Terminator: Dark Fate

Well they finally made a good Terminator sequel! Granted, the first one is a modern classic and a very tough act to follow. There is also that sequels are almost always necessarily warmed up left-overs, but this franchise has been noted for being especially disappointing. (I know I saw #5, but it left absolutely no impression, and #4 was dismal and awful.)

I’m definitely more of a Terminator fan than a Star Wars fan. That’s even more true when it comes to Star Trek. I’m willing to at least see the Star Wars movies, but I gave up on Trek ever since J.J. Abrams took over (although it had already gotten moribund).

For my money, Terminator: Dark Fate is a nice return to form and a pretty good action movie in its own right.

It did okay critically — better with fans than with critics according to Rotten Tomatoes (82% to 70%). On the other hand, Metacritic gives it a User Score of just a 4.1 (out of 10) rating (with twice as many negative reviews as positive) and a Metascore of just 54 (out of 100).

No movie is perfect, of course, and there are some elements — one in particular — that set some people off. It happens in the first scene; in what, in a book, would be the prologue.

Some think the phrase “it’s the third best Terminator movie” damns it with faint praise, but I think the phrase is exactly right. (It should be very obvious that the best is the first and reasonably obvious that the second best is the second film. I can’t imagine there is much argument about that.)

What’s especially interesting about being third best is that this sixth movie pretends the last three didn’t happen. Dark Fate is a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Since movies three, four, and five, went from bad to worse (or at least from not that great to worse), ignoring them seems a good choice.

There is also that James Cameron is back in control. He wasn’t around for the three misfires. He produced Dark Fate and worked on the story. No doubt also very helpful to a successful product, director Tim Miller who brought us the deliriously delightful Deadpool in 2016 (it was his directorial debut).

So fresh hot talent combined with talented experience (Avatar aside), and we have the makings of a really good action film.

Which is exactly what I thought Dark Fate was, a really good action film. After seeing it twice, I give it a Wow! rating (not something I do lightly).

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WARNING: Serious Spoilers Ahead.

Speaking of which, what apparently bugged some people is that, in the very first scene, a brief prologue that predates the film’s main story by 25 years, a model T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) shoots and kills a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) right in front of his mother, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton).

[All three actors are de-aged and body-doubled with CGI. There’s a nice visual segue from an opening shot of a future filled with human bones and skulls and Terminator machines killing everything in sight. The machines are attacking a beach that fades back to the same beach where John and his mom are 25 years before present day.]

Here’s a coven you do not mess with!

Which may sound confusing, but remember this movie ignores the past three (and the TV series). In this branch of reality, Sarah and John stopped Skynet, and that future never happened. But, before history wiped it out, Skynet sent many T-800 Terminators back to different points along John Connor’s history. Thus, if one failed, there were backups.

The framing of this movie is that one finally succeeded, but after Skynet was prevented by John and his mom. Fans didn’t like that because they perceived it as invalidating what John did.

(But that’s obviously wrong. John prevented Skynet, but he died after doing it. I personally thought it was an excellent way to kick off the movie and reboot things. This fan reaction to the scene may be, once again, how some people just can’t let go of their blanky.)

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The movie starts with the usual parade of animated logos, but they’ve modified them tonally to match cuts of flashbacks to Sarah Connor incarcerated as a (supposedly) crazy woman preaching the end of the world. I found that jarring and tonally off — mixing the commercial aspects with the story aspects is a mistake except as a segue or single tonal note (the Matrix movies are good examples).

So, what I’m saying, is that the first moments of the movie made me frown, which isn’t a good way to begin. (Is it possible that affected how people perceived the first scene?) In my case, the movie very quickly won me over and kept me throughout.

I enjoyed it so much the first time I wanted to test that reaction by watching it again last night. That logo business at the beginning — still don’t like it — but I enjoyed the movie the second time as much, or more, than I did the first. (More because I saw deeper meaning in certain things given knowing the full story.)

