In stark opposition to Pajiba’s resident sci-fi apologist, I had a reaction to the latest installment of the Terminator franchise that borders on the allergic. I yelled a lot, then slumped down in a chair, then took off my shoes and pretended I was stranded on an island with a slightly better film, then was pulled back into an upright position by a fellow Pajiba writer who was embarrassed to be seen next to the over-emotive angry-sci-fi-boy. All said and done, I’ve never seen a film where every. single. line. of dialogue was plot exposition about the complexity of time travel, bound and wrapped like a semi-naked Christmas present abandoned by the highway like a sex-crime victim trapped in tinsel (or whatever the Fight Club quote is.)
End-sum is that Terminator: Ginuwine is not only one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, but a borderline irresponsible film. It reeks of “we cast famous people in characters from the first draft so you can’t change anything” and follows through with disastrous precision. It is junk-nightmare-garbage you deserve to avoid.
There’s been a populist uproar in the wake of Jurassic World about the concept of selective sequels, wherein a recent series entry chooses to not shake hands with the lesser cash-grab entries, but stops itself short of the suddenly dreaded “reboot” territory. Terminator: Guess-Who is in a terrible position to approach this.
The opening act of Terminator: Retcon presents itself as a Back To The Future-esque tribute to classic moments from a series that most people only remember the second chapter from. It starts as a brilliant build-upon for definitive moments from a series that has such extensive reach, by backing the unalterable fixed points of a multi-decade civil war against our own intellectual expansion. If this was Doctor Who, we’d know these are the set pieces that could never be avoided.
But Terminator has no rules, or if it does, they’re just an embarrassment. In fact, it’s not a reach to say the Terminator: Flux-Capacitor is a brilliant introduction for an American audience to all the worst elements of early Doctor Who. It even features Doctor Eleven, in case you miss what’s happening. If Torchwood didn’t dissolve you opportunity to love in a time-centric adventureverse, this goddamned will.
I feel my anger. I see my seething. And it surprises me, because I’m not the fanboy. While Terminator belongs to the action hard-sci-fi quadfecta (this, Predator, Alien, Robocop), Terminator keeps failing in leaps and bounds to retain relevance, and the simple narrative flaws are just unreasonable. We all suffered through McG’s post-apocalyptic interpretation of what will anger Christian Bale about the adults who put lights where they belong. Which is a follow up to the time fat alcoholic Chris Hardwick accidentally let all the robots shoot America. Which is a follow up to the time Olivia Pope’s dad was too good at circuits.
The fascinating thing that Genisystic introduces, which continues what the franchise has invested in, is the wholly individual system whereby more story not just over-writes, but entirely deletes huge chunks of lore. The first two films introduce a multi-decade basis for approaching a man-made apocalypse, but everything that follows, including the delightful TV show, makes consistent moves to remove what existed before and leave a hollow tribute in its place. In this world of worrying over selective sequels, Terminator feels singular in its dedication to erasure of everything that came before. It’s the only long-running well-defined world that every world-building addition subtracts more than it adds. In the opening moments of the film, both a huge victory and a huge defeat are placed on display, and no one from the audience takes either seriously, because we’re all aware that every important moment of this universe is up to immediate reversal for the sake of potential emotional investment, but at some point, we have nothing left to donate toward obvious traps.
The great disappointment of T:Generskiz is the way it rubs against the potential feminist breakout of a Fury Road, but instead comes off as a failed approximation of equality check-boxes. It’s the kind of tease that hints towards a later draft that would have impressed everyone. Secondarily, is the much bigger issue of the inability to take a single story beat seriously, not just before this entry, but re-enforced by every half-commitment temp-twist that a dumb action film with aspirations for more could ever ignore.
We all recognize and respect the ever-constant wheel of fiscal re-dedication; a blood-letting of influence that accompanies the great intellectual properties in this criminal modernity, but a legacy bound by three major disservices that have been re-purposed into platitudes that have only engaged the least engaged among us, begins to lay the foundation of a crippling disappointment which consumes, starting with the nonsense we afford no second thoughts, and now gradually nipping at the heels of worlds that used to light a fire.
It’s a bad movie. But moreover, it’s a toxic series that upsettingly undoes every fresh idea that anyone dared bring to the table in the last decade. It’s one thing to be boring; it’s a sin to undo creative expansion, and then shrug in its direction like it’s just a casualty of dumbing something simple down farther than anyone needed. Draw a line somewhere and please let it be this crater.