Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Terminator Genisys

For Sale on Craigslist: "Vintage" Android: Recycled Parts, Slightly Worn and Rusty, Old Programming, Not Very Expressive—Would Make a Credible Republican Presidential Candidate.
Artificial Un-intelligence

As if one needed another reason not to visit San Francisco this movie summer, Terminator Genisys tears up the Golden City that has been already been flattened by the Mother of All Earthquakes, invasions by apes, Godzilla and kaiju, dropping star ships, and everything from A (an atom bomb in A View to a Kill) to X (X-men: Last Stand). 

This time the threat that San Francisco faces is from a movie that seems hell-bent on imploding itself out of existence through that most feared Weapon of Mass Destruction to movie-geeks: continuity errors.

We know the story already, as they've told it every—single—movie:*  a miltary-designed artificial intelligence named "Skynet" goes a little "off-program" and takes the "deterrent-idea" a little too far by destroying the one thing that causes all the wars in the first place—us pesky humans. "Skynet" launches a planet-wide nuclear attack, and after the conflagration of "Judgment Day," hunts the non-crispy humans into extinction. The humans' only hope is their rebel leader John Connor (he's been played by Edward Furlong as a kid and Michael Edwards, Nick Stahl, and Christian Bale as an adult), who, after the machines invent a way to time-travel, sends one of his operatives Kyle Reese (used to be: Michael Biehn, now is: Jai Courtney) back in time to protect Connor's mother, Sarah (then: Linda Hamilton; now Emilia Clarke) who is under threat from a "Terminator" (the once and future Arnold Schwarzenegger) missioned to kill Connor before he is even conceived. Ironically (HEDGED SPOILER) the plan ensures that John Connor is born, despite the death of Reese while defending Sarah. Silly robots.
Good Idea for a Movie. Bad Idea for a sequel, which are variations of the same theme as Skynet sends ever better, sleeker and less Austrian robots to do the job, and the rebels send their own increasingly aging "terminators" to stop them. Surprisingly the films were not called "Try, Try Again" and "The Robots Don't Realize if You Do the Same Thing Over and Over Expecting a Different Outcome, You Have a Screw Loose," or even "Another Waste of Time-Travel." But, if Skynet is dumb, the humans are even dumber: every time they fix it so that Skynet doesn't come about, it still manages to come about.
As it does here. We go over the same Skynet story for the fourth time, and then, again, Kyle Reese is sent back in time by John Connor to save his mother...again. We even get a reprise of the first film where "The Terminator" (a CGI-zenegger) confronts the same 1984 vintage heavy-metalers and tells them he "vahnts" their clothes. Then something different actually happens: he is confronted by a figure in a hoodie carrying a gun. Low and behold it's an old Arnold Schwarzenegger, who blasts away at his earlier version, and they get into a knock-down-dragged-on fight between "new" terminator and "old" terminator, with the grayer version getting the worst of it, until he/it is rescued by...Sarah Connor?  Huh?
With Terminator: Genysis, Arnold Schwarzenegger again announces he'll be back (and it's never sounded more like a threat). The former California Governor—who can't credibly run for President as a Republican because The Terminator always enters this country illegally—is looking a little worse for wear. It seems he's been around for a bit longer than the movie-going audience has previously suspected....approximately since 1973 as he's seen rescuing Sarah as a child in a flashback (the whole thing is a flashback, really, if your perspective is from the movie's starting point). And ever since, has been giving her a crash-course in bad-assery. So, things have actually changed from the original "Terminator" movie. Why, Sarah Connor never even goes through the "big hair" period of the first film.
So far, so odd. Let us file away the original movie's notion that time-travel is limited in the future and that if Skynet is ultimately defeated, who or what sent this "Olde Arnold" back to the past (earlier than the ones already sent) should be a mystery, if not an impossibility. Skynet wouldn't have the ability to send it as their precious time-travel gear has been captured, and the rebels would have no reason to because the war is over. File this, because it will become irrelevant and minor compared with the whoppers to come.
Eventually, Reese hooks up with Connor and "Olde Arnold" just in time to defeat another blast from the future—one of the liquid metal terminators from T2 (played by Byung-hun Lee) that seemed unstoppable in that film but is pretty much dispatched fairly early here. At which point, "Olde Arnold"—called "The Protector" or as Sarah Connor calls him "Pops" (yeesh!)—reveals that he has also built a time-machine in 1987 (evidently because he was too busy in the other movies to think of creating one then). Reese and Connor decide to hop forward in time—which, mind you, doesn't exist yet—to right before "Judgment Day" to stop Skynet from launching its missiles. "Pops" says he can't travel in time, only meat-people can (Oh, yeah? How'd he get there in the first place?), but he'll just live for the 30 years or so to catch up with them.**