The Rev-9 Terminator (with separable endoskeleton).

It wasn’t just a good action film. It was quite affecting in places, too. There are points along the way that can even choke you up a bit. It had me thrilled and enthralled by the action, it gave me a few laughs, and it brought a couple of tears to my eyes. There are also some nice really well-done callbacks to the first two films, but with some twists.

Two favorite examples:

Linda Hamilton gets the famous line, “I’ll be back,” rather than Schwarzenegger (who made it famous). And it’s done in an off-hand way — a throw-away line. (They also do a jazz riff on the protector’s line, “Come with me if you want to live.” Here the protector says, “Come with me or you’re dead in the next 30 seconds.”)

There is also a point where the aged T-800, about to help our heroes battle their nemesis, picks up a pair of sunglasses (something else Schwarzenegger made famous in that role). He stares at them for a moment and then tosses them back down, discarding the idea. I cracked up!

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Here comes serious spoiler territory. If you don’t want to know stuff, stop reading, just go watch the movie (I don’t think you’ll be sorry).

After the prologue, we’re in modern day Mexico City. We meet Daniella “Dani” Ramos (Natalia Reyes), her father, and her brother, Diego. The siblings work at an assembly plant.

We also see two individuals come from the future with the usual effects we’ve seen in previous films. One is a woman, one is a man. We’ll discover that the woman, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), is an enhanced human sent back to protect Dani.

The man turns out to be a Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna), an advanced model that wraps the liquid metal nano-technology of the T-1000 series around a metal endoskeleton. The two are able to separate and function apart (awesome sauce idea).

T2 played with expectations a bit in which future dude was the good guy. In the first movie, Arnold is the bad one and Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is the protector. T2 teases us having Arnold as the protector while Robert Patrick is the bad one.

Dark Fate has us guessing a bit at first, too, but it becomes pretty obvious when the Rev-9, who appears to be Dani’s father suddenly turns up at the plant, tries to kill her, and Grace equally suddenly turns up to intervene.

Sarah Connor action figure (bazooka included).

The first action scene segues into an exciting freeway chase scene involving an especially large truck that does especially lots of damage chasing our heroes.

When Grace and Dani appear cornered by the dual aspects of the Rev-9, Sarah Connor shows up (with heavy weaponry that gives them all time to escape).

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We’re not even a half hour into the (two-hour) film, and I’m totally hooked. Let me count the ways.

Firstly, three women protagonists, one of them mature and one of them Hispanic. And all three of them totally, and I do mean totally, kick ass. They form an awesome core to the story.

(Is it coincidence they form a coven? Dani isn’t literally a mother, but she turns out to be a mother figure, so we have Maiden, Mother, Crone. At the very least we have the power of three. And Hamilton does make an irascible crone.)

Secondly, the villain is also Hispanic, and the first half of the film (roughly) takes place in Mexico. I love the inclusion!

Thirdly, the film is well structured and tells a good story.

Fourthly, great action sequences!

§

Having kicked off the action and introduced the characters (save one), the film slows down for exposition. A fair amount of exposition, actually, but a fair amount is needed to bring everyone up to speed.

There are a number of scene changes during this second act lull which keeps things moving along. Even the second time watching it, I wasn’t bored. In fact, this time some of Grace’s exposition to Dani was more meaningful.

Major Spoiler: It’s Dani herself who leads the revolution, and Dani who saved a young Grace’s life, and Dani who sent her back.

“Carl” the aging T-800 (with Grace in background).

By the way. No Skynet, but humans never learn. They had a war AI, called Legion. They turned it on and the power went out everywhere. Planes fell from the sky. War broke out. Billions died. Then the machines started killing the survivors.

§

Grace was given coordinates of someone who might be able to help.

Sarah Conner, ever since John was killed, has been getting mysterious text messages giving her a location and time and ending with the words, “For John.” When she goes to that location at that time, a Terminator appears from the future (one of the ones sent back to kill John) and she kills it.

