Terminator Genisys Review

The new Terminator movie claimed to be the true successor to Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. So much so that even James Cameron said it was the real third film. I’m not sure that the film lived up to such praise. What it did do is update a film about our anxieties relating to AI to include anxieties about transhumanism and social media. Spoilers follow.

The movie expands on the history that has been established throughout the franchise. We see a clearer future than we see in Judgment Day. In this future, John Connor and Kyle Reese’s early relationship is explored. We also learn that humans are about to win, and thus force Skynet to use the emergency measure of time travel.

Following this exploration of the future, we get a shot for shot remake of the original Terminator showing the Terminator’s and Kyle’s arrival in 1984. This opening is quickly skewed by the arrival of a T-1000, and Sarah Connor and an older Terminator coming to the rescue.

Terminator Genesys

With the exception of Terminator Salvation, time travel has always been a major plot point in the Terminator franchise. In Genisys, we see the heroes using time travel to move closer in time to the creation of Skynet. Then later, we see that John Connor has also come back and started building another time machine in the Skynet facility.

Genisys also explore the complex relationships between characters that arise from time travel. Sarah questions, whether or not she should even have a relationship with Kyle and create John, who in this time line is a villain. John has always known he was Kyle’s son and nurtured Kyle’s attraction to his mother even before Kyle goes back in time and meets her. The Terminator (affectionately called Pops) of this timeline has been mysteriously sent back in time to protect Sarah and becomes a father figure.

In fact, Pops fills the role that the Terminator played in Terminator 2 to a young John Connor, a kind of father figure. This role is played to Sarah Connor though and results in a weird father-boyfriend relationship between Kyle and Pops throughout the movie. Far from being natural, though, this relationship comes off as contrived, unnatural, and stereotypical.

Besides the early homage to the original films in the beginning, there are some other easter eggs for fans of the franchise. Classic lines like, “Come with me if you want to live,” and, “I’ll be back,” find they’re way into the film. At the end of the film Pop’s seemingly dies sinking into a pool of liquid metal. This call back again to Terminator 2 in the iconic scene where the Terminator melts in molten metal.

I don’t know how I feel about the villainization of John Connor. I like that they used the character of John to explore another side of the singularity. One side of the Singularity is the rise of a super intelligent AI, another is transhumanism and the fusion of man and machine. John talks about this being a solution for humans to survive Judgment Day, by becoming machines themselves. This is logical in it’s own way, and the fact that the movie completely ignores the logic of this is a little sad. The relationship between Pops and Sarah, and John in Terminator 2, is evidence enough that humanity can live beside the machines. Sadly, this idea was introduced in the final episode of Sarah Connor Chronicles before it was canceled. On the other hand, John Connor has always be hailed as the savior in the story up to this point. Perhaps the moral here is that there are no saviors.

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Another relic from the Sarah Connor Chronicles is a very independent Sarah Connor. She is the true hero of the franchise and Genisys does not side step this. Sarah is a strong female character who is ultimately responsible for the fate of the world. The men who surround her often drip with testosterone, yet they all have her to thank for where they are in the world.

Sarah Connor

The titular Genisys was another interesting idea playing on modern anxieties surrounding social media. Instead of rising from a military missile program, or a chess program as it did in earlier iterations of Terminator, Skynet instead arises from a social media app/operating system called Genisys. Genisys is supposed to connect all our devices and social media on one platform. This is reminiscent of the idea of the Internet of Things. Skynet becomes possible in this timeline, because humans sheepishly line up for the newest social media/technology, without questioning the agenda behind it. Like Facebook, and it’s corporate, sell it’s users data, agenda.

The movie ends with our heroes Kyle, Sarah, and Pops riding off into the sunset together. Nothing about this movie feels particularly over, even with the seeming death of our transhuman John Connor and the very Matt Smith Skynet. Paramount has already announced plans for two more films. So brace yourselves for more Terminator, whether you want it or not.

