Tag Archives: Terminator

MJY Blog Entry #199: Time Travel Movies that Work

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #199, on the subject of Time Travel Movies that Work.

A few weeks ago, one of my readers specifically asked what time travel movies I thought actually worked, temporally.  My musings on this were interrupted by an extended hospitalization, but I have felt for a while that I ought to be writing something about time travel and for various reasons have not been able to obtain copies of any new time travel movies, so here’s a review of some of the old ones.

Paul Nigh’s ‘TeamTimeCar.com’ Back to the Future DeLorean Time Machine

Let’s clear out a few issues first.  The first two Terminator films, and the third, were all “workable”, but they required a tremendous number of less than probable events.  That is, if we were in the world where the onscreen stories were occurring, we would know that we were in a statistically unlikely world, but if we were in the world from which those events might have arisen we would be very foolish to trust that things were going to work that way.  A lot of our movies are like that, and I’m not going to include a lot of movies which “work provided a lot of improbable events occur”.

There are also a couple of movies that land on the time travel desk which “work” because either there is no time travel within the film (although time travel issues are raised) or we don’t know any details about it.  Terminator Genisys [edit] Salvation is noteworthy in this regard, as there is a lot of concern over what happens if Kyle Reese is killed before traveling back to become John Conner’s father.  Also in this category is the very enjoyable Safety Not Guaranteed, in which we are never entirely certain whether the machine actually does travel in time until the end.  These are good movies and technically time travel movies that work, but do so because the time travel is outside the frame of the film.

The first movie that genuinely impressed me as near perfect was Twelve Monkeys.  It still is impressive, although there are problems with it that I missed because I had not yet recognized them.  Perhaps the biggest is that it appears they are using a time travel projector/collector, and as we saw in Timeline they are seriously problematic.  That problem is resolved if, as we suggest in the beginning of our Twelve Monkeys analysis, the return trip is not initiated from the future but based on a timer that determines when he returns.  So although there are more caveats than there once were, this is still on the list of the better films.

Source Code genuinely blew me away, because it works brilliantly–but not as a time travel story.  Explaining what it actually is would be a major spoiler, but if you have not seen it, do so, and then read the analysis.

I genuinely love Eleven Minutes Ago.  It is a quirky independent film in which a time traveler accidentally crashes a wedding party, falls in love with one of the bridesmaids, and woos her by returning to the party in eleven minute segments out of sequence.  The most difficult part of this film is the card trick, but even that has a better than even chance of working.

Also on the list of films that work is Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes.  It is certainly temporally convoluted, but with a few not entirely unreasonable assumptions we obtain a working story.  The time machine itself in this instance suffers from the same problems as that devised by H. G. Wells:  once someone is using it, why are they not inside it if someone else tries to use it to travel the same temporal path?  However, since no one knows a way to travel through time, we tend to avoid looking too closely at the methods suggested.

That is also the main problem with Time After Time, in which H. G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper into the twentieth century.  The end of the movie might create some genetic problem issues, but that is beyond what we know from the film.  Of course, this works largely because the time travel is only at the beginning and not part of the larger story.  There are a few temporal hiccoughs in the beginning, though.

I should mention Back to the Future, the first part.  It has some nonsense in it concerning what happens to the photo and to Marty when it appears that his history is being undone, and in the end it should not be the Marty we know but the affluent Marty who grew up in that affluent home whom we see in the future, but otherwise this does a reasonable job of producing a replacement theory story.  The sequels are fraught with impossibilities and problems, but I saw the original at its twenty-fifth anniversary showing and thought it stood the test of time, even though this was the second analysis (the third film) I had written.

The Star Trek movies deserve mention, particularly Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home.  There are some problems with it, but in the main it holds together.  The other three time-travel-based films in the series are all over the map, from the disastrous Generations to the slightly problematic First Contact to the challenging Star Trek (2009).

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was a surprise because I knew that the time travel in the book did not work, but discovered that because of one small change that in the movie did.  It’s not perfect, but its functional.

I also need to mention Flight of the Navigator, which lands on the list because we are provided with the A-B timeline only, with Davey being delivered to the beginning of the altered C-D timeline at the end of the film.  That of course changes everything, and we don’t see how, but we can envision a solution to the time travel problems (indeed, more than one), and so reasonably can include it in movies that work.

There are other time travel movies I like and would recommend, not because they work easily but because they’re funny (Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, Blackadder Back & Forth) or engaging (Happy Accidents, The Time Traveler’s Wife) or intriquing in their ideas (The Jacket, Next), but you can read my analyses of those and many other films, along with theory discussions, correspondence, and other articles, indexed from the main Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies page.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below; or visit the site forums.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#31: A Genisys Multiverse

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #31, on the subject of A Genisys Multiverse.