It turns out Grace’s coordinates, and the source of Sarah’s text messages, are the same. It’s a location in Laredo, Texas. This requires an illegal border crossing and, due to the Rev-9 infiltrating the Border Patrol, they get caught and put in cages.

There’s another action scene, and the heroes manage to fly away on a helicopter just in time. (One thing I enjoyed: the film invokes tropes and subverts them. The Rev-9 jumps to catch the helicopter… but Sarah’s gunfire is enough to make him fail and fall.)

They fly to the mystery coordinates and meet… “Carl” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is the same T-800 that shot and killed John. Sarah… is not happy. Very not happy. She wants to kill him right now (but she’ll wait until this is all over).

After killing John, the T-800 had no mission. It ended up saving a woman from an abusive husband who was trying to kill their kid and her. It turned into a thing, and now Carl has a family. And a drapery business.

And a shed out back filled with heavy weaponry. Because he “calculates a 74% chance” of anarchy even with Skynet defeated. Also, because “this is Texas.”

§

The last 45 minutes is pure action, well structured with pauses before the next phrase.

Some of it involves a cargo plane in free fall. Things terminate at a dam with the final scene defeating the Terminator in the turbine room. (These movies have to end in some big industrial machine setting — a key part of the ethos. See also Dani’s assembly plant in the beginning.)

And if the last moments don’t bring at least a small tear to your eye, I don’t want to know you.

Definitely two thumbs up, lots of good beats, lots of well-done callbacks, some of which subvert.

For an action film, definitely one of the best I’ve seen in a while.

Stay kicking ass, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

20 responses to “Terminator: Dark Fate

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I do sort of wonder if Skynet sent T-800 models or T-1000 models. Was Sarah Connor killing the former or the latter (movie doesn’t say). Just because the T-1000 isn’t mentioned, it makes me think she was killing T-800s, which makes me wonder why Skynet didn’t send the T-1000 model.

    Or, since the T-800 ultimately defected the T-1000, did Skynet decide it was a lost cause?

  • Anonymole

    Skynet must have gotten stuck in some, not quite fully-baked evil consciousness to have failed to have just created a virus to wipe out humanity. “I am machine, I must use machine tech to do my bidding.” Boom! Crackle! Pop! Even HG Wells figured the best way to kill off an enemy was with microbes.
    I do look forward to watching this, however.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Ha! Yeah, sometimes one has to suspend one’s belief a little extra. Science fiction is usually that way, and once you throw time travel into the mix, logic takes the day off.

      But as bullshit goes, it’s really pretty good bullshit. I’d watch it yet a third time given an excuse.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    When I saw your post, I realized I hadn’t seen this movie yet, so I stopped reading at the second spoiler warning and watched it. Pretty good movie. I enjoyed it. I agree that it had a lot of cool action sequences.

    I find it interesting that, if you think about it, it resonates a lot with the first movie. Only now, with the Skynet timeline cut off, it’s the same battle against Legion, with it sending a terminator and the human rebels sending their champion. I knew which was which immediately as they came out of their time bubbles. Grace tumbling out uncontrollably and the terminator landing feet first kind of gave it away.

    Knocking off John didn’t bother me that much. I understand why the writers went there. His story really was done after T2, and the other sequels never really dealt with that coherently. Although if I had just seen the second movie and then watched this one, I probably would been bothered a lot more by it.

    I do have a quibble or two on the time travel logic of terminators from a cancelled timeline still landing after that timeline had been eliminated. It seems like it only works if that timeline is still out there somewhere, but if so, then all Skynet and Legion’s efforts are pointless. But honestly, the franchise has made such a mess of this at this point that it really doesn’t matter anymore.

    I saw the movie bombed financially. Too bad. I thought it was well made. But the time it took me to get around to watching it was largely due to Terminator fatigue, which I suspect a lot of people felt and is probably what hurt this one at the box office.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “I find it interesting that, if you think about it, it resonates a lot with the first movie.”

