MJY Blog Entry #0006: Terminator Genisys Quick Temporal Survey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #0006, on the subject of Terminator Genisys Quick Temporal Survey.

For years I have been producing complex analyses of time travel movies, and I expect to continue to do so as the Patreon campaign continues to grow and provide support for all of this (hint-hint).  Such an analysis requires that I obtain a recorded copy of the movie and watch it several times with pen and paper in hand, then carefully unravel it, going back to the recording to check details.  On the other hand, in recent years I have also taken the opportunity to watch movies during their theatrical runs and then given a short synopsis of the time travel problems pending a fuller analysis when the video would become available.  When I left The Examiner and brought all that material back here, those “quick temporal surveys” became the first parts of their respective articles, first with Men in Black III, followed later by Free Birds, About Time, X-Men:  Days of Future Past, and Edge of Tomorrow.  That was then driven in part by the various needs, one, to publish something every week, two, to be a solid source of current information on time travel movies, and three, to keep articles short for the format there.  Only one of those reasons is still applicable, but under the present circumstance, it seems appropriate to do something of the same thing:  to publish a Quick Temporal Survey of Terminator Genisys.


Those circumstances, for what it’s worth, include that I have seen the movie; I must thank Bryan for buying a ticket for me so I could catch it in the theatre.  As often mentioned, it is not possible to take notes during a theatrical viewing, and even less possible to pause the film and back it up to check something that was unclear.  However, it was possible for me to make an audio recording of the film, and I was working on notes from that audio recording in beginning an analysis.  That was put on hold by the move:  I was not going to publish again at The Examiner, and I needed time to move all of that material here.  Before that task was completed, one of my readers dropped a note promising to ship me a copy of the DVD as soon as it is released, and so the work has been put on hold pending receipt of that DVD.  Meanwhile, there is much that I could say–I had already drafted ten parts and had many more problems to address–and I have access to two other time travel films which I might be able to analyze in the interim, so in view of that I’m going to take this opportunity to give you first impressions of the latest entry in the classic series.

I am terribly disappointed.

Oh, it was a wonderfully entertaining film, with high marks for action, decent marks for plot and character.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching it.  Further, I am accustomed to saying of a time travel film that it was a temporal disaster.  The problem here, though, is that it is repeated temporal disasters, completely inexplicable events leading to insoluble problems.  As a time travel story, it does not, cannot, work under any known theory of time.

When I first watched Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines, John Cross (who did the analysis of The Final Countdown) very nearly begged me to keep at it until I found a solution–and I did.  I would like to say that there is hope that a solution might be found for this movie, but there is none.  Some of the problems can be solved by assuming certain sets of events, but these very events make solutions to other problems impossible.  Meanwhile, there are two major glaring errors that destroy it entirely.

The second of those was undoubtedly the result of an effort to move the franchise into the twenty teens:  Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese have traveled forward to 2017 to stop the launch of SkyNet at this new later date, and so now they will give birth to John Conner in this new timeframe, and the battle will continue in our present instead of in the past.  That, though, means that John Conner was not conceived in 1984, and all of those histories in which SkyNet sent Terminators back to kill him (or anyone else connected to him) have been undone.  Yet at least one of those histories is essential for the story as we know it, in which John Conner has sent Kyle Reese back to protect Sarah in 1984 because that is the destination of the first Terminator.  Without that, the entire franchise collapses.  It does not matter if John Conner is born thirty some years later; that’s too late to make any difference whatsoever.

The first is bigger, but it’s a bit more difficult to see.  However, if you have been following our series from the beginning you know that we always said that Cyberdyne was not the original creator of SkyNet, that someone else originally launched it at a later date, and the fact that the T-800 was destroyed in Cyberdyne’s facility gave them the parts that gave them the edge to replace the original SkyNet with their own earlier version.  Terminator 3 confirmed that analysis, as the United States Air Force Autonomous Weapons Division launched a SkyNet that was not a Cyberdyne-type hardware mainframe but a software solution that turned the Internet into a hostile artificial intelligence.  Thus we know that when Sarah Conner prevented Cyberdyne from launching SkyNet in Terminator 2 she restored the original launch date.

The problem should be obvious at this point.  Sarah, working with Pops, has prevented Cyberdyne from obtaining parts from a Terminator, and so prevented the early launch date; that means that SkyNet comes online at the later date, the date of Terminator 3.  Nothing Sarah does, nothing Kyle does, nothing Pops does, and nothing SkyNet does, will prevent that launch.  Note, too, that (as we observed) the T-X sent back in Terminator 3 does nothing to cause the launch of SkyNet; it only helps activate and control the other autonomous weapons.

That means by the time Sarah and Kyle arrive in 2017, SkyNet will have been functional for a decade, Kyle’s home will have long been destroyed, and nothing they find in that time can exist then.

They could have scrapped the entire story and started over with new dates, new machines, new people; they wanted Kyle Reese and Sarah and John Conner (although now I expect he will be John Reese).  To get there, they needed to find a way to intervene in the lives of General Brewster and the Autonomous Weapons Division so that that version of SkyNet would never launch.  They failed.

There is so much more wrong with this story, but this is already longer than I intended, so hopefully it is enough to whet your appetite for a fuller analysis once that DVD arrives.

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