Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Terminator: Genisys (4 Stars)

"I'll be back". That's the sentence that is most commonly connected with the Terminator films. Countless people have spoken this film quote, either respectfully or mockingly, usually in a gruff voice with a fake Austrian accent. The Terminator films are all about Arnold Schwarzenegger coming back. The question is, can we expect him to come back from this one?

The first film, made way back in 1984, was intended as a standalone. The machines would one day take over the world, in a massive nuclear war called Judgement Day. After a long war the resistance would fight back and defeat them. The machines make an attempt to change time to prevent the resistance leader, John Connor, being born by killing his mother. The film ends with this last desperate attempt by the machines failing, but the future war against the machines remains inevitable.

"Terminator 2" (1991) was a risk, but it worked. It quickly won over the fans of the original film, and many even consider it better. I personally can't decide between the two. They're both brilliant pieces of cinematic art, in different ways. The machines make a second attempt to prevent John Connor becoming leader of the resistance by killing him as a boy. In turn John's mother, Sarah Connor, retaliates by making a counter attack, changing time to prevent the machines ever taking over. She succeeds, so we have a bucketload of temporal paradoxes, but effectively the machines, including the Terminators, will never exist. We're back to the status quo that we had before the first film.

Along came "Terminator 3" in 2003. We find out that Judgement Day, is inevitable. Sarah Connor's success in the second film only postponed Judgement Day, it couldn't be stopped. James Cameron, the director of the first two films, called "Terminator 3" awful. I think he was being unfair. It succeeded in telling the story it wanted to. Attempts by John Connor, whose mother is now dead, to prevent Judgement Day fail, and the film ends with it taking place. We can say that the third film returns to the status quo that we had at the end of the first film.

In 2008-2009 there was a television series called "The Sarah Connor Chronicles". This takes place in a world after "Terminator 2" but before "Terminator 3". The series is effectively a battle between three factions. Sarah Connor, together with her son John and a group of friends, wants to prevent Judgement Day happening. Terminators from the future (T-800 models, as shown in the first film) have come to attack her. Terminators from further in the future (T-1000 models, as shown in the second film) have come to attack the other Terminators, because they believe that the only solution is a truce between the humans and the machines, a truce brokered by John Connor in the future. The TV series pushes the temporal paradoxes to the limit with messages being passed backwards and forwards through time, but the series was abruptly cancelled after the second season ended on a mind-bending cliff hanger. John Connor time jumped from the present to the future, meaning he never became the resistance leader, and he's considered a traitor for advocating peace with the machines. Why oh why was this storyline never continued? The series shouldn't have been cancelled, and even if it had to be cancelled a two-hour television movie could have rounded off the story.

Maybe one of the reasons for the cancellation of "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" was the film "Terminator: Salvation", which was made in 2009, while the series was still active. The two elements of the franchise would almost certainly have contradicted one another, confusing the fans. It begins where "Terminator 3" ends. It's the battle with the machines after Judgement Day. It was planned to be the first film in a new trilogy, and I assume the third film, "Terminator 6", would have ended where the first film began, making it all a tidy moebius strip. Unfortunately, the film was so disappointing to fans and critics alike that the remaining two films of the trilogy were cancelled.

That finally brings us up to date, as far as this review is concerned. "Terminator: Genisys" (2015) is another attempt to kickstart a new trilogy of Terminator films. Arnold is back. Actually, he's back twice over, because we see two versions of him, the way he looks now and a CGI-generated younger version of himself. The machines of the future have given up the ideas of making infiltration machines that look like humans. Using nanotechnology they've developed a way to turn men into machines, so that they retain the memories and personality of the person being changed, but make him loyal to the machines. John Connor himself has been selected to go back in time and kill his parents.

Now here's the irony. "Terminator: Genisys" did badly at the box office in America, but it was a success in the rest of the world. According to the final figures on the balance sheets it was a success, but the feeling of the studios is that it was a failure. After all, the studios are based in America, so their subjective impressions are determined by what happens around them. Will Arnold be back again? It's uncertain. He wants to return, but the studios say No.

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P. S. You must have noticed that I watched the first three Terminator films, then skipped the fourth and went straight to the fifth. That's not a mistake. I wasn't in the mood to watch a substandard film. I'll probably go back and watch it some day, but not yet.

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