      Very much so. The overall structure is similar, and so is the story. At the same time, they’re doing interesting variations on the main theme. It’s Dani herself, rather than her son, for instance, that’s the McGuffin. As sequels go, I was very impressed by the writing.

      “Grace tumbling out uncontrollably and the terminator landing feet first kind of gave it away.”

      Sure, that’s a clue. So is the “friendly smile” that Gabriel Luna uses — it reminded me of a similar smile Robert Patrick used in T2.

      What they do to try to confuse the issue is have Grace use violence on those cops (although I noted she didn’t harm those kids). In contrast Luna appears friendly until he appears as Dani’s father at the plant. That structure is intended to confuse the issue, at least a little.

      (If you read to my second spoiler warning, your brain was preloaded somewhat with their identities, from the pictures if nothing else. When I watched it, I knew nothing other than I hadn’t seen it yet, so it wasn’t as obvious to me. For one thing, subverting the idea that Luna=Patrick as they did in T2 with Schwarzenegger now being the good one, seemed like an option to me.)

      “[John’s] story really was done after T2,…”

      Exactly! Having him in the film would have been an anchor. This was they got to tell a story with similar structure to the first without being burdened by it.

      As I mentioned, this movie erases the last three (T3, T4, and T5). It’s the “alternate timeline” cliche that’s become popular. It lets writers wipe clean whichever parts of the slate they don’t like.

      “I do have a quibble or two on the time travel logic of terminators from a cancelled timeline still landing after that timeline had been eliminated.”

      A quibble about a time travel story? 😀 😀 😀

      Unless I’m missing your point, that one I think I can explain. Skynet sent many T-800s back at the same time it sent back the first one. It just sent them to different times.

      From Skynet’s POV at the time, it knew Sarah and John’s entire timeline, so it could easily send units back to various points along it. (Almost like firing a shotgun with a wide spread.) Since John’s efforts don’t significantly change the future for decades, those decades in between don’t change.

      What they didn’t use is the trope where a change in the past changes the future and then retro-changes anyone from the future still in the past. That was a key aspect of things in Looper for instance — change propagated both ways.

      That said, yeah, a series that depends on time travel is gonna run into… issues.

      “I saw the movie bombed financially. Too bad.”

      Yeah, it’s kind of a pity since Cameron and crew hoped to restart the franchise. Now it doesn’t look like there will be any more. I’m fine with that. They ended on a good note, and both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton are aging out of the part. I’d be fine if this is the last one.

      I don’t know that I agree about Terminator fatigue, though. There isn’t such fatigue with Marvel movies or Star Wars (or Star Trek), so I really think it was more the (dismal) quality of T3, T4, and T5. T3 was… okay, but a pale patch on T1 or T2. T4 and T5 were pretty terrible. As I mentioned in the post, I can’t even remember watching T5 although I know I did.

      I suspect people thought, “Oh, no, another bad Terminator film!” I know I did.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        On my quibble, I think the issue for me is that, even though Skynet sends all the terminators back at the same time, that event is still in the future, a future that is erased when the proto-Skynet tech is wiped out in T2. It makes sense that the terminators that had already landed would be grandfathered in, but all subsequent arrivals would be in a future timeline that no longer existed, so both the send-off and landing would be in that erased future.

        We could say that the terminators were already in flight before the timeline ended, but now we’re talking about some sort of meta-timeline, a time outside of time.

        Or we could say that the original timeline still exists. The events of T2 just create a new timeline. Initially this seemed problematic to me, since Skynet’s efforts wouldn’t do anything for it in its original timeline. But maybe its model of self is such that it would regard survival in another timeline as a win, even if its existence in its current timeline ends.

        Although even here, I wonder why its terminators would land in the new timeline rather than its existing timeline, each of them spawning yet new timelines. Maybe the more the merrier from Skynet’s perspective, each one increasing the probability of some version of it surviving.

