Terminator:  Genisys

                Well, at least it has a little sense of humor.  It needs one, after all this so serious saving-the-world-from-itself, on top of mind-numbing time-travel conundrums.  Arnold Schwarzeneggar makes fun of himself for aging (“I’m older, but not obsolete”), but he still has screen presence.  Unfortunately, the rest of the cast is not quite as mesmerizing.  So now we have to rely on the rapid-fire action scenes to keep our attention, and sometime in the middle of it you find yourself wishing for a quiet peaceful interlude somewhere, but it just isn’t there.  Nor is the romance that is hinted at, but never really developed.

                The film is narrated from the point of view of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), who overdubs an opening sequence that shows some beauty in the world, with his claiming that this is how it used to be before 1997, before the Armageddon.  That’s the date when the machines took over. It seems that we had developed an automated national security system that was so sophisticated that the system itself decided that the greatest threat was…the humans.  And so the humans were attacked.  By the billions, from machine-launched missiles to armies of weapon-toting robots.  The human survivors huddled in caves, almost extinct, but then slowly, a resistance movement developed, headed by the fiery John Connor (Jason Clarke).  It’s a grim existence, being the rebels in hiding against a relentless foe with superior firepower.  But Kyle grows up as John’s protégé, so it’s no surprise that when the time-travel technology is perfected, John sends Kyle into the past (1984) to protect John's mother, because he’s learned that the machines have sent droids back in time to kill his Mom so he won’t exist to make trouble for them later.

                In this version, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is hardly unaware of her important place in subsequent history.  Somehow she’s already been visited by time travelers, which of course subtly alters the reality that she now lives in:  she knows that a visitor from the future will come, and that she’s going to fall in love with him, have a son by him, and then he’s going to disappear.  Kind of takes the suspense out of it, doesn’t it?

                So Kyle and Emilia don’t really bother much with developing the relationship that’s supposed to be the prerequisite for the existence of John Connor, Freedom Fighter Extraordinaire.  But wait, it gets more complicated.  John, in a parallel universe, sells out to the droids and allows himself to become part machine, and then he tries to prevent his parents from ever getting together, because that would mean the machines would win, and that’s now more important than his own existence?

                Well, that’s the trouble with time travel movies, the concept begins folding in on itself and develops creases that defy logic.  But that’s OK, we’re still good at blowing up stuff, and staging spectacular chase scenes.  It seems that the “alternate universe” does indeed exist in dreams, but Kyle apparently only gains access to this after being hit on the head.  Concussions as portals to another dimension?  Well, maybe we’re just better off listening to Arnold intone, just before jumping out of a helicopter “I’ll be back.”  Might as well be tongue-in-cheek while the rest of us struggle to make sense of the inexplicable.  The primary point seems to be that “the future is not fixed.”  Just don’t mention that to John Calvin, if you should eventually run into him, or his classic predestination concept would have to be redefined.

Questions For Discussion:

1)                   Is there a certain inevitability to events, or do personal decision variables make the future wide open? How about when you factor God's will into the equation?

2)                  Do you think we are in danger of building such sophisticated self-aware machines that artificial intelligence would eventually consider us a danger and attempt to eliminate us?

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas