The latest development of the iconic Terminator film series (Cameron 2015) has received a lot of criticism as well as praise for various reasons, all of which are mainly to do with the film itself, the production process or issues within the storyworld. I’ve done a lot of reading on it since seeing the film yesterday, and so far haven’t come across a piece addressing what to me was the most glaringly obvious aspect of the film: it was written with an important message, a lesson, in mind, and maybe the reason it’s not mentioned in every single review is that it was so obvious it’s not worth mentioning, but I’ve been on this bandwagon for quite a while now so it will naturally be the main focus of mine. I’m talking about the scene where Sarah Connor has just time-travelled from 1984 to 2017 (two years to go!) and looks around in horror as every single person is carrying and focusedly staring into a little screen which is about to be taken over by the baddie of the film series, Skynet, by the means of a new app Genisys (hence the film title). “It’s a Trojan horse,” she whispers.
I cannot possibly put into words how badly I wish the idea of almost everyone being obsessed with a little screen were nothing but a far-fetched Sci-Fi dystopia that would horrify the viewers as much as the character in the film. Unfortunately the scene doesn’t even make good Sci-Fi comedy, or work as a narrative device the way it’s probably intended to, because that’s what we see every day by just looking around in a public place. If we do look around, that is, as opposed to scrolling through our Twitter feeds to pass the time.
A life controlled by gadgets is a threat to humanity, even if a smartphone app never actually starts a nuclear war against us. Being online 24/7 reduces privacy and makes us vulnerable to crimes such as identity theft. Also it’s easier for totalitarians and bureaucrats to take over a world whose citizens are preoccupied with trending hashtags. Terminator: Genisys is an important reminder of this; this film has significance way beyond its CGI and internal logic (both of whose criticisms I kind of agree with, although I don’t know quite enough physics to be able to tell one way or the other if the quantum field business and alternative realities storyline was plausible).
In addition, the film is worth watching just to see a still very fit, silver fox Arnold Schwarzenegger fight his naked, younger self – that was very clever use of footage from the first film in the series, even if the outcome was a bit stiff and the editing rather visible. There were lots of car chases and explosions, which is fair enough, as most people don’t go to see Terminator films for the sake of the dialogue. An effort was made with cultural/temporal references in the scenes set in the 80s, and ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ by The Ramones played in the film so much I’m still analysing if its lyrics had some relevance to the story. The final scenes, with Skynet’s servers destroyed in a massive explosion and the visuals soon changing to a soothing, dumbphone-free rural landscape, are immensely satisfying for any anti-technologist. You might think I’m a hypocrite for writing this on a laptop and then posting a link on Twitter, but at least I’m doing it all on a PC which I don’t even turn on every day. Instead of a dumbphone I have a six-year-old Nokia which is likewise off for a majority of time. GOOD LUCK TRYING TO CORRUPT ME, SKYNET!