        On Terminator fatigue, I’m sure I and others had it because of those other movies. But I’m also somewhat tired of the template of people trying to escape a terminator in contemporary settings. It seems like the franchise limited itself by keeping the story to that formula. (Except for Salvation, which felt like a missed opportunity.) I have much the same attitude toward the Alien franchise. But from the studio exec’s standpoint, breaking the formula is a risk. Probably their takeaway from Salvation was that it wasn’t worth it.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Let’s preface this with that we’re talking about time travel, so we’re squarely in the fantasy realm and making it up as we go along!

        “I think the issue for me is that, even though Skynet sends all the terminators back at the same time, that event is still in the future, a future that is erased when the proto-Skynet tech is wiped out in T2.”

        Which event(s) do you mean by “that event is still in the future” — the sending of the T-800s or their arrival at different points along John’s future timeline? (I’m assuming the sending was done by Skynet at essentially the same time in the far future.)

        I think it depends on exactly how one envisions time and travel along it. You’re using the very common “Specific Timelines” notion that somewhat parallels the MWI.

        There is another (older, I think) notion of time as a river, and a common idea here is that time tends to restore itself from time traveling perturbations. (The image is often of water flowing around a rock.)

        Under this metaphor, from Skynet’s point of view, John’s life leads up to leading the opposition in the far future. So Skynet drops T-800s into the “river” at points along John’s near future with the idea that one surely will succeed.

        Those T-800s are “now” already in the river in John’s near future, they’re already a part of events (Sarah Connor has devoted her life to taking them out as her life reaches those time coordinates.)

        The way it can work is that, Skynet sent T-800s back along John’s timeline and at least one all the way back to young Sarah Connor. We saw that one in T1. During the events of T1, let alone also the events of T2, those T-800s are already in the “river” waiting for John’s lifeline to reach them.

        When, in T2, they destroy that chip, that prevents the part of the river involving the creation of Skynet, so Skynet never happens. But while it did exist, it seeded those T-800s. (At least that’s how I can try to make sense of it.)

        (The T-1000 seems to have been sent (from Skynet’s point of view) later than the T-800s. Skynet had an advanced model to test out?)

        What’s twisty is that the failures of the Terminators should also be a part of the history available to Skynet, which goes to show that time travel is pretty silly.

        “But I’m also somewhat tired of the template of people trying to escape a terminator in contemporary settings.”

        Heh, yeah, that is kind of a specific story. 🙂

        As you know, I’m not big on sequels anyway, and on some level I don’t know that T2 added a great deal. It had some neat scenes, and the liquid metal nano-tech was cool (it was apparently Cameron’s initial idea for T1 but cinematic technology couldn’t pull it off back then).

        But nothing since then really adds anything. Not being a fan of war movies, Salvation, for me, wasn’t a missed opportunity so much as a step in the wrong direction.

        Point is, my yardstick for sequels, especially rebooting sequels, is pretty short and basic. Not looking for a lot of character development or depth, for instance.

        I think that may be why I give the film a Wow! rating. Given the constraints of telling such a specific story, they did really well both in callbacks to the original and in riffing on its beats. Then on top of that how dismal the last few have been, and it’s a real ray of sunlight!

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Thinking about it, that same notion that sees time as a river might suggest that, when the water closes and fills in around the part that used to contain Skynet, it left a gap that Legion naturally filled. The time-as-a-river metaphor was common in Superman comics — even when Superman could alter the past somehow, the future compensated in some way. (Doctor Who sometimes plays with this notion, too, but they’re a lot more playful when it comes to “timey-wimey.”)

        What will be, in some sense, per the river, will always be in some form or other.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Time travel may be fantasy, but I like the magic systems in stories to at least be logically consistent. Which I realize is mostly hopeless when it comes to Hollywood. But it’s still fun to poke at where they get it wrong.

        “Which event(s) do you mean by “that event is still in the future” ”

        I meant the event (or series of events) of Skynet sending each terminator, as well as the arrival of the terminators that had not arrived prior to the ending of T2.

        I may not be fully grasping the river metaphor, but it seems like the events of T2 changed the course of the river. So afterward, the launching point of each terminator no longer seems to be in the river, nor its arrival point.

        Although to your point, maybe all it did was alter the currents slightly. Still, the currents altered, if the events in T2 have the effects posited in this movie, have to be enough to make Skynet not exist, and so the event(s) of it sending terminators non-existent.

        Whether the success or failure of the terminators is available to Skynet may depend on whether there is a single timeline or multiple ones. Although it also might only have very incomplete information of events prior to the war.

        What will be, will be, was largely the ending message of the first movie. In it, Skynet’s very attempt to change the past ended up resulting in the very thing it wanted to eliminate: John Conner. A very classic sci-fi move. But they had to spoil it to make any sequels.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But it’s still fun to poke at where they get it wrong.”

        Absolutely, and I quite agree Hollywood is less likely to turn out a really good time travel story. The problem is time travel violates causality (shy of a MWI-type view), so time travel stories are always wrong on some level. The authorial skill is in minimizing and burying the contradictions really well!

        On that level Terminator films don’t get a very high grade, I admit. I’m actually surprised I could explain away all those T-800s — at first, I kind of had the same “hey, wait a second” reaction, but I was able to Star Trek it away. 🙂

        “I meant the event (or series of events) of Skynet sending each terminator…”

        Okay. I’m suggesting that happened at the same moment (more or less). Skynet sent a fleet of Terminators back, one right after the other. If one arrives, they all arrive (at different points).

        “Although to your point, maybe all it did was alter the currents slightly.”

        Exactly. There was a current of “water” flowing from that chip they destroyed in T2 that ultimately led to Skynet. When they destroyed the chip, that current vanished. Usually in these stories not instantly everywhere, but a change propagates downriver “erasing” that current flow. The river fills in around it so anything no directly touched by that flow remains unchanged.

        But the flow from that chip ultimately takes over the river, and it’s that far future where it does that Skynet inhabits. Once the chip destruction change got that far downriver, a whole new reality had to have evolved to fill the “riverbed” (which, in some sense, would be the surrounding universe).

        Presumably (I assume), the near future with John in it looks roughly the same regardless of Skynet, so John’s path always exists unless Skynet kills him. So that path exists for Skynet to drop a bunch of T-800s along. They don’t vanish when Skynet does because they’re already a part of the past (our near future). Make sense?

        Time travel stories necessarily assume a version of the block universe, and it’s their treatment of the block that defines that division I mentioned. If going back, one actually goes back to another block (timeline), then one can freely make changes without contradiction. But if one goes back within one’s own block, the necessary presumption is the block can change (and those changes must propagate forward). Those latter stories are always inherently contradictory since the time traveler wasn’t there the first time.

        “Skynet’s very attempt to change the past ended up resulting in the very thing it wanted to eliminate: John Conner.”

        Yes, and a good example of why I’m so askance at sequels. Think of the power of that movie if it was the only one. Then it could become a true classic.

        But nothing like that is ever allowed to stand alone anymore, which I think is a pity.

        (I’ll allow that T2 was a pretty good sequel, with some good variations. But they really should have stopped then.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “Make sense?”

        The issue for me is, even if Skynet sent all the terminators back in the same instant, it’s still an event in an erased timeline. I can imagine the ones that arrived prior to the end of T2 still making it, as causal orphans. But any arrival events after the end of T2 are part of the erased timeline. If Skynet never existed, I don’t see how the remaining terminators can exist and arrive after T2. (Well, I can imagine solutions, but they seem convoluted and contrived.)

