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May 24, 2009 4:45 PM   Subscribe

I will always have been back. The precise nature of time travel in the Terminator universe has been the subject of griping from philosophy-trained bloggers and whole anthologies by academic philosophers. Despite valiant attempts, including this thorough assessment from M. Joseph Young's exhaustive Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies , there has never been a truly satisfying unraveling of the twisted Terminator continuity. The knot has now been cut.
posted by escabeche (62 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Let's face facts. The timeline was perectly closed off at the end of Terminator 2, until the movie studios decided they couldn't leave well enough alone and created the abomination that is Terminator 3. That's the long and the short of it.
posted by Effigy2000 at 5:01 PM on May 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


So the first/last link is a weblog dedicated to plates of beans?

Or are they using that meme/name without our permission?

Sounds like a job for an overenthusiastic copyright attorney/assclown.
posted by wendell at 5:07 PM on May 24, 2009


The timeline was perectly closed off at the end of Terminator 2

Actually, as pointed out in this recent Cracked article, there was a conflict of timelines even within that movie.

Personally, I think The Terminator is best when considered on its own. It was comforting to me to think that the future was determined (Judgement Day could not be avoided), and that the future already incorporated the Kyle Reese - John Connor timeline-loop. It was a world of its own and could not be anything else. Almost every other time travel story gets cutesy with butterfly-Nazis. The Terminator was different. Cameron stumbled on something that was intellectually curious.

After that, everything went awry. The future could be changed. Pure machines could be sent back. It just became a less-funny Back to the Future.
posted by FuManchu at 5:37 PM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I just realized that my description of the first Terminator makes it essentially a Hollywood version of La Jetee... which was remade into Twelve Monkeys

So, maybe I overestimated the butterfly-Nazis and pliant Biffs in time travel movies.
posted by FuManchu at 5:48 PM on May 24, 2009


Aha! I just watched Ultimate Reality last night with the kids, so that last link made perfect sense.
posted by battleshipkropotkin at 5:53 PM on May 24, 2009


I was amused by the last link, I will admit. Michael Moorcock might even join me in a chuckle or two.
posted by mwhybark at 6:03 PM on May 24, 2009


and created the abomination that is Terminator 3.

I guess I'm the only one who liked T3 For the unmitigated goofiness. It should have been limited to drive-in screenings.

Ahhhh, Twelve Monkeys.

I have a friend who is a time traveler. I'm only kind of kidding. He can speak Latin, he's a stone-mason, an oil painter, and an Art Restorationer, but he can't deal with bank accounts or credit cards or phones or cars or a lot of the 21st Century*. I saw Twelve Monkeys with him a while back. I'd seen once before but it was his first time. In the movie, Bruce Willis and Madaline Stowe hide in a movie theatre and watch Vertigo. They watch the scene in woods, when Kim Novak points to a cross-sectioned tree showing a time-line of human events. He gasped for a second and then said "I've been there before."

Then Kim Novak said "I've been here before."

Then Bruce Willis said "I've been here before."

He then explained that he was hiking once in California and got horribly lost. Stumbling, he found what looked like a park. His flashlight hit upon a display. It was the cross-sectioned tree, showing a time-line of human events, the same used in the movie.

Metafilter: I've been here before.

*He's taken to the internet in a good way, but mostly so he doesn't have to call people
posted by The Whelk at 6:08 PM on May 24, 2009 [71 favorites]


Shame the Temporal Anomalies site hasn't been updated with a page on the recent Star Trek film. For someone who apparently grasped the concept of changing the past, the villain seemed remarkable dense as to how he went about it.
posted by AndrewStephens at 6:20 PM on May 24, 2009


Is this going to be one of those threads where we argue about who's theory of time travel is more "realistic?" If so, I hate it already.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 6:29 PM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yeah, faster than a speeding bullet: that's what you say every time.
posted by rokusan at 6:47 PM on May 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


MJ Young, the guy who wrote that Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies page, really should be enshrined in that Internet Crazies Hall of Fame. He's hilarious, except for when he tries to be funny.

I keep reading it and hearing Comic Book Guy voice in my head. So sincere, so certain he's absolutely correct and all these people are buffoons -- buffoons! -- for not seeing it.
posted by rokusan at 7:01 PM on May 24, 2009


> Is this going to be one of those threads where we argue about who's theory of time travel is more "realistic?" If so, I hate it already.

> Yeah, faster than a speeding bullet: that's what you say every time.


Well, no. The time before last I tracked him down and cut his internet connection just for grins. But pretty much every other time, yeah.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:07 PM on May 24, 2009


I love love love the first link.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2009


I keep reading it and hearing Comic Book Guy voice in my head.