A Temporal Anomalies reader using the handle “Sanddragon939” at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has there posted a response to the recent Terminator Genisys analysis.  You can read it there; I am responding to it here, partly because IMDB periodically deletes old posts (I do not know how old) and partly because I am aware that one letter represents–well, a lot of people (in radio, we said a hundred) who agree but did not write, and they are more likely to find my response here than there.

First, let me say thank you for reading, and for your comments, particularly the positive ones.  I would not wish to appear unappreciative, since I do appreciate your comments.  Most of Sand Dragon’s comments were positive, agreeing with or at least commending points made in the article, and that’s actually unusual–people usually write to criticize more than to critique, and it always encourages me to read that something I wrote benefited someone.

With that said, there are apparently some points of disagreement, which actually all connect to each other, so let’s see if we can connect them and make sense of them.

img0031Genisys

They begin with his point #1, where he says,

But Genisys appears to be a ‘reboot’ of sorts, which acknowledges only the continuity of the first film (while using elements from the second). The world we are presented with at the start of Genisys appears to be a 2029 extrapolated from the events of T1 in 1984 and T1 alone…with Judgement Day having occurred in 1997….what we see in the film clearly appears to be the future of the original film which has been disrupted by the T-5000.

I certainly agree, with the caveat that the T-5000 has to have originated somewhere, and it certainly is not original to that 2029 arising solely from the events of the first film.  Given its abilities, it evidently post-dates the creation of the T-X, which in turn post-dates the creation of the T-1000, and if Skynet had a T-1000 in 2029 it would not have sent a T-800 to do what a T-1000 could do more reliably.  It has had time to anticipate this moment, and to prepare for it.

That means that the future has to advance without the intervention of the T-5000 before the T-5000 can arrive to change things.  We thus have every reason to believe that the events of the previous films must have happened, even if the arrival of the T-5000 then causes them to “unhappen”.

Also, it must be noted that at some point someone sent Pops back to protect Sarah and someone sent a T-1000 back to kill her, and there is a T-1000 trying to kill Kyle Reese, all of which make no sense once Skynet compromises John Conner–Skynet needs him now, so it needs Sarah and Kyle alive.  The alternative is that the roles are reversed, the T-1000(s) trying to kill Kyle and Sarah come from the resistance and Pops was sent by Skynet–which theory falls apart when Pops opposes T-John.  Thus there must be a period after 2029 in which John is still a problem to Skynet and a benefit to the resistance.

Sand Dragon has an answer to that, but it is in point #6, where he begins,

Ultimately though, I feel that this film really doesn’t work under anything remotely resembling your particular ‘replacement theory’ of time….

–a point with which I am in agreement.  It also does not work under fixed time, and I’m inclined to say that it does not work under standard parallel or divergent dimension theories.  (Anyone who is lost is referred to the theory section of the site, and particularly to Theory 102, which covers much of this and links to related articles.)  The fundamental evidence for that conclusion is that under those types of multiple dimension theories anyone or anything sent to “the past” winds up in a different universe, and those who did the sending logically conclude that time travel does not work so they do not attempt it again.  A significant point in our article is that the film does things which don’t work under any theory of time.  However, here Sand Dragon disagrees:

…it best works under some variant of the divergent timeline/Multiverse model (indeed, personally, I feel the Terminator films have always worked on such a model).

Here we are speaking of something like Dr. Manhattan’s multiverse (from the film The Watchmen, discussed in some detail there).

Sand Dragon gives three points in support of this:

  1. “The film itself suggests this with John’s argument that as an ‘exile in time’, he is no longer causally dependent on Kyle and Sarah.”  Of course, John could be–and I maintain is–mistaken about this, but it does support that concept if it is correct.
  2. “The only way Kyle can ‘see into’ an alternate timeline is if that timeline exists in some form alongside the timeline he started from”, which is the point we are going to have to address below.
  3. “…the filmmakers have suggested the T-5000 may have originated in ‘another dimension’ and not just the future past 2029”, which is what we call “parole evidence”, a legal term that means it is not within the document itself and therefore is not relevant unless the document itself cannot be understood without it.  It has always been this site’s practice to exclude such evidence–what the actors said, what happened in the original book or the novelization, what happens in the director’s cut–and there is no compelling reason to change that rule in the present instance.  It is sufficient that such a theory is plausible; that the filmmakers cite it as their model is only valuable if the film actually works under that model and not otherwise.

I maintain it does not work under that model, or at least does not work better.