        I definitely think the first movie had a block universe paradigm, similar to 12 Monkeys. For the sequels, I think it depends on whether all the timelines go on existing. If they do, then similar to the MWI, that’s compatible with the block universe. But if there’s only one timeline and altering it alters the future, that seems like a dynamism that wouldn’t be compatible with the standard block universe. (Such a universe where time travel is possible seems like it’d be a constantly changing causal mess. Talk about your information loss!)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But any arrival events after the end of T2 are part of the erased timeline. If Skynet never existed, I don’t see how the remaining terminators can exist and arrive after T2.”

        But what happens to those T-800s that are already part of John’s near future?

        In some versions of time travel, they would fade away or vanish once the change propagated all the way downstream to Skynet and erased the sending. In other versions they don’t because they’re already part of the past — they were there when the change passed them headed downstream.

        One can also say that the changes due to John and Sarah must propagate at normal time, so Skynet isn’t actually erased until the wave of different past gets there in however many decades it takes. Then the past would be altered to match the new future. History would be changed.

        But there’s no way it doesn’t still have holes… the overall story has two massive causality violations. You mentioned how the events in T1 actually create John Connor. In T2, the chip from the T-800 leads to Skynet. So one can’t take any of it too seriously!

        Not just information loss, but information out of nothing. Time travel is crazy.

        “But if there’s only one timeline and altering it alters the future, that seems like a dynamism that wouldn’t be compatible with the standard block universe.”

        It’s really another case of highlighting the problems with the idea of time travel, but if one accepts the premise, then the block universe has to be malleable. That’s behind the notion of changes propagating.

        I say time travel implies a block universe because the core premise of a BU is that all moments in time exist, which is crucial for time travel. Traveling to the future or past implies there is something there to travel to.

        But if the block is fixed, then time travel necessarily requires multiple timelines — distinct BUs. One exits one BU and enters another at an earlier time — that second one having always had the time traveler appearing at that point just like the first one always has the traveler exiting.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I would think even if the incoming terminators arrive a yocto-second after the change in T2, they no longer exist. Even if the timeline erasure proceeds forward at 1 second per second, the incoming terminator would be on the erasure end.

        As I noted above, I think the simplest way to make it work is having the terminators in transit be in some kind of meta-spacetime, so that the erasure wave doesn’t hit them. (Although I suspect if we tried to unpack that too much we’d find all kinds of problems.)

        Another way is if all the new terminators are actually coming from Legion. But if so, why would Legion target John?

        I don’t think each timeline would be a distinct BU. If so, then each separate BU would have conservation issues. The only way to avoid them is a single timeline where whatever happened, happened, regardless of time travelers, or multiple timelines where the discrepancies in each timeline balance each other out in an overall BU (or BMU (block multiverse)).

        Yeah, time travel opens up all kinds of complications.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “I would think even if the incoming terminators arrive a yocto-second after the change in T2, they no longer exist.”

        I guess I don’t understand the logic you’re seeing. What is the causal sequence of events in your mind? (I don’t understand why meta-spacetime is necessary. I agree they can’t be from Legion on several counts.)

        Causal sequence is a problem here because of the Kyle Reese fathering John Connor loop and because of the T-800 chip causing Skynet loop. It’s hard to know where the causal sequence even begins. Here’s my swing at it:

        I’ll start with Skynet in 2029 in T1. Skynet exists and is at war with humanity. It sees John Connor as its main foe. It sends T-800 units back in time along John’s timeline. It also sends one back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor.

        At this point, multiple T-800s now exist scattered along the timeline.

        The resistance, learning of Skynet’s plan, sends Kyle Reese back to protect Sarah Connor. He fathers John before he dies fighting the T-800.

        Some time later, Skynet decides to send the T-1000 back. (We’ll have to assume Skynet determined that none of its T-800s were successful. Perhaps enough time has passed in 2029 with the war continuing that it decides to try again with an improved model. It may also have determined the special jeopardy to the all-important chip.)