Wait the voice is in my head? Damn if didn't think that was something else awesome about that site...
posted by From Bklyn at 7:23 PM on May 24, 2009


I Have Always Been Here Before
posted by item at 7:29 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since well before Michael J. Fox was known to have a neurological problem I have been saying that Back to the Future must have a dark backside; if the Marty of the movie could come back to a life with the successful father, the truck, and the girl, then there must have been a Marty who got to that point and then wasn't there any more when loser-Marty entered his life. The most elegant explanation for this is that winner-Marty landed in Movie Marty's life, coming back to find Doc dead, his Dad a loser, and everything in tatters. The movie of his life would be a tad less uplifting.
posted by localroger at 7:46 PM on May 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


...coming back to find Doc dead, his Dad a loser, and everything in tatters. The movie of his life would be a tad less uplifting.

I have Darren Aronofsky on line one.
posted by rokusan at 7:55 PM on May 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


This is why The Campaign for Real Time needs to come to the terminator universe.
posted by Pseudology at 8:25 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


My favourite memory of 12 Monkeys (SPOILERS!) was seeing it in the theatre with a group of people including a girl who had apparently never encountered the concept of a paradox before. She was furious; "That movie MADE NO SENSE! How could he have SEEN HIMSELF in the airport?!?!?," etc. Continued discussion over beers did not help.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:29 PM on May 24, 2009


Terminator Salvation is a very silly movie.

That is all.
posted by bicyclefish at 8:29 PM on May 24, 2009


>The movie of his life would be a tad less uplifting.

The 6 Most Depressing Happy Endings In Movie History
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:37 PM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Perhaps my favorite time travel movie, at least recently, is Primer. They were smart enough to know that time travel would quickly become so confusing even to the people doing the time travelling, so that confusion is more or less part of the story. Primer timeline (not that it really helps).
posted by zardoz at 8:44 PM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Since well before Michael J. Fox was known to have a neurological problem I have been saying that Back to the Future must have a dark backside; if the Marty of the movie could come back to a life with the successful father, the truck, and the girl, then there must have been a Marty who got to that point and then wasn't there any more when loser-Marty entered his life. The most elegant explanation for this is that winner-Marty landed in Movie Marty's life, coming back to find Doc dead, his Dad a loser, and everything in tatters. The movie of his life would be a tad less uplifting.

It's no mystery -- we see that character in the movie. Marty sees him go back in time just as he reaches Lone Pine Mall at the film's very end.

What's odd about BTTF as a theory of time travel is that it somehow collapses these two people into the same individual: the Marty 2 who Marty 1 sees go back in time at the very end of the movie, despite entirely different life experiences, somehow accomplishes all the same events in order to reach the same point. Otherwise, we'd have a paradox, and we know we don't have that because the time-space continuum is still around for #2, #3, the cartoon, and BTTF: The Ride.
posted by gerryblog at 8:46 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could say a lot, but it's hard to describe time travel. It's not like a candy bar made of spiders, it's more like the Kentucky derby. It's not a visit with grandma, it's more like the smell of grapefruit covered in green. I'm sorry, I'm not getting it right, I'll just say, it's not the name of a lawyer who lost his wife, it's a mud pit in the morning, more like tin and less like a first kiss taken away.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 PM on May 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


THEY WILLAN ON-BE BACK! GET THE TENSES RIGHT!
posted by kldickson at 8:53 PM on May 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


I took a quick restroom break during Terminator Salvation when the hybrid terminator met up with the lady. Did I miss some bare breasts then?
posted by Burhanistan at 10:03 PM on May 24, 2009


As it does not integrate, let alone adequately theorize "Kindergarten Cop", the so-called "Grand Unified Theory of Schwarzenegger" is bullshit hoo-ha.
posted by felix betachat at 10:41 PM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Larry Niven once made an interesting argument why time travel would never be invented. Whenever time travel is invented, sooner or later somebody will go back in time and prevent its invention. Therefore, it cannot be invented...
posted by DreamerFi at 10:46 PM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


No bare breasts in Terminator Salvation, Burhanistan. Just lots and lots of awful.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:51 PM on May 24, 2009


Ah, thanks, LooseFilter. There was indeed a superabundance of awful. I did get a chuckle out of the naked CGI Schwarzenegger beat the crap out of Bale. There was some kind of statement there, but my brain was too busy getting pummeled by the IMAX sound system to process any subtleties.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:03 PM on May 24, 2009


This is why The Campaign for Real Time needs to come to the terminator universe.

