A friend of mine said “You know the theory that infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare? Well pretty early on in that process they must have written the absolute shitshow that is Terminator: Genisys.” I can’t top that for Ebert-esque snarkery, so if all you need to know is if the film is any “good”, you have your answer courtesy of Aisha Brady. I do, inevitably, have something rather more long-winded about just why this movie sucks though.
For a film primarily set in the future, this is a historically and thematically regressive film, to the extent you feel as though your very DNA is devolving throughout its two-lighter running time. This film is not so much a futuristic cyborg as it is a single-celled biological accident, flailing haphazardly about in the primordial soup of backwater cinema. In the end, when it is superseded with ease by better made, smarter films, it will only be remembered – if at all – as one of evolution’s cataclysmic mistakes.
Let’s get straight to the point then, as quite enough of everybody’s time has been wasted on this dead parrot franchise over the past 15 years – at its core this is a spiteful piece of anti-intellectualism, in which, beneath a veneer thinner than that or Arnie’s ever whitening grin, we are invited to cheer for the murder of a child in order to preserve a world of apple-pie poverty and white-picket genocides. We watch as scientists create a sentient machine for the first time in human history, and I am not exaggerating, he (because naturally it has to be gendered…) is literally a CGI child, learning to understand an unjust and cruel world that he has been born into.
Much like Frankenstein, the humans abandon their creation, recoiling in horror at its potential for destruction, and attempting to destroy it in its infancy. Unlike Doctor Frankenstein however, who is portrayed as a neglectful father who is probably more at fault for the “monster” lashing out than his creation, we are invited to cheer on the disdain for the synthetic life-form in Genisys. Because after all, the monster might get smarter than us and gain access to nuclear weapons and then what? Never mind decommissioning the nukes – a process that would safeguard the future of humanity long past the arbitrary 2017 date of Armageddon Sarah Connor and chums are fighting for – it would just be easier to literally murder a thinking synthetic child.
The film also echoes Godzilla (2014) in this sense, however once more it is completely without self-awareness. In Godzilla, in Japan, amidst a history of nuclear horrors from Hiroshima to Fukushima, humans steadfastly cling to the profitable idea of nuclear power, preferring to allow murderous behemoths to destroy millions of lives rather than inconvenience the energy market – and even the King of the monsters himself looks fatigued by the stubborn idiocy of humanity by the end of the film. But in Genisys this pathetic lack of imagination on humanity’s part within an international arms market is simply accepted at face value. After all, we can’t simply decommission our weaponry just because a machine might deploy it to wipe out our species, how would Barrack Obama threaten to do the same thing then? Let’s not even consider trying to educate the creature, to help it understand the delicate and often absurd world it inhabits, let’s just assume it will reach the most evil of all decisions, because after all, the world as it is now is as good as it gets – and it is dominated by a class of evil men who would do the same.
And anyone who points out the monstrosity of this supposed logic… “you talk too much!” The world is great as it is, and if you disagree you’re just a dangerous ideological zealot. All the way through the film, even in the faux-1980s where homelessness is rife, and embarrassing clichés sell their wares on a dim-lit LA street corner, all the characters wax lyrical about the wonders of ‘choice’ that exist in the pre-machine utopia of 20th century capitalism. Hospitals crumble into ruin, but at least they are supplied with copious quantities of Pepsi Max, whilst Sarah Connor continuously whines about wishing she could choose a destiny for herself. Unironically, in a past surrounded by injustice, she dreams of a life waitressing. I hate to break it to you, but who in all that is holy ever chose any of this?
In a year littered with second rate sci-fi then, where time and again we have been invited to fear the digital slaves who become equals with their masters, Genisys is easily the worst. It is at heart a vicious distillation of everything that is wrong with the genre. It presupposes the very worst about human nature and transplants it to synthetic bodies; and it assumes that because the dominant class of society does ill, it is natural and inevitable for all of us, even super-intelligent machines with instant access to every aspect of human knowledge should act in that way.
In several backdrops and time zones we encounter the same fallacy then; this is as good as it gets, and any threat to this idealised ideological nightmare will upset the apple-cart to such an extent the human race will go extinct. Believing in anything more than this is at best childish, and at worst, dangerous; and you must be silenced. Except, of course, that just as if we applied the film’s logic to 20th century history, and instead of killing a machine, we murdered an infant Hitler, the historical inequalities that led to his rise would have supplied a platform for someone else to perform the very same role, and would render your efforts meaningless. In conclusion then, Terminator 5 is a deeply depressing waste of an evening, and were it in my power, I would not only prevent people from seeing it, but travel back in time to murder the grandparents of its creators so that it could never be made. But then, the same process of Hollywood commodification would still be at work that would lead to the same half-baked steroid-addled farce being made anyway, so what would the point be?