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Terminator robot

Recently came across this post on, through a Facebook link from Geek Fights.

I just couldn't read through this whole thing and not provide my two-cents of input. So I am going to provide a defense for every "reason" that this article gives for the movies making "no God damn sense". Because I like the Terminator movies. And the author is wrong.

5. Daddy issues and paradoxes

"Therefore, the only reason either John Connor or the machines exist is because the Terminator went back in time, and the only reason the Terminator went back in time is because the machines and John Connor exist. Get it?"

Oh no. A paradox! Whoopy-freaking-do. Even Back to the Future, which gets it's time travel about as right as any movie ever made still has some continuity issues and questionable logic.

Besides, the character in the past already exists, and if time is just a fourth dimension (which is usually a prerequisite for time travel fiction), then the universe as a whole isn't losing any mass or energy by sending a robot or person from one point in time to another. It is just moving it from one "place" in space-time to another. It doesn't violate any physical rules. And in a movie that allows time travel to begin with, causality is completely moot. Especially if causality being completely moot is the theme of one of the whole movies. It doesn't destroy the universe in any way. No more than moving your car across the street causes the universe to become unstable or prevents you from being able to get in your car to move it in the first place. All the mass and energy has just been shifted in its positions in space-time.

And if you want to know what happens to the "present" that the time traveler is sent from, then that is the only thing that is complicated. Most likely, that present is altered to conform to whatever changes were made in the intervening period. But just because the "present" has changed, it doesn't mean that the person who is sent to the "past" can no longer exist. They already exist. Just not here any more. Or now.

This is kind of getting into Vonnegut philosophy now. In his novel Slaughterhouse Five, Vonnegut created a race of aliens called Tralfamadorians that tell his main character, Billy Pilgrim, that all points in time exist simultaneously, but that most creatures (like us humans) are only aware of our own little pocket of existence. We experience only the part of our life that is happening "now" and don't see the rest of our life, just like we can only see space in our immediate vicinity and can't observe all points in the universe simultaneously. The same logic would apply to the Terminator movies (and all time travel fiction). Except unlike the Tralfamadorians, Skynet is perfectly willing to change its "past" even if it sacrifices its own existence by doing so.

"when the Terminator is destroyed in the first film, the microchip in its skull survives, falls into the hands of computer company Cyberdyne Systems, and allows for the creation of Skynet in the first place."

OK, this is a legitimate gripe. But having already provided my defense for time paradoxes above, this issue can also be given a pass by applying sequential time travel. Here's the outline of events that I propose:

  • Skynet is invented in the distant future - say 2050 - using the technology available at the time.
  • The original Judgement Day happens in 2055.
  • When those (much more advanced humans) are on the verge of defeating Skynet with their kick ass laser guns and EMP bombs, Skynet decides to use its vast resources and energy stockpiles to send crucial technical components for its own construction back in time to the Cyberdyne corporation in the 1980s (shortly after the events of Terminator 2).
  • The Skynet that is developed by this Cyberdyne ends up being the one that causes the 1997 Judgement Day and fights the war against the much less advanced humans of the early 2000s.
  • This time, Skynet's only roadblock to domination is John Connor. Mankind is technologically inferior, and sending its components back in time any further wouldn't do it any good, since nobody in the 1950s would know how to put it all together anyway. So Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill John Connor, creating the events of the first Terminator movie.

The Terminators - and even Skynet itself - would not even need to be aware that their existence is the result of time-meddling that happened prior to the scope of the first movie. And guess what? Neither does the viewer! Because it's outside the scope of the movie.

And as for John Connor's birth in the original timeline being impossible because Kyle Reese was "pre-destined" to be his father: who says that the John Connor that sent Kyle Reese back in time has to be the same John Connor that Kyle Reese conceives in the movie? This new John Connor only grows up to be a resistance leader because his mom tells him that is what he's going to be, and she trains him for it his entire life. Skynet sending even more Terminators back in time only gives this new Connor even more experience at fighting machines, which just makes him an even better resistance leader.

Remember, we're watching a movie that begins with the assumption that time travel is possible. The internal logic of the movie doesn't really need an explanation for how the time travel works no more than we need an explanation for how the Force works in Star Wars (not that that stopped Lucas from trying to give us one ... sigh). Which leads me to my next point...

4. If at first you don't succeed...

"Why do they keep on trying to attack John Connor at different periods in his existence anyway? ... Get Sarah Connor as an infant, damnit. Hell, even if it was just one day earlier than the first movie, it would still make all the difference in the world."

Because there are probably limitations on the time machine that are not explicitly stated in the movie. As the article states in its next point, there is the limitation that no non-living material can be sent back in time. So maybe there is also a limitation on how far back something can be sent as well (such as energy required to do so). Again, the details of how time travel work are not explained. In fact, I think even Kyle Reese says in the movie that he doesn't know how it all works, so he can't even explain it.

