Terminator Genisys (don’t ask about the spelling) is, by most counts, the third attempt to kickstart a new trilogy of movies in this franchise. Let’s hope it’s the last. The fifth film in this series (which is seemingly as unkillable as its eponymous cyborg) begins with a character who has now been played by three different actors reciting, in voiceover, the details of the previous movies’ backstory. The imagery is equally rehashed. Sunny playgrounds and busy cities suddenly decimated by nuclear fire, then cut to ash-covered ruins dominated by laser-gun weilding cyborgs. Thus begins a pattern of re-explaining or revisiting scenes and plot points that have been relayed to us, in one way or another, four previous times. The story proper once again follows the evil artificial intelligence network Skynet, which infiltrated the past, disrupting the plotlines of the other movies so that this one can exist in some entirely separate continuity, which apparently is a necessary foundation for yet another film in which the heroes try to stop an impending apocalypse while being menaced with an even more powerful machine than last time. It’s the ultimate nostalgia con-job, drowning in empty references and callbacks, constantly reprogramming itself from scene to scene with piles of exposition. There are flashbacks to events that took place on-screen mere minutes previously. Like the characters themselves, the movie and this series are trapped in a stupid, endless time loop.
Even a cynical remake would be preferable to this pointless continuity jumbling.
And then there’s Arnold. As the Cyberdine Systems Model T-101 Infiltration Unit he plays here frequently insists, he’s “old, not obsolete.” He puts on a game face, and really nobody could replace his iconic presence at the center of these movies. Genisys attempts to give his placid machine some semblance of an emotional arc, a stern cybernetic father figure to Emilia Clarke’s rebooted Sarah Conner, and while he can still sell a joke or a threat with nothing but a slightly raised eyebrow, mostly he either stands around swapping shticky banter with the other characters, or conveniently disappearing/reappearing when one of them needs rescuing. These films have strayed so far from James Cameron’s original fever dream tech-anxiety slasher film that there is simply no more story left to tell. Burrowing deeper into the old movies was the best they could come up with. Even a cynical remake would be preferable to this pointless continuity jumbling. At one point, as Sarah hugs him goodbye, the Terminator says, “This is a meaningless gesture. To hold onto something that you know you must let go.” That’s the movie summing itself up. It’s time to let this series go.