Another year, another step closer to the nuclear apocalypse. It’s inevitable: humans will master artificial intelligence and then the machines will decide we’re no longer needed, hack into all the military computers and launch enough missiles to make the Earth’s surface resemble a teenager’s acne-scarred face. At least that’s how mainstream cinema sees it. With so many of 2015’s blockbusters featuring evil genius robots and human ingenuity backfiring, it seems most filmmakers are certain that we’re all irrevocably fucked.
The obvious place to start is with the depressingly hollow reboot of the Terminator franchise – Terminator Genisys. If that spelling of genesis wasn’t enough to seal my one-star rating of this film alone, then the incomprehensible, time-meddling storyline fully cemented its place on the shit shelf. “Reset the future” was its tagline, which translates: ‘Ignore the previous films. They didn’t happen. Fuck you.’ And even after all that resetting, it seems humanity still can’t escape the mechanical grip of Skynet, potentially setting up numerous sequels that will definitely make your face dissolving in a radioactive wasteland seem preferable.
Ex Machina director Alex Garland didn’t have a positive message for humanity either. His well-received film about an attractive synthetic being and a bloke who is considering shagging it, comes to some miserable conclusions, albeit brilliant ones.
We’ve also had Avengers: Age of Ultron this year, a relatively harmless film as far as mindless computer-generated orgies go. But yet again the enemy is a bastardised piece of artificial intelligence that’s convinced humans are the problem. It’s probably got a point too, considering the superheroes will be fighting amongst each other in next year’s Captain America: Civil War. Scores of innocent civilians will presumably die off-screen while we all marvel at Black Panthers costume and Scarlett Johansson’s arse. Any extras that aren’t killed will probably get their chance when they’re shipped over to DC for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While I’m on the subject of superheroes, it’d be mad not to comment on the hilarious failure of Fantastic Four. It might have nothing to do with robots or computers, but this franchise has all but admitted its future is doomed. Fox has quietly killed off a sequel, as if it were a mutant child, shamefully being kept in the basement, and the concept as a whole has more or less been labelled a no-go zone within the industry. It might as well have leprosy.
In stark contrast, this year has seen some of the most profitable film releases in history, many of which caused those menacing computers to crash. Jurassic World bent over the box office and stuffed a ginormous $500 million up it. Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and Spectre added a further billion to the pile. And then Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave the Internet a stroke, breaking records by such ridiculous margins that the margins themselves became records. If only brilliant, character-driven stories like The Martian and Carol made as much money, this war against the machines could actually be won.