelines’ and alternative realities and different futures you’re getting away from the simple, awesome premise.
The moment Arnie said ‘It is possible if he was exposed to a nexus point in the time flow. A nexus point is a point in time of such importance…it gives rise to a vastly different future’, we knew that Genisys had fucked up.
The Terminator Movies Are Not About A War
In the lead up to Salvation we kept seeing people commenting that they were ‘finally’ going to show us the war between humans and robots. This was the first warning light with that movie, because that’s making a movie about a different premise. Like we said above, the best films in the series are the ones keeping to that simple premise. It’s why Rise of the Machines feels more like a Terminator movie than the ones that followed. Glimpses into the future war is great, we love that, but it’s not what the series is about. Get one or more unstoppable badasses, and send them after the heroes. But stop repeating the T800 and T1000 deal, it’s been done enough.
Actually, here’s a concept right off the top of my head. Two Terminators arrive back in time and can communicate with each other wirelessly, allowing them to function in perfect synch with each other. Every time the heroes try to escape, there’s the other one blocking their path. That’s ups the game and gives the characters a new challenger to overcome. Boom.
The Terminator Movies Are Not About John Connor
Well, yes, they are. To clarify, they’re not about John Connor as an adult. The man that John Connor would eventually become should be kept somewhat mythical. He’s the salvation of mankind, and the more time they spend fleshing that role out the less he fits into that role. Even having the young, teenaged John in Judgement Day was a bit of a gamble, but it worked because of his estranged relationship with Sarah and his attitude, which set him up for a journey into the man he would become. On two occasions we’ve seen filmmakers try and include the future John Connor, and both times it has not worked. In one instance we had a rather dull military commander role and the more recent…I don’t know what that was supposed to be. Was John Connor being the bad guy supposed be a shocking twist? If so you shouldn’t have put it in the trailer, ya dingbats.
The Terminator Movies Are Not About A.I.
Here’s another sci-fi trope that Genisys heaped upon it’s pile of nonsense. It actually makes sense that a modern Terminator film would repurpose Skynet as something linked to smart phones and social networking, but packaging the concept into a ‘things to come’ warning showing everyone wandering around dead-eyed and staring at their phones EVEN WHILE AT WORK AS DOCTORS AND NURSES is ridiculously stupid. It’s like a pensioner complaining about kids these days always staring at their phones.
The Terminator Movies Are Not About Comedy
Did a single joke from the last movie get a laugh in the cinema? One of those stupid, awkward smiles? That bit when they get their mug shots taken and Emilia Clarke is short? How about the bit in Rise of the Machines when Arnie puts on the star shaped glasses? Can we stop with this crap? Most of the ‘jokes’ are based off nostalgia for the originals (Look! He used to be scary and now he’s goofy!) but it flat out doesn’t work. Not that action and comedy can’t work together, but they don’t work here.
I know that some people will take away from this that I don’t want the Terminator movies to progress and adapt, and that I’m hung up on the past. But the movies are more tied to nostalgia more than anyone in the audience, hence the continued casting of Arnie in the role, repeating visuals from previous films and a weird obsession with getting into the future war. I want a Terminator movie that challenges itself to progress the story and the up the stakes while not forgetting the original premise of an unstoppable killing machine. The Sarah Connor Chronicles is the best we’ve had since Judgement Day, and that stumbled more than a few times.
Perhaps, one day, we’ll recapture the magic.