Trepidation, Anticipation: The Terminator Returns, by Kate Voss
When Arnold Schwarzenegger uttered his classic line “I’ll be back,” he wasn’t kidding. In Terminator Genisys, the newest link in the Terminator chain, we see Arnie return to the screen as one of the most iconic cyborgs of all time. Running a franchise that has become nothing short of a cultural phenomenon, encompassing a television series, comic books and a string of video games, it was only a matter of time before some sort of cybernetic reboot reappeared. Though after watching the events of Genisys unfold all over the temporal map and shake the franchise to its very core, the tidal wave of mixed reviews that hit the film come as no surprise.
Some viewers have said the film builds off the franchise’s best feature – Arnold himself – and are happy with the timeline experimentation, while others feel the saga is tired and worn out after being sluggishly dragged through Judgement Day and Salvation. Personally, I have to agree with the Terminator himself – he’s old, not obsolete – but this movie still doesn’t hold a candle to the first two (of course). The trailer leaked so many of the key plot points that viewers more or less knew what they were in for from the get-go.
Before the movie was even released, James Cameron (who directed and co-wrote the first two sci-fi classics but had no directorial input on this film) decided to speak up and add his two cents to the conversation. In his opinion, the third and fourth films did not live up to the “big idea” of the first two, an idea he believes had a solid pickup in Genisys, which he credits as the “real” third film in the franchise. Alongside most other die-hard fans of the series who have similarly conflicted feelings, Cameron himself would be completely ok if we all just pretended like the latter installments never existed.
Even though Terminator Genisys wasn’t exactly the box office success director Alan Taylor had hoped it would be, there’s no denying our continued and growing interest in the power of robots and the concept of dangerous artificial intelligences. With movies like Chappie and Ex Machina also focusing on AI run amok, the latest developments in real world technology provide extensive food for cinematic thought. Along with some of Hollywood’s other favorite what-if scenarios – like the zombie apocalypse and alien invasions – the concept of total robotic domination continues to hold a certain appeal for viewers all over the world.
There’s been a lot of discussion from within the tech community recently about the threats AI could pose in the very near future as it progresses towards human-level intelligence. However, forces like Terminator’s Skynet, a highly advanced AI, may already be more realistic than most of us would like to think. Battlefield robots and drones are already in play with the military, but real debate revolves around robots with the power to make the “kill decision” without human intervention – sound familiar? As the main antagonist in the Terminator franchise, once Skynet became self-aware it saw humanity as a threat to its existence and released an army of terminators to “terminate” all of mankind.
As technology improves and more complex learning algorithms are developed, AI stands to become a force to be reckoned with. In a nightmare inducing twist, some robots are even starting to look like us. Imagine if these easily mistaken for human robots one day became self-aware and harnessed their emotions like Ava in Ex Machina or little Athena in Tomorrowland. Let’s also not forget about intelligent computer programs already at work within hospital settings, home security systems and sensory technology. The processing power of digital devices these days is evolving quicker than ever before. No need to try and envision what living in a fully-automated, “smart” house could possibly look like on a bad day – the Cooper family already took care of that for us back in 1999.
Okay, maybe a Skynet takeover and the thought of people being trapped in their houses by a rogue automation system is a little far fetched. But when you look at the hard facts and the advanced tech already in play, daily interaction with some form of AI doesn’t seem like a too distant possibility. After one of the biggest plot twists in terminator history – the introduction of a somewhat hybrid cyborg in the human vs. robot war – we are left with one question, can we expect yet another edition to the Terminator franchise in years to come? Or better yet, the beginning of a new saga?