The multiverse model in question is one that is dear to my heart–as author of Multiverser:  The Game, I relied very much on that sort of Sliders/sideways time concept I first saw in a John Pertwee Doctor Who episode decades ago:  the notion that any possible (or indeed, any conceivable) universe must exist, because random differences between universes would create divergences.  Since I joined the Multiverser creative process in 1992 and published it in 1997, I’ve had over two decades and some serious motivation to consider the idea.  I find it severely inadequate, for reasons already addressed in the theory pages.  However, it is specifically inadequate in the present case, because it requires the existence of a universe predicated on a sequence of events which appear themselves to be impossible.

The critical event is that just before his thirteenth birthday, when something called Genisys was about to be activated, Kyle Reese was told by someone, “Remember, Genisys is Skynet.  When Genisys comes online judgment day begins.  You can kill Skynet before it’s born.”  At issue for us is what has to have happened for that to follow.

It is certainly possible that some sort of cloud-based operating system named Genisys could come online in 2017; Google might be working on something like that even now as it unseats MicroSoft from the title of Evil Cyber Empire.  However, in order for it to become Skynet in 2017, it has to have been tweaked by the emmissary sent from the future–who is identified as John Conner, whom we have distinguished as “T-John” because he has been converted into a type of terminator.  That, though, requires that John Conner was born, and he was born in 1984 as son of Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese.  Kyle will only be sent to the past if Skynet sends a terminator to kill Sarah, and if that happens we have the 1997 launch.  We cannot have a universe in which T-John travels to 2014 that did not include his birth in 1984 and the earlier launches.

The alternative here is that Genisys would become Skynet eventually–not in 2017, but perhaps by 2020, in the same way that we were told it took most of a month for the 1997 version of Skynet to become sentient and launch its attacks but the 2004 version did it in minutes.  Young Kyle then comes from a world in which that happened at some point–but then, who told him it was going to happen?  We might guess that at some future moment someone–perhaps even his older self–comes from the future to deliver that message, but where is that person in the new timeline?  Perhaps the point is that having gone to the past to warn his younger self, this Kyle unmade his older self, and had to be replaced by the Kyle from the other dimension–but we’ve got several consistency problems happening here.  Why should that future Kyle land in his own past, but our Kyle land in someone else’s past?  If the original messenger came from a different future, why wouldn’t he still arrive from that future?

And behind it all is still the problem of how the message given to that Kyle in that universe wound up in the mind of our Kyle in a different universe.

Ultimately, the problem is a predestination paradox.  Multiverse theory believers think that their notion of “every possible universe exists” makes them immune to this, but it only makes the problem more complicated:  in order for any version of Kyle in any universe to have been told by any version of Kyle from any universe that Genisys is Skynet, he must have remembered that he was so told, and thus he will only be told if he was told, and whatever only happens if it happens does not happen.  It does not actually matter that the Kyle who tells is in one universe and the Kyle who is told is in another:  before Kyle in our universe can tell the Kyle in some other universe that Genisys is Skynet, he must receive that memory from the Kyle he is going to tell, and that means he must already have told him before–sequentially–he knew, which he clearly cannot have done.

So I think even under this multiverse theory, Terminator Genisys fails.

As they say, your mileage may vary.

Footnote:  Sand Dragon also said, “I dare say the possibility exists that some version of Kate may have been introduced in the Genisys sequel (which I doubt will happen now).”  I’m not sure whether he means that there won’t be a sequel or that Kate won’t be in it, but whatever he means he apparently knows something I do not know–not really surprising, but I’ll have to see what I can learn.  Add a comment below (the second response block) or send me an e-mail (the first block) if you know something.  Thanks for reading, and for your encouragement and support.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#28: A Terminator Vision

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #28, on the subject of A Terminator Vision.

I just spent probably more than a month trying to unravel all the timelines that are impacted by Terminator Genisys, and if you’re a temporal anomalies fan you’ve probably already seen that analysis.  At the end of it, and probably the last part I wrote (it doesn’t always work that way), I suggested that if the Terminator series wants to move forward from here, they’ll need new heroes–but maybe they could have the new hero be Sarah Conner’s second child.  That got things moving in the back of my mind, and I’ve envisioned some thoughts for a future direction for the Terminator series.  I don’t know if anyone in Hollywood takes me seriously (someone once commented that Terminator 3:  Rise of the Machines seemed to get some of its ideas from my analysis of the first two films, but the similarities seem to me to be superficial), but I think these ideas might be workable.

img0028Terminator

Termnator Genisys dropped Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese in 2017, where as far as they know Skynet has been stopped; we of course know better, partly because we were shown the surviving Genisys core in the rubble beneath Cyberdyne, and partly because if there is no future Skynet time unravels entirely.  It appears that they are going to fall in love, and that John Conner will be born.  Of course, John Conner can no longer be the hero–in 2029 he was compromised by what some have identified as a T-5000 and converted into what we’re calling “T-John”.  If we want a future, we need new heroes.

