Judging by this weekend’s box office it looks like the Terminator won’t be back and that’s a shame. Because Terminator: Genisys was actually an excellent attempt to reboot this franchise while staying within the confines of the universe it created. It is certainly better than the third and fourth films in the series even though it has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of the entire franchise.
I have a reputation for geek-raging on movies for no reason–naturally I believe my reasons to be appropriate. I hated Jurassic World because it was the same story as the original and they didn’t try to do anything new. So I was less inclined to forgive the silly mistakes because they weren’t even trying. I loved Genisys because it tried to be a new story and take a familiar property in new directions–that’s bold for a franchise, especially one involving time travel. Unfortunately, even Terminator Genisys can’t avoid some time travel problems. So after the break we’ve got the top 6 mistakes made by an otherwise entertaining summer flick.
SPOILER WARNING: THE REST OF THE POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR TERMINATOR: GENISYS.
- Forewarned is not forearmed. When Sarah and Pops show up to take out the original T-800 at the Los Angeles Observatory, that’s a great moment in rewriting the timeline. Unfortunately, while Pops is able to walk to the T-800 he only brought a shotgun. You don’t bring a knife to a gunfight and you don’t bring a shotgun to a Terminator fight. The fact that Pops and Sarah had so much time to prepare for this exact model at this exact location but only brought a distraction while Sarah ran to snipe him with a gun that could actually do some harm–that makes less sense than a Scalia dissent quoting fruit pulp.
- Traps need triggers. Another great moment in the film ends with a bit of a head scratcher. Sarah and Pops anticipate that a liquid metal Terminator will come back in 1984 as well so they prepare a trap which ends up being a room with plastic tanks filled with Liquified McGuffin that can dissolve liquid metal and flesh on a T-800 (but not his metal because science). That’s pretty cool and what we should expect if you have that much time to prepare. Unfortunately, the trap can only be sprung by shooting the plastic tanks with a machine gun and having the tank holes rain the melty sauce down on the unsuspecting robot. That seems like a horrible way to spring a trap. How about, oh, a button that opens the tanks? A pull cord? Something that doesn’t require you to have a full clip and good enough aim to make holes that will shower the liquid exactly where you need?
- “I’ve got all the time in the world because I have a time machine!” “Great, let’s travel to five minutes before the end of the world!” Taking a page from the Marty McFly Crisis Prevention Handbook (giving himself a whopping 15 minutes to save Doc from terrorists), Kyle and Sarah decide to time travel from 1984 to 2017 so that they can take out Genisys before it becomes Skynet. Taking out Skynet is a good thing, granted, but why travel to just a few days before it becomes sentient and wipes out half the planet? YOU HAVE A TIME MACHINE. Give yourself a month, two months, a year. In fact…
- Why did Sarah and Kyle time travel? They jump ahead 33 years to wipe out Skynet without any good reason. Sarah has been surviving for 15 years with Pops so I imagine that Skynet doesn’t send a Terminator every year for her birthday. “Ugh–a T-800 again?!?” They had all this time to prepare for the Observatory T-800, and then they suspected there was another one sent as backup (again, because reasons) so they had a liquid metal trap set. But after that, why the time jump? Pops is able to live those remaining decades and prepare for their arrival (where suddenly his ability to pinpoint time travel arrival location stops), why couldn’t they just do the same? Prepare longer. Strike when the system is more vulnerable. Oh, and speaking of vulnerable…
- Pops is the Rube-Goldberg of tacticians. Part of the plan created by Pops to take out Skynet is to launch an assault on the campus housing its servers before it gets uploaded to the cloud and takes over everything. To do so he’s downloaded all the blueprints and schematics and has plenty of explosives to take out several buildings. And to make sure Sarah stays safe he also got a job when the campus was under construction and managed to program her identity into the building computers so that a blast safe room (because all tech companies have those) will admit Sarah when needed. That makes for some tense moments until you realize that Pops had access to the entire campus while under construction. So he could have just planted explosives in the cement walls and equipped them with a detonator. Or even a timer! When Sarah and Kyle land in 2017 he could show up with clothes and say “I took care of Skynet, let’s go win the lottery!” But no, he decides to go with the whole infiltrate-explosives-saferoom angle.
- Skynet is the worst supercomputer ever. In one of the best story moments of the movie, John Connor is infected by Skynet and is effectively killed. I love this from a story angle because now the series could stop being about saving John Connor or his ancestors and instead be just about humans vs. Skynet (we won’t need to worry about that based on the box office now). Skynet, via John, travels back in time to give birth to himself via Genisys (apparently unable to stop the events of T2). And John does a super good job programming code that lets Skynet form so that works. But John also persuades this operating system company to invest in his idea for a time travel machine. We’re even told why–he talks with the head of the company and they say once they have a time machine: “Boom!” They literally make an explosion sound. What the hell does that mean? But that’s not even the biggest problem here–the problem is that the T-800 that was sent back to save Sarah Connor can build a time machine using parts from 1984 when Skynet itself can’t build one in 2017. That’s just not right.