But since every incursion into the past postpones Judgement Day by some period of time (let's call it X), Skynet's time machine is even further in the future. So given the same resources, the furthest back that it can send something is X time after the start of the first movie. Or alternatively, it has the time machine at the same date, but Skynet itself hasn't been around as long, so it hasn't gathered as much energy or resources to send the machines as far back as it did the first time. Or, each incursion shifts the war more and more in the humans' favor, thus, Skynet has less resources and energy to spend on its time travel shenanigans. Or, Skynet is spending all its time and resources on developing fancy, new Terminators made out of liquid metal alloys, so it doesn't have as many resources to spend on sending shit back in time. Thus, for whatever reason, it is logistically incapable of sending anything further back than the events of the first movie.

3. Breaking the law (their own)

"The robots cannot show emotion ... So why then, at the end of that very film, does the T-1000 give us the world's greatest "oh shit" face just moments before his destruction?"

"Emotion" is a very subjective term. "Happiness", "sadness", "anger", "hate", and "love" are pretty easy to classify as "emotions". Or so we think. Is "liking" something an emotion? So if Lt. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation "likes" to play poker, does that make him an emotional being? Isn't "love" just a stronger form of "like"? Isn't "sadness" just a higher degree of "disappointment"?

But what about things like "fear", "surprise", and "arrogance"/"hubris"? Are those "emotions"? Do you have to be an emotional being in order to be "surprised" by something unexpected? Do you have to be an emotional being to experience "fear" when faced with possible death or destruction? What about "hubris"? Is that an emotion?

The T-1000 thinks it's the cock-of-the-walk. It is the cutting edge of Skynet technology. It thinks that no puny, outdated T-800 can possibly outmatch or outsmart it, let alone a few pesky humans. It thinks it's invincible in 1990's Los Angeles. It's probably programmed to think that. So when all of it's competitive advantages are neutralized by its opponents, it is suddenly left with the realization that "I'm going to lose." So isn't it perfectly justified for the T-1000 to be "surprised" by this turn of events? A turn of events that defies everything that the T-1000 has assumed about the way that reality works?

The T-1000's death in Terminator 2: Judgement Day
This is my "Does not compute" face.

Or, if that is too existential for you, then perhaps the expression on it's face is just how its face looks when its processor is trying to recount how it got in this mess and if there is any possible way to save itself. That's got to be a pretty resource-intensive task for any machine! Perhaps this is just what a T-1000 looks like when it has its mind blown. Figuratively and literally.

As for the T-X's reaction: maybe that's just the actress not performing the role she was cast to play correctly, the director not catching it on the set and correcting it, and the editors not pointing out the flaw when they put the final movie together. Besides, who cares? It happens in Terminator 3, and Terminator 3 is a shitty movie anyway.

"The time machine can't transport non-living matter... The problem is, this Terminator is composed entirely of liquid metal. No living tissue, no flesh..."

If I recall correctly, the very first time we see the T-1000, it already looks like Robert Patrick. It already looks human. So it's liquid metal is already mimicking human flesh. It was probably sent through the portal that way, so that if somebody happens to be standing around (like, say, I don't know, a cop) when it comes through the portal, they don't just shoot it because it's obviously not human.

This mimickry is so good, that nobody seems to notice that the T-1000 is a machine except for the T-800. So the T-1000 gets a pass for the same reason that the T-800 does: its exterior appears to be, for all intents and purposes, human, and is close enough for government work (or in this case, time travel work).

The T-1000's introduction in Terminator 2: Judgement Day
If this facsimile of human skin is able to fool every human that sees, talks to, and touches the T-1000, then let's go ahead and say that it's close enough to trick the time machine.

2. Alternate timelines

"Does it mean that one course of events is legitimate, and the other isn't?"

YES. It does. The events of Terminator 1 and 2 are legitimate. Everything after is not. T3 and Salvation should not have been made, and they should not be watched. By anybody. I don't care how hot the actresses are (that is a defense used in the comments below the article). If you want to see Summer Glau, then watch Firefly, or that one episode of Big Bang Theory on a repeat loop ad infinitum, or just look her up on the internet you creepy celebrity stalker pervert. There is no reason for any Terminator content to exist after Terminator 2. The series was wrapped up nicely with a little bow, and the writers declared the series "done".

1. No fate but what we make up as we go along

"If fate can only be nudged a couple of years in one direction or another, then nothing any character does at any point in any of the movies makes any motherfucking difference at all."

It might not matter in the grand schemes of the universal timescale. But it might matter to you. If you are one of the unlucky bastards who has to live through the end of the world, and you have an opportunity to postpone the end of the world by 50 years or so, wouldn't you do it? That would guarantee some security for pretty much your entire lifetime. Which is probably kind of important to you. After that, it's somebody else's problem.

My Conclusion

In the end, the only thing that really "makes no goddamn sense" is why Hollywood felt it necessary to ruin two perfectly good movies by releasing Terminator 3 and then continuing a franchise that had obviously been successfully finished by its creators. And that they had the balls to make those movies not even any good. Why not just create a new IP that involves time-travelling robots? Or how about something completely original? Eh fuck it. I'm wasting my breath.

Comments (2) -

04/12/2015 03:09:25 #

Any opinion on the Terminator SCC TV Series? It tried to make Terminator 3 un-canon, but had it's own set of problems.

04/14/2015 08:28:32 #

I think I watched the first episode, but that was it. So I have no opinion on that one.

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