        The T-1000 arrives in 1995, when John is a young kid. The resistance again sends a protector, a T-800 they’ve reprogrammed. (Great way to have the popular Arnold be in the flick and not be the villain.)

        The T-1000 is defeated, and the chip is destroyed. This ends Skynet. The question is exactly “when” that change occurs.

        At this point, the T-800s were planted along the timeline some time ago from Skynet’s point of view. But we can’t imagine they’ve been active for ten years. In fact, as we learn, Sarah Connor has been taking them out the moment they appear.

        A huge problem with time travel is concurrence. What is concurrent from Skynet’s POV? What is concurrent for Sarah or John? Time travel makes it impossible to say.

        When the chip is destroyed in 1995, when is Skynet erased? (Do “when” questions even make sense in the context of time travel?) Does it happen the instant the chip is destroyed? Or does the timeline change and proceed at 1 sec/sec with the changes? And how does that impact those T-800s that were planted 10 years ago?

        I think the bottom line is that this isn’t a case with a definite logical answer. Any solution will have contradictions. As I said at the beginning, it’s kind of a matter of Star Trekking it to find a solution one can live with. Mine is simply that the T-800s were planted “long ago” from the perspective of the block, so they can remain in the block.

        Still has contradictions, but it accounts for Sarah Connor’s retirement hobby. 🙂

        “I don’t think each timeline would be a distinct BU. If so, then each separate BU would have conservation issues.”

        Same as with the MWI, one can appeal to conservation across worlds. The aggregate conserves energy, but individual blocks might not have to. (Assuming the technology to exit one BU and enter another at a different time coordinate. Again, we’re writing science fiction here.)

        If one believes in a fixed block, it’s the only option. It’s also the one option physicists take semi-seriously. It’s absurd and contradictory that one can go back in one’s own timeline, but there’s no problem if one can go back and be in a different timeline (one that always had you appearing at that moment). Then you can kill your “grandpa” with no contradiction.

        If one believes in an evolving block, then one can go back into the same block, change something, and have that change propagate forward. (But that does raise all sorts of contradictions. Time travel really is silly.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        “At this point, multiple T-800s now exist scattered along the timeline.”

        I think the issue for me, which you allude to in your discussion, is what “now” does this statement apply to? The “now” in 2029? The “now” in 1984? 1995? 1998? Later? Or a “now” outside of the whole timeline?

        For me, there is a causal event (or a series of events) in 2029 that results in effects in 1984, 1995, 1998, and later. In 1995 (T2), that causal event is erased. (Or an erasure wave propagates from then.) The effects still exist in 1984 and 1995, essentially effects orphaned from their cause. (It’s not orphaned in the multiple timelines model, but that would introduce alternate issues.) But there’s no reason I can see for the effects in 1998 (when John is killed) to still exist after the 1995 events erased the cause. (Unless they’re in flight in meta-time or something.)

        Definitely I think the idea of one evolving timeline is the most problematic. If time travel of any type is possible, then it seems like it would have to be the whatever-happened-happened model (which is hard to maintain for long in a fiction narrative), or the multiple timelines model. But neither model does any good for an agent who wants to change its current circumstances by changing the past (unless that agent would be satisfied with changes in other timelines).

        Discussing time travel is always fun because of the convoluted causal sequences. And it’s always fun figuring out whether the sequence in a particular movie works, and why or why not.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “But there’s no reason I can see for the effects in 1998 (when John is killed) to still exist after the 1995 events erased the cause.”

        Well then, I guess you can’t.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Finally saw Deadpool 2. Not bad, but still a sequel.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I seem to be on an action movie kick lately. 🙂

    (There have been some Asian martial arts films I haven’t mentioned. I don’t watch a lot of movies anymore, but this phase has been nice. Have so far managed to avoid major turkeys, even on Thanksgiving day. (See what I did there?))

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Speaking of time travel, I completely forgot about this post I wrote five years ago!

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