Great 2008 Terminator Debate

      3 Comments on Great 2008 Terminator Debate

Back in January, several friends and I carried on a lengthy and completely ridiculous email debate about the Terminator universe that dragged on for several days. In honor of the new season of The Sarah Connor Chronicles starting in a few weeks, I’ve decided to share a chunk of this debate with the world. Some minor editing has been done to keep things coherent, and to protect everybody’s identities, I’ve enlisted a few of my other friends to act out the lines. Please to enjoy …

I watched the first and second episodes of the new Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles show, and enjoyed it. Great action and special effects for a TV show, and seems to be remaining true to the mythology established by the first two movies. The writers also found a really clever way to completely bypass the sucky third movie.
Why don’t the machines just send back a whole damn army and kill everybody if they’re that good at rifling back machines? Jeez, if I was Sara Connor I’d be crying foul at some point.

Was Terminator 3 the one with the cop in it and they made what’s her name a psycho survivalist eager to martyr herself? The cop alone could have killed everybody on the planet.

Terminator 3 was the one with the female terminator, right?

Rhino, you’re thinking of the second one I believe.

Yes, T3 had the female terminator. Terminator 2 is the one with the morphing cyborg and the buffed up Linda Hamilton. The TV show picks up after that. Terminator 3 happens after Sarah Connor has died, and ends with Skynet starting a nuclear war.
Rhino, what you’re failing to take into account is that Skynet (the A.I. that creates the cyborgs) can’t possibly have a memory of what happens each time Sarah Connor fixes the future. Because the future changes once she fixes it, and there are no cyborgs left alive at the end to talk about the previous reality. So they have no sense of a need to escalate things. Instead, they have to respond to whatever it is Future John Connor (who does know what happened in the previous iterations) does to try and defeat them for good.
But over and over again they keep making the wrong call. These are supposed to be highly logical, superintelligent MACHINES that rule the world and have humanity eating rats! (By the way, after Skynet is destroyed and the humans win — an unlikely possibility if you ask me — what are they going to eat? How would you like to be in charge of rebuilding THAT society with every human being dying of disease, malnutrition and half-insane from stress? No thanks.)
So if they can send some guy who can morph and some chick (now that I think of it, I don’t think I saw T3 — T2 with that stupid kid — kids always ruin these movies* — was enough to turn me off to the franchise, and besides, every movie has the same plot, yawn) with whatever powers she has, why not send some guy who can blow himself up and Sara Connor and most of New Jersey? No hunting, just one big beautiful explosion — or a robot that goes to the nearest nuclear silo and starts the nuclear war early before Connor can get to Mexico and become a buffed-up survivalist?
The whole idea of a sequel here is BS anyway, Skynet was smashed, humans and robots got ONE GUY THROUGH, and that was supposed to be it. Skynet’s smashed, that’s it! How can more robots be created and come through?

* See Temple of Doom, Lost World 3, Mad Max 3, Terminator 2, Star Wars second trilogy, etc.

You can poke 1001 logic holes in any sci-fi movie, and it will fall apart like tissue. But that kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? Particularly any story involving time travel. Any physicist will tell you that it’s not actually possible to change the past — only to create a new reality. So one practices a little thing called suspension of disbelief. Which in this particular case also includes the concept that humans will always be resourceful enough (by virtue of having a soul or something) to defeat any machine that they create. It’s a whole mythical hubris thing being played out with robots.
Having said that, I actually enjoyed both of the first two movies quite a lot. I thought the second one did a great job of turning the tables on the story. In the first, Skynet sends a cyborg back to kill the one human that it considers the lynchpin of the human resistance. In the second, Sarah Connor sets out to kill the one man (Miles Dyson) who is responsible for Skynet becoming self-aware in the first place. There’s a nice symmetry to that, compounded by turning the bad cyborg from the first one into the good terminator in the second one. Plus, the special effects in the second movie kicked ass, especially at the time.
I agree with Spidey: Terminator 2 is one of the greatest action movies of all time.
Without ruining anything for Neo, the writers of the TV show do seem to have picked up on the fact that the strategy of both sides for the movies was too short-sighted. Because both Skynet and John Connor have upped the ante in the time war between cyborgs and humans.
Okay, as long as there are no kids in it.
The Goonies was okay, except for all those freaking kids in it.

