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"Terminator Genisys" Is Like Staying Too Long At The Apocalyptic Party

There are pluses and minuses to a franchise with a built-in reset button. SPOILERS WITHIN!

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These days, franchises never die — they just reboot. So in some ways, the Terminator series, now five installments strong, is the perfect franchise, with a built-in reset button. The movies don't move forward, just looping forever in time as humanity tries to stop Skynet and Skynet tries to eradicate humanity. But in the new Terminator Genisys, now in theaters, the characters feel like they're forever circling the same spot, getting recast and remixed but never actually getting anywhere.

Here are five ways the film feels like staying too long at the apocalyptic party.

When we learn that Terminators can get old.

Melinda Sue Gordon / Paramount Pictures

Cyborgs may not age, but Arnold Schwarzenegger does, and the movie's explanation for why the T-101 looks 67 years old is that the flesh with which its metal skeleton is covered is human, and behaves accordingly (except when it comes to things like growing back an arm, of course). I assume there old T-101s somewhere with necrotic Austrian flesh dropping off them in rotting chunks. Yet somehow, it's more disheartening when the movie conveniently "upgrades" the T-101 at the end, setting it up to be played by either a new actor or Schwarzenegger's digitalized face grafted onto another body. That's a service that bodybuilder Brett Azar already provides in Terminator Genisys in the scene in which the T-101 intercepts and fights its younger self, a sequence that suggests the character might, creepily, outlive everyone involved in the original 1984 film.

When John Connor writes off continuity.

Paramount Pictures

John Connor (Jason Clarke) has some serious family baggage, given that his dad, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), is his younger bestie he eventually sends back to the past to his death in order to ensure his own salvation-of-humanity existence. The Terminator Genisys big twist that was, for some reason, included in all of the movie's advertising is that John is now the baddie, having been infected by Skynet to become a cyborg himself. But there's something extra villainous about the moment he tells Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and Kyle that he thinks they're all "exiles in time," so he's not worried about what will happen to him if they're killed. Maybe he has a point, given that his future parents have already skipped ahead to 2017, two decades past when he was supposed to be born, and he still seems fine, if evil and robotic. But openly hand-waving away all continuity really undercuts the emotional stakes of the whole franchise — none of it counts apparently.

When we meet our third, fourth, and fifth sets of Sarahs, Johns, and Kyles.

Paramount Pictures

The Terminator films are theoretically about humanity's fight for survival, but they're built on an implicit reminder that robots, in particular the T-101, are all we care about. The role of college student turned brawny badass Sarah Connor was defined in the first two movies by a kickass Linda Hamilton, then played by Lena Headey in the TV series, and now, with less impact by her Game of Thrones co-star Emilie Clarke in the latest installment. John Connor has been played by Edward Furlong, Nick Stahl, Christian Bale, and Jason Clarke, as well as Thomas Dekker on the small screen. Kyle Reese, originated by Michael Biehn, has also been played by Anton Yelchin, Jonathan Jackson on TV, and now Jai Courtney. That's the kind of recasting more typically seen with superheroes, except that Arnold Schwarzenegger, who's still plenty charming in Terminator Genisys, has stayed a constant on the big screen. He was even being played by a CG-assisted stand-in in 2009's Terminator Salvation, when the actor was serving as governor of California. There may have been multiple Terminator models, but it's the people in the story who are most readily replaceable, their characters feeling a little vaguer each iteration.

When J.K. Simmons shows up in that throwaway role.

Paramount Pictures

The Oscar winner turns up in an abbreviated part as Detective O'Brien, who had a run-in with Sarah Connor in the '80s (when he was played by Wayne Bastrup), and became the department conspiracy nut in the '90s when he saw her again. The character doesn't amount to anything, but he does serve as a lone relatable stand-in for the rest of humanity, which is otherwise barely a backdrop for a movie that's ostensibly about saving the world. In Terminator 2, Sarah Connor had nightmares about not being able to save people from what she knew was coming, but Terminator Genisys feels indifferently narrow in focus — a time-warped dysfunctional family dramedy in which Pops, played by the T-101, gives his daughter's new boyfriend a hard time while they all try to fend off the pair's angsty future son.

When Skynet turns out not to be destroyed after all.

Paramount Pictures

Sure, sequels gotta sequel, and you don't cast Matt Smith in such a small role without leaving the door open for him to come back in a larger one. But after all that Sturm und Drang, those scenes of terminators fighting terminators and corporate break-ins and battles to eliminate what will soon become Skynet, Terminator Genisys throws in a post-credits scene in which we see that Skynet is still around, and also the time machine might still work. Skynet is the bedbugs of apocalyptic artificial intelligence — any tiny bit of future tech left behind and it'll grow back into a world-destroying infestation. And yet, despite preparing all her life for this, Sarah Connor seems blithely indifferent to double-checking to see if everything truly gone — and Kyle Reese, who grew up with this stuff, seems similarly unbothered. It's enough to make you think that maybe humanity deserves to be eliminated, and the next Terminator installment can be entirely populated by T-101s with computer-generated Arnold Schwarzenegger faces, offering up deadpan jokes, ridiculous smiles, and lines from the earlier movies, forever after.

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