Terminator: Genisys trailer

Happily, we’ve managed to resuscitate Dreaming Robots just in time to review the trailer for the next (5th, if you’re counting) film in The Terminator franchise: Terminator: Genisys. [sic]

It’s far too early for a full review of the film, which isn’t released until July 2015, but what can we learn from this trailer and what’s promised from Terminator: Genisys [sic], other than odd spellings? [enough making fun of the spelling now – ed.]

At least two things. First, it would seem that the new film will continue where the series left off, in terms of its ambivalence towards robots and technology. If you remember, in the first film, released in 1984, the robots were most certainly, unquestionably bad (as evidenced, too, by the computer-generated, MIDI soundtrack). Arnold Schwarzenegger was the antagonist; there was no ambiguity in this. He didn’t have conflicting emotions. He was a cold, mean, killing machine, and as we were lead to believe all robots in the future were to be.

But by the second film (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, released in 1991) things had already changed considerably. Arnie was now the good guy, helping Sarah Connor and her son escape from an altogether different sort of bad robot sent from the future.

One could read this as merely reflecting the changing fortunes of the franchise’s original star: now that Arnold Schwarzenegger was a charming, bankable hero (he did TwinsTotal Recall  and Kindergarten Cop, for gods’ sake!), there was no point in not cashing in on him in the next installments of the series.

However, we could (and should, we would argue) also see that this change reflects a more ambivalent, perhaps even more sophisticated view of robots and emerging technologies: instead of simply fearing that our own technological progress will inevitably hunt us down and murder the innocents, by the second film there seems to be an awareness that not only will our technological progress inevitably hunt us down and murder the innocents, but also that technology might save us from this fate.

Ultimately, in other words, the newer films still fear robots, but also holds out a promise that technology has the potential to save us from ourselves.

Secondly, it seems to me that this trailer demonstrates that we have clearly entered a new phase in our relationship with technology – a certain nostalgia for the future, we can call it. Like articles decrying the loss of beloved 1990s technologies and novels about future virtual reality worlds populated with endless references to the 1980s, we seem to want something very familiar fictions of the unknown future.

Again, one could say that this is because of the (inexplicable) popularity of the franchise’s aging star, or because of Hollywood’s tendency to eat itself and sacrifice creativity in the search for endless profits (and until we’ve seen the film itself we will probably not know). However, such a nostalgia demonstrates further (if more proof were needed) that science fiction is not about the future so much as it is about our now and then, reflecting our present fears based on past experiences rather than saying anything too profound about a genuinely plausible future.

The past doesn’t seem to be evident only in the star, either: is it just me or is there a strange sort of 80s naffiness about the whole thing, including the post-apocalyptic future, complete with bipedal, machine-gun wielding cyborgs (despite any casual fan, let alone expert, having long since figured out that bipedal, machine-gun wielding cyborgs would be the least efficient way for an artificial intelligence to use in the subjugation of humanity)?

There’s much more we could say (and for now we’ll leave it to other blogs to applaud updating Sarah Connor’s character to something rather more like the one to be found in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, something more proactive than the damsel in distress of the 1984 original).

Here’s the trailer – tell us what you think!