However, there is no reason why Sarah and Kyle wouldn’t give them to us.  They’re settling down to raise a child somewhere in California, but there’s no reason they would not raise several children, to create and prepare a small army against the seemingly inevitable assault of the machines.

I see them raising four children.  The eldest, of course, is John Conner (California law permits parents to give a child any name of their choosing, as long as it is not done with intent to commit fraud), and takes his place in the stories (although he’s a bit young in 2029, if he’s born in 2018 he might just fit the bill).  They give him the Conner surname because they know that he is going to matter to the resistance at least in its early days.  I envision the second child as a daughter, and they’ll name her after her mother, Sarah Reese.  The third child is a bit quiet and withdrawn, overshadowed by his to-be-famous brother but named for his father Kyle; eventually he’ll take his mother’s maiden name to be known as Kyle Conner, so that people know he is brother and son in the famous family.  Improbably, the family breaks boy-girl-boy-girl, and the youngest I’ll name Madolyn–because I like the notion of “Mad Reese” as the wild child renegade freedom fighter, who will be our new hero.

That’s the future; the present is where our story is set–or the near future present.  Sarah Conner gave birth to John Conner sometime in 2018, and she, along with Kyle and Pops, has been raising him.  In 2020, John now two, Sarah gives birth to Sarah (Reese), so now she has a toddler and an infant–and just about that time our movie begins.  A terminator arrives–it should be something different, but not one of the “T-5000” nanite types.  Its mission is to kill Sarah Reese and prevent the births of Kyle and Maddie.  (From the perspective of an analyst, I’m thinking that Sarah Reese must have been killed in this timeline, so that Maddie has a reason to save someone but did not lose her parents or eldest brother.)  From the future, Maddie sends help.  Of course, Maddie is an impulsive type.  She knows that Pops is there, and she could send another terminator to work with him (and gee, if she sends a repurposed T-1000 and it survives, they can replace the actor in the next film because of course the T-1000 can look like anyone), but I’m thinking she sends a person with knowledge of the weaknesses of terminators–or maybe she sends herself.  That would be interesting–“Mom, Dad, I haven’t been born yet, but I’ve come back from the future to keep you alive so that I will be.”  That might be interesting.  It creates a fascinating dynamic–what parent would let his kid die to save him, but what if the kid will never be born if the parent dies?

These ideas do not in any way save the problems in Terminator Genisys, but they do provide a potential future direction for the series.  So I’ve floated the idea, let’s see if anyone notices.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

#17: Interstellar Quick Temporal Survey

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #17, on the subject of Interstellar Quick Temporal Survey.

As we did with Termintor Genisys, we are giving a quick one-shot look at the temporal issues in Interstellar–a star-studded science fiction epic film well worth seeing, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Ellen Burstyn, and Matt Damon in supporting roles behind a lead of Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in completely serious (not romantic or comedy) roles.  I must thank Lamont for providing the opportunity to view a digital copy.  I am not certain this time whether there will be a followup full analysis, because there probably is not that much that won’t be covered in this short piece, and the digital copy is not so good, with occasional garbled dialogue.  Still, the essence of it came through.

img0017interstellar

For most of the movie, time travel is not an issue.  It does an excellent job of presenting the time dilation effects of relativity–how gravity and motion cause time to run at different rates for persons in different frames of reference.  As a result, The main characters, McConaughey’s Cooper and Hathaway’s Brand sent on a spaceflight through a wormhole to another galaxy then spending a few hours on a planet orbiting a black hole where every hour on the surface is seven years back on the ship and back on earth, are still young when his children are grown.  I was a bit uncertain about their experience of passing through the wormhole.  My understanding is that there is no time, and thus no temporal experience, of such a trip, but movies have usually treated it otherwise because it is a difficult experience even to imagine, nevermind to show.

