I admit, I am quite nerdy. But I have never flown into a nerd-rage like I did at seeing the new Terminator: Genisys trailer, and the movie is going to have to work extremely hard to fix the many, many issues the new “timeline” is creating.
First, here’s the trailer:
Second, here’s what the new movie appears to (roughly) be about, and I wish I was joking. From what I can gather, Sarah Connor gets raised by a T-800, aka an Arnold-Terminator, and so she’s grown up with full awareness of the impending Skynet apocalypse and the killer robots from the future. Meanwhile, in the future, her son, John Connor, leader of the resistance, sends back Kyle Reese to protect Sarah Connor (and presumably still get her pregnant with John). Beyond that, there appears to be a T-1000 (liquid metal terminator), and from the trailer I gathered we’re getting another round of “No, really, we’re totes going to stop Skynet this time” plotting.
The entire storyline of Terminator is a big time-loop, though. The first movie lays it out quite well: Sarah Connor is an ordinary waitress. She gets attacked by Evil-Arnold-Terminator, and rescued by Kyle Reese, a soldier from the future who was sent by her grown son John Connor to protect her (and ensure he is born). She falls in love with Kyle and ends up pregnant with John, and the remains of the Arnold-Terminator are found by Cyberdyne systems, who go on to invent the artificial intelligence that is Skynet. So, in a nutshell, Skynet and John Connor each created themselves; if no one did any time traveling there would be no Skynet or John Connor. Essentially, from the moment the time travel begins, the origins of Skynet and John Connor become fixed points in time. Sarah and John Connor spent three more movies and a television show trying to fix the aftermath of the events of the first movie, but those events have to happen for the Terminator universe as we know it to exist.
And that’s where my nerd-rage at the new movie is aimed. They’re essentially asking us to believe that T-1000s, Arnold-prototypes, time travel, and John Connor as a resistance leader are all still going to exist, but if this universe were a chessboard it’s as though all the positions were scrambled. Could it still work? Yes, it could, and I have no doubts it will have lots of special effects and winky callbacks to the other movies. But the danger in throwing the whole plot in the blender is that they run the risk of ruining what made the movies so great. In addition to strong and interesting characters (and Linda Hamilton’s biceps), the movies left you thinking and puzzling through the nature of time travel and its implications to that universe. You’re left in a closed loop where the outcome always has to lead back to the beginning, where it’s 1984 and a scared waitress and a soldier from the future are on the run … because without them, the rest of this can’t exist!
And if this whole thing has you yearning for a well-written time loop story, check out Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies“, which makes the Terminator universe look positively simple by comparison!