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
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.