I went into Terminator: Genisys thinking that it would be a typical summer action film, light on philosophy and character and heavy on the action and explosions. The film itself is rather a dazzling mix of both, and surprisingly solid as a part of the series (or indeed, a stand-alone story). I came away with a new appreciation for Arnold Schwarzenegger, and his character’s link to Sarah and John Connor.
Due to poor performance stateside, many people have dismissed Terminator: Genisys as a mere vehicle for monetary gain due to the popularity of the franchise, but I believe the film is unique from its predecessors in that it turns the story to focus on Sarah and the difference between free will and fate, which might have thrown the audience, who seem to have generally ignored this character’s contribution to the Terminator universe.
The theme of Terminator: Genisys is choice. Do we have a choice in who we are, and do we have a choice in what happens to us?
At the beginning of the film, we are lulled into a sense of familiarity by watching as the humans launch an attack on SKYNET, determined to strike at the heart of the machine and destroy it forever. Unfortunately, there are some snags and John Connor’s right-hand man (portrayed by Jai Courtney — who I hope begins to receive more offers from major projects, as his array of emotion and ability would be an exciting addition to many stories) must catapult into the past — he thinks, to protect Sarah Connor and prevent anything from happening to her before she gives birth to John.
And so begins what could have been a mismatched, ill-fitting romance, but instead turns out to be a steady, deeper-than-looks bond that maintains its respect for both parties and points the way toward a change in how the Terminator universe depicts relationships, not only romantic, but platonic and familial as well.
Sarah Connor is a survivor, an individual raised by a mass-produced machine. Her femininity is apparent, as are her fighting skills, but neither define her. Instead, both reflect aspects of her as a person. She is not a mere uterus to birth the savior of humanity. She is the one who saves us.
I was thrilled to see her dressed appropriately (no low-cut armor, for example), and covered when necessary. There weren’t gratuitous shots of specific parts of her body, nor was she made out to be a one-dimensional female fighter character. I felt that the writers, Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, treated Sarah Connor with respect and dignity, not oft afforded to female action stars until lately with the advent of spectacular female-led action films like Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World.
The crux of the matter in Terminator: Genisys is Sarah’s choices. Which choices will end in the death of a loved one (either her son, her partner, or her guardian, who she lovingly calls “Pops”)? Which choices will spell the end of humanity? Does she even have the luxury of choice?
She struggles with this throughout the film, as she feels responsible for…well, all of humanity. She feels she must give birth to John, that she must raise him to overthrow SKYNET, and that she must put aside her own feelings because she’s doing what she can to rescue the rest of the world.
This is a terribly interesting idea to explore, especially in light of recent discussions on Planned Parenthood, abortion, birth control, and rape. What choices are available to women? Who makes those choices? What choices are controlled by economic status, familial situations, religious beliefs, timing, and health?
This is why Planned Parenthood exists. To offer choices to women who may not otherwise have them. In the frenzy of attempting to eradicate a necessary evil (that is hardly the bulk of the institution’s operations or budget), people should ask themselves what other choices they are taking away from their fellow human beings.
Sometimes there are no good choices. Sometimes, there are several options available. But no matter what the situation is, a person’s choice comes with responsibility. Whether we like our choices or no, we have to live with the consequences of them.
That’s a lot of responsibility, especially for a person who may not have a supportive community or the means to live with that responsibility. In Terminator: Genisys, we learn that people often put too much responsibility on themselves, and that sharing responsibility can ease the burden of consequences.
In a world where Sarah Connor feels responsible for the word’s survival, it begs the question, do we have to shoulder the responsibility of our choices on our own, or can we share responsibility, and will that afford us more choices?Image Credits: Skydance Productions