Terminate All Sequels

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Sony Pictures has been trying to “reboot” the Spider-Man franchise, for reasons I cannot fathom, because I thought the Sam Raimi films, though I’m not a fan, were pretty successful. They’ve rebooted it once, and now they aim to reboot it yet again, just as the Fantastic Four is being rebooted, too.

It would seem there is a standard practice today in Hollywood, where if something doesn’t work, try again. And again. And again.

Terminator Genisys is the sequel to terminate all Terminator sequels. Not that all the sequels (except for T2: Judgment Day) were memorable or good, but this fifth instalment of the franchise somehow decides to wipe the slate clean and start over.

It’s kind of like “T5: Terminator Reformatted.”

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Here’s the difference with the other reboots. Genisys works the reboot directly into the story and history of the Terminator universe. Unfortunately the superior T2 also becomes collateral damage. This may be a new way of rebooting a franchise, but it probably only works for the Terminator series because it deals with time-travel. There are no worries about any Back to the Future reboots, because Robert Zemeckis has already revealed that remakes of BTTF can only happen over his dead  body, literally.

I don’t even begin to know where to start with this Genisys reboot. The story is so convoluted (but not necessarily confusing) that somewhere along the way, you stop caring and just want to see more of old, wrinkly Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s the best thing in the film, chalking up laughs and awe every single time he appears on screen.

Let’s just break it down to a few essential points:

1. T2, T3 and T4 effectively cease to happen with this new T5 storyline

2. T1 kind of morphs into T5

3. Kyle and Sarah don’t have sex even till 2017

4. The Good Terminator turns up much earlier than we have come to know

5. The T-1000 is now Asian

6. The T-800 is still Austrian

7. Skynet wakes up only in 2017

8. The adult John Connor turns into Agent Smith (this is NOT a spoiler, it’s already revealed in the trailer)

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The story is convoluted, yes, but not uninteresting. Like I said, it’s not confusing even though the quantum physics stuff may be difficult to understand, but at least the filmmakers managed to keep it all understandable even without having us try to understand. If that makes any sense. There are at least 7 different timelines in this single movie, and according to director Alan Taylor, even the production crew was confused at times.

But that’s all beside the point. The thing about action movies is that they often validate and justify heinous acts. The revenge movie, for instance, justifies vengeance and the maxim “an eye for an eye.” Like how Stephen King’s The Dead Zone validates the lone assassin (the protagonist John Smith assassinates a presidential hopeful because he could see into the future and the atrocities committed by that candidate), so the Terminator series, most notably T2, justifies acts of terrorism, because there is something bigger at stake, namely the destruction of the world. The T-800 in this movie is also ordered by Sarah Connor not to kill anyone, but he … it still doesn’t hesitate to shoot up a tanker on the highway just to throw off its pursuer. (There’s a lot more indiscriminate destruction, trust me.)

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But Genisys manages to move beyond this and become a somewhat weird dysfunctional-family drama. The T-800 is now a surrogate father to Sarah and urges her to have sex with Kyle, while John finally reveals to Kyle that he is John’s father. (This John-Kyle father-son relationship recalls the hilarious one with Shawn Wayans and his father who is also younger than him, in Don’t be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.) And Kyle, whom Sarah’s surrogate father wishes would sleep with his daughter, is wary and suspicious of his future father-in-law.

Ya, they’re one big, happy family indeed.

Yet, with all this going on, Genisys still manages to come off as barely passable and hardly memorable, like the previous two sequels. The lack of strong aesthetics is one reason; Taylor doesn’t quite create a singular look that James Cameron did, or anything like the dirty, grimy brown world of T4. And when your most memorable and lively character is a monotonous cybernetic organism, you know you’re in some kind of trouble. There is also no “wow factor” simply because so many of the scenes are rehashed from Cameron’s films.

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What Genisys is, is obviously an attempt to recreate, rewrite and reboot the entire Terminator franchise, opening up several different timelines and possibilities for future exploits. In this way, it’s a reboot exercise cleverer and more insidious than any other, because you’re not even conscious of what it’s doing, exactly like how all those people in the film are duped into adopting the Genisys cloud system into their everyday lives, only to have Skynet destroy them.

And like in the film, the future (of the franchise) is now unwritten.

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