Sunday, September 29, 2019

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

The first two Terminator movies were a bit of a headache because of the bootstrap paradoxes.  If The Terminator hadn’t been sent back to kill Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese never would have been sent back to protect her only to become John Connor’s father.  Thus, the correct way to get rid of John Connor before he was born was to not try to kill him before he was born.

When this movie opens, Sarah is in a mental ward and John is in foster care.  He’s grown up thinking that she’s a nut job, which is a justifiable point of view.  She’s telling everyone that a machine from the future came back to kill her before her son was born.  This hasn’t stopped the apocalypse, which she needs to help John prepare for.  This would look like maybe the absolute worst Cassandra complex ever.  Except that it’s true.

Skynet has sent back an even better Terminator, the T-1000, to terminate John as a child.  Also returning from the future is a reprogrammed T-800.  This time, the original Terminator is going to protect John rather than kill him.  The same dynamic exists with a superior hunter and an inferior protector, but the same imperative exists: John Connor must live to defeat the machines.

The movie is done well enough that you can enjoy it without asking too many questions.  I originally wondered why the T-1000 didn’t, say, overload a power plant and destroy the whole city.  That would have been too easy.  Plus, the T-1000 has to be sure.  This means actually finding John Connor.  Still, you’d think that a computer system designed for defense could make a machine that could do better, or maybe even send back several terminators to work in concert.

In this case, I understand why some ideas weren’t used.  Sure, Skynet could have killed Sarah Connor while she was pregnant or killed John Connor as a baby, but this is something audiences wouldn’t react well to.  Sending something back in time is probably difficult, so sending an army back probably isn’t a viable option.  There isn’t a really great, obvious idea that I can think of.

We do get two more bootstrap paradoxes.  First, it seems likely that the arrival of the T-1000 either allowed Sarah Connor to get out of the hospital, or at least got her out early.  This allowed her to further train John Connor, who doesn’t appear to be battle ready just yet.  (Had she stayed in the hospital, John may not have done as well against the machines.)  We also find out that the arrival of the T-800 in the original movie gave Cyberdyne the idea for the terminators’ hardware, thus allowing for the creation of Skynet.  So, where did Skynet come from?

The movie could have been a simple action movie about two machines fighting over the future of the planet.  Instead, we get a commentary on the destructive nature of humanity.  Throughout all of the Terminator movies, the downfall of human civilization is inevitable.  We tend to fight one another.  This is what leads to the creation of Skynet in the first place.

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