The machines are probably aiming for a surgical strike to remove one small element of the past, while avoiding the possibility of killing off other humans who may contribute to the rise of the machines.

Dude, they can CREATE THEIR OWN RISE once they’re in the past.

If I was John Connor, I would have sent myself back and said, screw this noise.

So you’ll excuse the million and one plot holes in the War of the Worlds remake — which had a kid screaming through the entire thing — and yet the Terminator movies somehow offend your tender sensibilities.

I think you just have a crush on Tom Cruise.

My central premises still hold, which is that: 1) kids almost always ruin movies*; and 2) the very idea of a Terminator “series” makes no sense because Skynet’s been smashed**.

* With possible exception of first Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds.

** Unless they sent through TWO Arnolds — one to the past to kill Sara Connor, and the other to a week before, to:

a) rifle endless Terminators back in time to kill Sara Connor; and

b) tell the other machines to defend Skynet better since they know it’s going to be smashed and how the humans did it, so they can lay a trap and kill John Connor right there instead of endlessly hunting this impossible-to-kill buffed-up psycho-survivalist over-acting Linda Hamilton who has personally slain more terminators than the humans of the future dreamed — right in the middle of LA.

Rhino, if we learned anything from Professor Virgil in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes”, it is that the future is perpetually unwritten, and made up of an infinite branching tree of possibilities.
Well said for a talking primate living in an endless time loop.
Rhino, just about every point you made in (b) is logically flawed. And I don’t even understand (a).
If no terminator has ever survived their time in the past, then Skynet has no way of knowing that Sarah Connor is killing them before they can complete their mission. Its reality just changes as the result of what happens in the past. In this case, the spoils go to the victors. Each time Skynet tries to kill The Connors and fails, the humans walk away with more knowledge about how Skynet and the terminators operate, which they can use to fight the machines in the future. But Skynet just sits in the future wondering and guessing about what might have happened …
“Gee, I sent that terminator back and nothing changed. Then I sent another one back and nothing changed. Or maybe it did. I can’t actually be sure, can I? Because if it changed, I wouldn’t actually know. Maybe before I did that, there were only a handful of machines and the humans were oppressing US. So by comparison, this situation we have here is a definite improvement. Still, I better send another terminator back, just to be sure.” And that’s as much as it would be able to do, until it finally got some solid intel from the past.
Also, it’s possible that nothing Sarah Connor does can “smash” Skynet out of existence — just delay it. It could be that preventing Skynet is like preventing the Internet. Even if you kill the one guy who invents it, technological necessity may demand it, and somebody else will just invent a version of it that’s slightly different. Which it seems the premise of the show is. Miles Dyson died, but somehow, Skynet still came to be. Future John Connor is aware of this, and has started sending back multiple people to prevent it from different angles.
Unconsidered in this whole discussion so far is the fact that Skynet keeps sending back technologically improved (or at least different) terminators. This could imply that the changes wrought in each episode have somehow bought more time for Skynet in the future to send a deadlier version. This would seem to indicate that something has definitely improved in favor of the machines in the future, wouldn’t it?
You are missing the point of the TV show. In the first movie you remember there was technology left to invent Skynet in the second movie? Well would that not be a reason to have the timeline change if they really had not destroyed all of it?
What if there were stories to tell in between all of the movies? You know like show all of the things that Sarah Connor went through before the movies happened? Maybe they screwed up a few times with the timeline before what you see in the movies.
In the show info it says: “TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES represents an exciting reinvention of the “Terminator” franchise, in which the strong and intrepid Sarah discovers that protecting her son and stopping the rise of the machines is more difficult than she had ever imagined.” Notice the word “reinvention”? I gotta go — Episode 3 is on!
To quote Samuel L. Jackson, “Allow me to retort”:
