The Problem with Terminators

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I’ve loved the first two Terminator movies since I was a kid and watching R-rated movies at a friend’s house was about the most exciting thing there was to do. Cussing, violence, Ah-nuld puns, murderous robots. Ah, that was the life. That I watched onscreen.

Then in 2003, it was decided by the powers that be we needed another one. It seemed unthinkable and yet they did it and it was every bit as mediocre as we’d all hoped it wouldn’t be. Then in 2009, Salvation came unfortunately. And now in 2015, here comes another.

I’m all for reboots, sequels, revamps, whatever, but there’s an inherent problem that seems to come with every new installment in the series- each movie seems to tell you that the last one doesn’t matter.

And I can’t help but think I’ve defended these movies as long as I can. Time travel in le cinema is always a bit of an issue isn’t it? How many timelines are there? How does doing something in the past change the future exactly? Do we have to worry about the butterfly effect? Is there such a thing as fate that won’t allow certain changes, if any, to be made? So many unanswered questions we shouldn’t need ask a movie about a villainous robot from the future that wants to kill the protagonist. For the most part, these are movies where should just be able to go with it.

Look at that! We should just GO with that!

Look at that! We should just GO with that!

One thing I’ve always defended is why the robots of the future don’t just send a terminator back to way before 1984 and just get the job done right. Well, there’s a lot that isn’t explained about what the robots can or can’t do, and their time travel abilities are equally as mysterious. So who knows- by the time one terminator is sent back through their machine, there may not be enough power to send another later on. And from that, it’s possible that the longer time goes on in the present, the further away the robots can send someone back. So sending someone all the way back to 1984 again isn’t possible for every year that passes in the future, so they have to resort to later timelines.

But for whatever complications the movies represent, most of them aren’t of any issue to me. My problem is that every movie that comes out just throws the last one out the window. “We didn’t stop Judgement Day, we postponed it!” I don’t know if this is in every sequel or it’s just how I’ve come to view a franchise running their characters into the dirt.

But what Days of Future Past did in, more or less, one movie, Terminator does in every single movie.

Good thing they're going with the Play-Doh face to recreate him like Jeff Bridges in Tron. I love Play-doh.

Good thing they’re going with the Play-Doh face to recreate him like Jeff Bridges in Tron. I love Play-doh.

In the first film we have Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese avoiding getting killed. Hooray! And from that, we have another terminator being sent back in T2 and we’re given a highly similar story with enough twists and unique features to make the movie it’s own.

Then we have Terminator 3. This movie is the same as the second and I mean the same as the second and leads up to the nuclear bombs going off and entering the new age of robotic dominance and human survival. Okay, well this is kind of like standing still thematically right? The second one at least felt like a step forward but this one isn’t even trying, just rehashing and letting us know that while the world held off immediate death, nothing can be done about Judgement Day itself.

So we have the second film saying to that first “You’re not done yet!” and we have the third film saying to the second “You didn’t do ANYTHING!” Then Salvation enters the picture and we’ve got a franchise that’s been rebooted in a sense, with an entirely different cast and for all intents and purposes, a different series. We really could have gotten this movie on its own without context and aside from references to the previous two.

And now we have Genisys. The movie that’s entire premise is a combination of timelines, mixing and matching everything you know about the Terminator universe and then some. What’s the line in the trailer? That one that sounds so familiar? “We can stop Judgement Day from happening.” And since it all takes place in a pre-apocolyptic era, it’s safe to say that nothing in Salvation is happening, rendering another film void.

Gah man. I know people love Schwarzenegger in the role, and people love the series but this whole thing has just been going nowhere. It’s not taking steps backwards so much as it is standing in place, spinning in circles. It’s like sending a friend to the store to get milk and they just start breakdancing in front of you. Sure, it might be impressive to a fault but he’s not getting the damn milk.

"Uh hey man the store cloese in like fifteen minutes."

“Uh, hey man the store closes in like fifteen minutes.”

I don’t really like getting into “What should have happened” scenarios in filmmaking because it’s like looking at a picture of a supermodel and hoping she’ll break up with her famous soccer playing boyfriend to date a guy she doesn’t know. But since we’re on the subject, why haven’t the writers and studios opted for a Terminator film that just goes all out?

Salvation seemed like a step in the right direction albeit with some definite problems. But to move the story along seems to be the sensible thing to do in a world where the real fun is to see how indestructible the terminators are rather than having Arnold steal people clothes for the nineteenth time and saying a contemporary phrase in deadpan.

No offense to Arnold as he’s what help make the original films. But the dude is older and the same tricks from before are now ancient. I thought much of the reason he was a huge part of the original films (Terminator and T2) was due to Arnold’s physique. Well, he’s had a good run and he’s old now. I can explain away why the terminator skin ages like real skin, but not why the machine has the build of a broken down man who’s been pumping iron his entire life.

Look at his poster.

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We’ve got time travel, machine versus man war, and sentient killer machines- I don’t think all of this should be hinging on hearing the same characters repeat themselves movie after movie so we can feel a slight hint of nostalgia when the story could be propelled forward for a new generation rather than being gut punched back into the same corner.

Yes, he’s back and been back several times and every time he’s says that he’s back.

So if you’re gonna watch Genisys, I’m not judging you. I get the appeal. I’m just reminded of times when appeal is more about intrigue and high expectations rather than “Well, y’know. Ya gotta watch it.”

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