Terminator: Genisys should not be happening. And that’s not coming from an aversion to reboots OR sequels. After all, we are true blue pop culture fans here. If you’ve got a requel (reboot + sequel) to an 80’s action movie, we’ve got a ticket for opening night.
No, Terminator: Genisys should not be happening because Terminator never should have happened. Time travel is a wonky subject, the fuel of rousing bar debates and brain strain headaches alike. But of all the cinematic portrayals of time travel, from Back to the Future through X-Men: Days of Future Past, Terminator has to be the wonkiest.
The non-robotic star of Terminator and Terminator: Genisys is Sarah Connor. Sarah is the future mother of John Connor, the leader of the human resistance fighting against the villainous artificial intelligence known as Skynet and the legions of Terminators it commands. In the original film, Skynet sends its death-dealing terminators back in time to put an end to Sarah before she ever gives birth to her troublesome son. But John, ever the thorn in Skynet’s side, sends back one of the Resistance soldiers to protect his mother.
So far, so good.
The trouble comes when we learn the identity of John’s father—one Kyle Reese—who just so happens to be the soldier John sent back in time.
Now, no matter what your preferred brand of time travel pseudo-science, be it ripples in the river of destiny or infinite timelines sprouting from every decision point, this one is tough to swallow. If Mom and Dad are from two different points in the timeline—so far apart that Mom is dead before Dad is born—and their kid is the one who instigated their meeting… How did the kid come to be in the first place? Even if you subscribe to the theory that time is an endless loop that you can jump to different points on, how did Sarah and Kyle meet in the initial go-round of that loop?
Seriously, how? If you have an explanation, please share it in the comments below so we can finally get a decent night’s sleep.
Now, don’t misinterpret our discussion of the complicated nature of Terminator time travel as a slight against movie time hopping as a whole. In fact, to find a more mentally palatable voyage through time, we need only look to another requel of a beloved franchise, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.
In THAT film, we encounter the intrepid crew of the Enterprise as they meet for the very first time, now in the bodies of gorgeous, hormone-fueled twenty-somethings. For those of us who enjoy a new spin on a classic, this was a fortuitous turn of events. But what about the fans of the original show, who didn’t want to see their favorite stories overwritten by something shiny and new?
Well, it turns out they had nothing to fear, as partway through the film, Leonard Nemoy appears, reprising his famous role as Spock from the original television series.
He tells us that the villain of the film, Romulus, is actually from the future, having chased him back in time to our present seeking vengeance for a world Spock failed to save. And though the present-day crew manages to defeat Romulus, Old Spock remains stranded in our time. Before beginning a new mission of his own, he lets his younger self (and the audience) know what has happened: Though all the adventures he went on remain a part of his memory and his past, this recent turn of events has resulted in a new chapter for the crew of the Enterprise, one where the future is yet to be written. So with Old Spock still around to cement the stories that are known and loved, and New Spock and Kirk poised to boldly take us into the unknown, we get to have our cake and eat it too.
A little easier on the brain, don’t you think?
And if that’s still too much, there’s always the time travel explanation provided by Bruce Willis’ character in Looper: “I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”
And who are we to argue with Bruce Willis?