Okay, first, Skynet’s been smashed and the humans won the war. Fact. Just before the machines lost, they sent through a terminator to kill Sara Connor. Fact. John Connor sent through That Guy to save Sara Connor, who turns out to be John Connor’s dad. Fact. Each side only had time to send through one guy. Fact. Sara Connor and That Guy (oh yeah, “Reese”), kill Arnold and she goes to Mexico. Fact. End of movie, end of Skynet, end of everything. Skynet’s smashed, they had their shot, they blew it, end of story. That window is “cerrada,” as Sara would say in Mexico.
I can’t really argue with that. Technically, the first movie was a closed loop, and should have been the end of things. But they wanted to make a second movie, so they took advantage of the fact that Sarah Connor only cured a symptom (saving her son’s life) and not the disease (Skynet enslaving mankind in the first place).
There’s probably an argument to be made — as I think Mysterio did? — that once Sarah became aware of the future, she inevitably changed it, and perhaps not in a positive way for mankind. By being tougher herself, maybe she made John tougher, which made Skynet tougher in response. Hence the stronger terminator in the second movie. But that’s all just justification for a sequel. At this point, like the “single timeline” thing, I’m accepting the premise that the first movie was not a perfectly closed loop.
But WAIT — what if instead of sending back one guy, they sent back two? The second Arnold would show up one day with the machines, and say, “I come from our future, the humans won, and we sent back an Arnold to kill Sara Connor, but just in case, they sent me here, Connor’s going to attack in one week from this direction using such-and-such ruse, so now we know his battle plan and can lay and ambush and, like the gods that we are, crush him like a cockroach. Moo hoo ha ha!”
That’s just silly. John Connor and his resistance have been fighting Skynet for decades at the point when Skynet sends Arnold back in the first movie. It seems implausible to assume that sending a terminator one week or even one year before that final battle is going to fix things. Presumably, there’s too much momentum at that point in the war.
Any resistance movement worth its salt has built up energy over time, is cellular in nature, and won’t die because of one lost battle. By that point, John Connor himself is as much an idea as a leader, and he’s synonymous with Freedom and all that crap. Wasting a time jump on a military maneuver seems risky to me. It’s like trying to kill a Hydra by chopping off only one head. Also, I don’t get the impression that sending two terminators back in time was even an option at the time, so the scenario is flawed from the start.
But WAIT — what if in ADDITION to this, the machines said, “Thank you, future Arnold, we can now crush John Connor. But just in case, we have a whole week to send back Arnolds to kill Sara Connor. Shall we begin?”
Don’t you think if Skynet could have sent back a terminator a week earlier, it would have? Much less a whole week’s worth of terminators? If the machines were so beaten down that sending a terminator back was their last best option, then I have to assume Skynet didn’t just wait until the last minute for no reason. My guess would have to be that it wasn’t possible yet until the moment they did it.
You also said, “Even if you kill the one guy who invents it, technological necessity may demand it, and somebody else will just invent a version of it that’s slightly different.” So are you saying the machines in the TV show are different in each episode? That would be interesting …
They’ve only aired two episodes, so I’m not sure what they have planned. But no, so far it does not seem that the machines are going to be different every episode. Although the several they’ve introduced so far do seem to be slightly different models than the ones from the movies.
My only point with the “different version” thing is that Skynet (or something like it) may be inevitable in this universe. Like the Cylons in BSG, Skynet grew out of people being too lazy to do shit for themselves — they wanted an A.I. to think for them, and machines to do their menial tasks.
And if it’s already been established that an A.I. can become self-aware and malevolent once, then it stands to reason that it can happen again, no matter how many inventors and scientists you kill and how much research you destroy. Again, it’s like trying to kill a Hydra. Maybe you can only ever delay it and/or prepare yourself to destroy it once it happens.

Thanks to Springfield Punx for the graphics!

3 thoughts on “Great 2008 Terminator Debate

  1. The Mets Police

    Sarah Connor is a very promising series. The pilot was good, then a few lame episodes (true of almost any series) but it really found it’s voice when 90210 guy showed up. How it will reconcile with a T4 I dunno.

    T3 is OK but unnecessary.

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