This story almost made it, with only two minor problems that might be fatal.  Our time travel elements appear when Cooper sacrifices himself, falling into a black hole with the booster rocket that propels Brand toward the safety of her destination.  There is a bit of a flaw in that:  the only ways dropping the booster gives the ship more momentum are if the ship is pushing against the booster as it releases (the “kick” of recoil on a gun) or if the ship has other engines and wants to reduce mass (the reason launch rockets drop spent stages).  Either of those might have been so, but that was not the explanation given.  In any case, Cooper and the robot TARS (voiced by Bill Irwin) both cross the event horizon and find themselves in what seems to be an engineered Escheresque three-dimensional space, by means of which Cooper discovers that he can get behind the bookcase in his daughter Murphy’s room before he left for this flight and become the “ghost” she always said was in there, knocking books off her bookcase and tampering with things in the room to some small degree.  He gives her the coordinates he needs to find the secret NASA installation at which he will become the pilot of this trip–our first problem, an obvious predestination paradox–and also gives her the data the robot recorded on crossing the event horizon of the black hole in a form she will unravel decades later when she is at NASA working with Brand’s father on a formula to crack gravity and so move huge numbers of people into space and on toward new colonies.  He and the robot are then somehow dumped out of the black hole into open space not far from the colonies his now ancient and dying daughter Murphy made possible near Saturn, and is last seen in a stolen ship rocketing toward the wormhole to go find Brand at the new colony she is establishing (with zygote stockpile technology) on the one planet that proved potentially successful as a colony world.

The way to see it is to begin with an original history.

Earth is dying, but there is a secret NASA project working on a way to move humanity into space.  Some unidentified “they” with scientific and engineering skills far superior to our own abruptly drops a wormhole near Saturn, connected to a distant galaxy with a dozen planets having the potential to support life, and a dozen survey teams are sent.  Three of these on planets fairly near each other are still sending regular beacon signals, so NASA sends a crew, equipped with stasis chambers that slow aging, through the wormhole to determine which, if any, will be the best place for the new human colony.

The complication is that somehow Cooper and Murphy have to discover, or be discovered by, NASA.  There is no obvious simple solution for this.  NASA at this point is a top secret clandestine organization which had been disbanded by the government because it cost too much to maintain, and then restarted covertly because even though no one could politically defend spending money on it, it became obvious that the earth was dying and humanity’s one hope was to go elsewhere.  Cooper does not know NASA exists.  Meanwhile, they know who he is, and would love to have someone with his piloting skills at the helm of this flight, but with so many deaths and such poor records they do not believe he is alive.  Somehow, though, one of them has to do something that catches the attention of the other.  Perhaps NASA launches some kind of test rocket that Cooper observes, and he backtracks the trajectory.  Perhaps Cooper’s self-driving farm machinery comes to the attention of someone at NASA, and they discover who he is.  These are unlikely scenarios, but something must have happened that connected Cooper to NASA.

Making it worse, Cooper must believe that it was unreliable:  when he gets the chance to send a message to himself in the past, he sends the location of NASA, which means that however he got that location in the original history he wanted himself to have it sooner, or more precisely, or in some way that meant sending it to himself was better than relying on however he found it in the original history.  He thus erases the original cause, and thereafter believes that he would not have found NASA had he not sent himself the coordinates.

From there everything works, as long as we accept the premise that there is some alien life form which has taken an interest in the preservation and advancement of humanity, the “they” which builds the wormhole and which creates the three-dimensional space inside the black hole to enable Cooper and TARS to communicate to the past.  At the moment Cooper decides that “they” are actually a future version of “we”, that the wormhole and dimensional engineering inside the black hole were created by humans from the future, the story collapses.  Before humanity can travel through the wormhole to the distant galaxy and establish colonies in space that will enable us to survive someone must create the wormhole, and if we are dependent upon our future selves to do this and cannot survive without it being done, we die here on earth and never become those future selves.  The only way such a scenario works is under fixed time theory–a bleak fatalistic conception of time under which the story works, but which in its essence undermines the hopeful future the film presents.  It also requires acceptance of the uncaused cause of multiple events which only happen because they cause themselves.

Of course, the solution to this is simple:  Cooper is wrong.  The wormhole and the dimensional space were built by an alien race with an interest in preserving humanity.  They never introduce themselves because the dimensional differences between them and us are overwhelming, but they did this in part so that we would know they exist.  Leave it to humans to conclude that the help that saved us came from ourselves, and miss the point entirely.

So that’s the story.

Meanwhile, a DVD copy of Terminator Genisys has arrived, and I am going to return to work on that analysis, although apparently I am going to have to do a bit of review of the previous movies in the series to get a few points right.  For other work on time travel and time travel movies, see the site section Temporal Anomalies in Popular Time Travel Movies and other articles in the time travel and time travel movies sections of this blog.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]

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.

img0006genisys

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.

[contact-form subject='[mark Joseph %26quot;young%26quot;’][contact-field label=’Name’ type=’name’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Email’ type=’email’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Website’ type=’url’/][contact-field label=’Comment: Note that this form will contact the author by e-mail; to post comments to the article, see below.’ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][/contact-form]