Wednesday, December 10, 2014

There Is No Fate But What We Remake

Mangled.  That was the only word that seemed close to defining the upcoming TERMINATOR GENISYS.  The trailer for the next addition to the TERMINATOR franchise hit last week, though in the wake of the public's first peak at both JURASSIC WORLD and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, it seemed to lose some of potential impact.  Not that there were any early indicators that there was much potential to begin with, but sometimes with movies as with ejaculation, the timings the thing.  I wouldn't necessarily argue for the supremacy of the artist when it comes to his or her own art; however, in this case, I think it's clear that trying to make a TERMINATOR film without James Cameron is like trying to make an ALIEN film without Ridley Scott (unless you make one with James Cameron, in which case it somehow turns out awesome, a rare phenomenon otherwise known as the Cameron Anomaly).  At least, that is the most reasonable conclusion to draw based on the available evidence so far.


Judging by the trailer for TERMINATOR GENISYS, it looks like they've decided to go the most convoluted route possible in a series that has become increasingly more convoluted with each additional instalment (and that one TV show that one time...).  At least TERMINATOR 3 and TERMINATOR SALVATION sort of left the first two instalments and went and did their own thing.  At least those two can be taken as glorified fan films.  GENISYS, on the other hand, seems intent on taking a hot, steaming dump right in the middle of James Cameron's original two masterpieces.

Part of me bemoans any TERMINATOR movie made since TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, which still stands as a paragon of action films and one of my favourite all-time movies without gratuitous nudity.  But watching the trailer for GENISYS (a misspelling I can only assume at this point is meant to remind those listening with the right ears of one Cyberdyne Systems), it's easy to see the temptation that has lured so many brave, young filmmakers with its terrible siren song.  Despite the mess of a temporal and narrative web the movie looks to have spun for itself, I still felt that twinge deep in my loins seeing those iconic images like the T-1000 (the master of disguise who's decided to blend in better by taking on the form of... a different cop) and recreated scenes straight out of the first TERMINATOR.  It can be incredibly intoxicating to inhale those fumes from the past, those very same wisps that worked their way into our very synapses.

Yet we always seem to be all to willing to overlook the fact that that very same euphoria we crave so much goes hand in hand with a diluted capacity for effective decision-making, that age-old balance maintained by Old Lady Universe.  I think it's important to keep in mind, though, that we may not be equipped, in the heat of the moment, to execute sound reasoning, and we may be manipulated by those unseen forces.

TERMINATOR: GENISYS has all the trappings of a TERMINATOR movie, but it further defeats its own purpose.  The conceit of both of Cameron's TERMINATOR films was that both factions of the future war "managed" to send back corresponding sets of assassins and protectors before the time travel technology and the villainous AI, Skynet, were already scrapped.  Now it seems that both the machines and the humans can send people back at will, which begs the question of why they don't go back further in the timeline Assassin's Creed-style, trying to kill off John Conner's ancient ancestors.  Unless the year 1984 has some sort of weird cosmic temporal significance and is some strange keystone to the entire spacetime continuum.  The problem is that each new TERMINATOR narrative creates more problems than it solves trying to fill a void that doesn't exist.  Which is kind of the thing: This is a movie that nobody was asking for except for a few people sitting in a board (bored?) room somewhere bandying about terms like "brand recognition" and "market saturation" and trying to barter whatever cultural capital they had at their disposal into gold.

We'll have to wait until TERMINATOR: GENISYS's own judgement day in order to see what kind of strange crop that it may reap.  Hopefully, this will be the final (graceful) nail in the coffin not only of the emaciated remains of the TERMINATOR "franchise," but also a wake-up call to those with the power to stop this trend of rebooting/re-imagining that relies on such narrative contortions that it feels as though we are all part of some knotted, tangled mess from which we are unable to extricate ourselves and makes us yearn (sadly) for the simpler days of straight-up remakes.

"The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can learn the value of narrative closure." -Sarah Connor, on the tenets of storyingtelling and cultural stagnation      


Besides which, I think there's a much better TERMINATOR sequel that's long overdue:




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