This past week I went to see Terminator: Genisys, a movie I swore I wouldn’t waste my time and money going to see.
It was playing at the cheap theater where tickets were only $4 a person. Plus, there’s been a lot of whispers around the Internet from actual moviegoers who loved the movie. People I trusted.
So, I went to see it.
And was blown away.
Not by the awesome special effects, the Easter eggs for previous Terminator movies or by the fact that Arnold had somehow managed to be able to act, just a little.
While I watched the film unfold, it occurred to me that this movie is about family and manages to have more heart than some Disney movies.
Maybe it’s because I’m a daughter. Or maybe it’s because I’m now a mother, but the movie resonated with me in ways I couldn’t have imagined prior to sitting down in the seat. It resonated me in ways that Jurassic World couldn’t have with all it its CGI, high-heeled, 1970s retro faux feminism and Chris Pratt machoism.
No, Terminator: Genisys, managed to ground the franchise back into its roots–a son attempting to save his mother from termination at the hands of an unfeeling, mechanical cyborg robot–and turns it on its head. It does what I do when I write science fiction–ask the question of what if.
What if Sarah Connor’s childhood had differed? What if a Terminator had been sent back to protect her? What would Reese find then? Why is John Connor so important? What if the machines changed the plans? What would the future be then?
Arnold’s Terminator and Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor’s relationship is one of practiced affection. She regards him as her father and he, her father. The overtures to him being her father figure is both explicitly stated and most importantly implicitly stated throughout the film. It is touching and sad, in that a robot has stepped in reared her. Each teaching the other. “Pops” as a single father is so rich, I wished they could’ve presented more of that background. Single fatherhood is rarely presented on screen, but the added discussion of a cyborg doing it was novel and new. It’s touched on in T2: Judgment Day, when Arnold’s Terminator is sent back to protect a teenage John Connor. Those scenes where father and daughter interact, whether they were action or conversation, touched a nerve in me. I could identify with those interactions because my father and I did some of those types of things too.
No, we didn’t pack an arsenals and take down shapeshifting terminators, but we had other hobbies. Watching Star Trek was one. 🙂
Kyle Reese’s arrival doesn’t go according to plan, but then, that’s the point. Exploring what is so common in science fiction storytelling-what if? So, what if Kyle Reese gets to 1984, and Sarah Connor isn’t some scared waitress?
It sounds so lame on paper. I know. I thought so too. But the answers the movie director and scrip writers presents are wonderfully entertaining and engaging. There’s emotion in the film that I found lacked in the last two installments. It’s no wonder James Cameron endorsed this film as a true sequel to T2: Judgment Day.
Plus, with movies like Jurassic World presenting women as helpless and undermining every inch of what Laura Hamilton’s Sarah Connor pushed forward as far as kick-butt heroines, it was nice to see that Terminator: Genisys didn’t digress–at all.
It’s the small details that add to the charm of this film. Humor also helps the film look less like a dystopian knockoff of its predecessors and stand out as a heart-warming, action adventure-futuristic time traveling movie.
Perhaps that’s what has hurt the movie in terms of reviews. It’s a lot of different things, and probably nothing the average movie-goer expects. It has humor, but it isn’t a comedy. It has heart, but it isn’t a drama or romance. It has time travel, amazing special effects and action, but it isn’t a super hero movie.
Just like human beings, Terminator: Genisys is a complex, multi-layered film. It delivers an entertaining alternative to the future of Skynet and humanity.
Flawed and fun, it seems he has found it’s humanity.