They jump in time to 2017 and make plans to destroy Skynet, which is now called "Genysis"—and it's no longer a military brain-hive, it's an inter-connectivity system for cell-phones, tablets, and the next thing in your junk-drawer. And...funny of the technical developers for Genysis is...John Connor. Yup, seems that John Connor went back in ti-.......

Wait, wait, wait. Rewind. Remember, the original Terminator movie? (I'm not talking to you kids—you haven't seen it because there's no CGI in it and the FX look "stoopid"). The whole thing about it was that it had that delicious irony that by sending a terminator back in time to kill John Connor's mother ultimately led to John Connor being born. Reese and Connor have the inevitable "fleeing-unstoppable-killing-machines-makes-us-really-horny-moment" and, as a result, John Connor, rebel leader, is conceived. 
Unless, I missed something (and I have to admit, this movie made me want to nod off several places), there was no FUKMMURH moment in this movie, and so as a result, the conception of John Connor in 1987 did not occur. At which point (for anyone who has seen the original) this movie...should be over. O-ver.
"I'm John Connor. These are not scars. These are gaps in logic."
No John Connor. So, then no war with the machines (because as this movie would have it, no Genisys). No resistance. No time-travel. No Connor sending Kyle Reese back in time. Nothing. There's no John Connor, so what the hell is he doing in 2017 (SPOILER ONLY IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE TRAILERS), having been sent back in time as a killer-cyborg/technical engineer? The movie sets him up as the bad guy, but if the movie were to follow this timeline, he shouldn't even exist...because he'd never been conceived. Never been born. End of movie, right?
Yeah, and this couldn't happen, either...
But, no, it keeps plodding along, not imagining that the very reason for its existence never happened. Unless there's been a second Immaculate Conception, which I don't think James Cameron believes in (and I know for damn sure Schwarzenegger doesn't), the movie should just stop dead in the projector with the forward time-jump, followed by the ushers with the brooms and rolling garbage receptacle. And see, they've managed to completely eliminate the whole franchise in this one dumb movie. It's one thing to change the space-time continuum in a re-boot (Hello, Star Trek), but make sure that you don't eliminate a character that sets the thing in motion—and no, I'm not talking Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor—from the start. Massively, unequivocably...dumb. Blame screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier and director Alan Taylor, who couldn't have an explanation other than "shit happens." 

Shit does indeed happen.  And this movie is the proof.
Rest in pieces

* Not that the original was...wholly original: It's part of record that Harlan Ellison was paid a bunch of money (which he can't disclose) and a special credit tele-cine'd on prints of the film ("...gratefully acknowledge his work.") because he threatened to sue Hemdale and Orion Pictures when he saw an early screening of the film and saw that the opening sequence had a lot of similarity to "Soldier," an episode of "The Outer Limits" that he wrote in the early 1960's.  Cameron wasn't happy about it, but didn't want to be sued by the corporations if they lost, so it was all settled out of court.  It's claimed on the internets that there's a similarity to "Demon with a Glass Hand," another episode of "OT" written by Ellison, but it is a little more far afield...until this movie.

** Fulfilling the original premise of Harlan Ellison's "Demon with a Glass Hand," one of the "Outer Limits" episodes mentioned above.

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