Terminator Genesys – 7/10

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Veritas is a cyberpunk and writer who enjoys all aspects of the cyberpunk genre and subculture. He also journeys deeply into the recesses of the dissonance exploring his nihilistic existence. If you'd like to contact Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas), the founder and editor-in-chief of Neon Dystopia, you can do so here: ilwheeler.founder@neondystopia.com
1 Comment
  1. Sorry, but this reads like a paid promotional review and ignores the fact that this movie has been utterly savaged by fans and critics alike as a confusing and mostly nonsensical failure on almost every possible level. It also bombed so badly that the chances of a sequel are pretty dim (fortunately).

    What I think the Terminator needs to do is back away from the things that all three post-T2 films did and go for a smaller scope with darkness, grit, and intensity. The continued (poorly written at best) attempts to tell big stories about the fate of the Terminator world setting have led to a series that has become increasingly convoluted and stuck in it’s own ass due to tangled and contradictory continuity. It’s gotten way too self-referential and meta. It’s time to step back.

    What I would do is a hard R cable series with a relatively low budget, based directly on the future war scenes in T1 and T2. There would be no time travel, no Connors, no big plot with high stakes and no changes to the base formula. We would follow a typical Tech-Com squad in the blackened hellscape of the post-Judgement Day US as they fight their desperate war and struggle to survive in the ruins. Anyone can die, and most of them probably will. We don’t see the beginning of the war and we almost certainly won’t see the end, either, just an endless tour of duty in the final war of humanity. The stories are smaller and more personal and mix an episodic format with arcing subplots that tell a larger story when woven together. But ultimately, the story is about soldiers and survivors against all odds, doing what they have to do. Nothing more and nothing less.

    The setting would be directly 100% based in what we saw in the future war through Kyle Reese’s flashbacks. The sun never shines, the sky is black and it’s always cold. The rubble is ash grey and charcoal black, everything that remains is broken concrete and twisted steel. The people are scawny and pale, their clothes dull. the only warm color you’ll see is the fires the humans huddle around for warmth when they can. Even the Machine weapons don’t draw blood, they leave blackened charred wounds where flesh is turned to cinders in microseconds. If not for the few spots of color where they weakly exist, you’d almost swear the thing was shot in monochrome. No browns or greens, only greys and blacks. Nothing’s alive but rats and the humans who aren’t much different anymore. Everything the humans have is scrap or salvage. Nobody remembers what it’s like to be warm or rested or full, if they ever knew at all. They’re desperate, they’re hungry, they’re burned out, but they don’t give up. Most of the time they don’t know why. They always said that the living would envy the dead, and they do, but something in them refuses to lay down and die. Maybe it’s pure spite, humanity’s last dying breath spat in defiance.

    The Machines are everything the humans aren’t. They are shiny, brushed metal almost like chrome and in perfect condition always because there are always new ones being sent out to replace the ones destroyed. Perfectly maintained. Tireless. Spotless. Unrelenting. They never sleep and never stop. Their blue-white spotlights cut the dark like swords, endlessly seeking. To be illuminated is to be targeted, to be targeted is to be eliminated. The even bluer blaze of plasma bolts always follow the spotlights, annihilating anything soft they touch with heat more intense than the core of the sun. The small bore weapons leave blackened, penetrating burns to and through the entire mass, a core of flash-burned charcoal the size of a fist surrounded by charred and cooked meat ringed by melted and blistered flesh. The large bore weapons superheat the body’s water to instant explosive boil and the body bursts, much of the mass vaporized instantly and the rest scattered into seared chunks cooked medium rare. You don’t even get to bleed. Death is instantaneous. The Machines barely notice, already moving on in their patterened sweeps and tracking the next targets while a piece of internal software coldly and idly notes the time and location of target elimination with an assigned numerical value. It’s the only epitaph you will ever have.

    They never stop. Ever. Until you are dead.

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