Btw this was the inspiration for Dove's "Campaign for Real Beauty."
posted by grobstein at 11:27 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The 6 Most Depressing Happy Endings In Movie History

Fails for lack of the Breakfast Club. Making over the only interesting girl in the film into a dumb fashion victim is not success.
posted by rodgerd at 12:00 AM on May 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


Larry Niven once made an interesting argument why time travel would never be invented. Whenever time travel is invented, sooner or later somebody will go back in time and prevent its invention. Therefore, it cannot be invented...


His theory doesn't take into account the IATT....
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:25 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's impossible to take this seriously, particularly when the unified model fails to account for The Gov's brief spell as a Russian narcs cop called Ivan Danko. No grand theory could be complete without it.
posted by jgbustos at 2:57 AM on May 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have to say that I really liked M Joseph Young's explanation of Donnie Darko. It actually makes a lot of sense. Well, as much sense as anyone could make out of a movie like that.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:41 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fails for lack of the Breakfast Club. Making over the only interesting girl in the film into a dumb fashion victim is not success.

This is to say nothing of the fact that everyone else couples up and is all happy-happy, while Anthony Michael Hall's geek not only is left single, but he gets to write their entire paper for them. I'd be bringing an entire arsenal of flare guns to school after that shit.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 3:50 AM on May 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


As it does not integrate, let alone adequately theorize "Kindergarten Cop", the so-called "Grand Unified Theory of Schwarzenegger" is bullshit hoo-ha.

John Connor must have been in that class.

It's impossible to take this seriously, particularly when the unified model fails to account for The Gov's brief spell as a Russian narcs cop called Ivan Danko. No grand theory could be complete without it.

I've got nothing for this.
posted by Talanvor at 4:24 AM on May 25, 2009


That last link was great. Now I feel better about life.
posted by RussHy at 5:04 AM on May 25, 2009


zardoz: "Perhaps my favorite time travel movie, at least recently, is Primer. They were smart enough to know that time travel would quickly become so confusing even to the people doing the time travelling, so that confusion is more or less part of the story. Primer timeline (not that it really helps)."

Someone has written a whole book (in blog form) to explain Primer. I haven't read it yet but I plan to, Primer is one of my favorite movies but even after many viewings it doesn't completely make sense.
posted by octothorpe at 5:40 AM on May 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Time travel is always a bad plot device.
posted by Nelson at 6:10 AM on May 25, 2009


Loosefilter: No bare breasts in Terminator Salvation, Burhanistan. Just lots and lots of awful.

I think the PG13 rating might have had something to do with both of those. That the writers also wrote Catwoman might have contributed, too.
posted by Decimask at 7:15 AM on May 25, 2009


And for the record, I gave it a Mediocre as an action movie, and a T-Weaksauce Terminator rating.
posted by Decimask at 7:16 AM on May 25, 2009


That the writers also wrote Catwoman might have contributed, too.

This explains a lot.
posted by LooseFilter at 7:21 AM on May 25, 2009


The writing was better than Catwoman, though. I have to give them that. Of course, cribbing every 4th line from the other movies in the series got irritating really quick.
posted by Decimask at 7:24 AM on May 25, 2009


Okay, can someone explain Lost Highway next?
posted by ODiV at 9:06 AM on May 25, 2009


Needs a Michael Biehn tag (just b/c he was in two of the great scifi films of all time--and his "Terminator" was the best by a mile. Make that ten).
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:14 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, can someone explain Lost Highway next?

A man kills his wife and then tries to rationalize it/refuse to believe it and goes increasingly disjointed from time and space in the process.

I think.
posted by The Whelk at 9:14 AM on May 25, 2009


The theory really breaks down when you try to incorporate Batman and Robin, Last Action Hero, or Junior. My personal theory is that Schwarzenegger is just a terrible actor with hit-or-miss choice in roles, but that theory seems to break down every time I see him on TV, playing the role of governor of California. Hell, I was living there during both elections, and I still can't explain that one.
posted by Humanzee at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2009


Wow, after this this person complains so much about films getting time travel wrong, he writes off Primer awfully fast -- hope he follows up and actually gives the film a chance.
posted by rottytooth at 1:49 PM on May 25, 2009


The thing I hate about time travel stories is almost all of them violate the First Law of Thermodynamics. You can't have Marty McFly looking at himself, because that would mean there were two Martys when there should only be one, which means mass has been pulled out of thin air.

Even if you ignore the conservation of mass, you still have the problem that, unless Marty 1 can guarantee that his time-meddling will result in the (nearly) same chain of events (e.g.: Marty 2 going back in time at the exact moment Marty 1 returns), Marty 1 runs the risk of coming back to another Marty that's quite happy living a normal, ordinary life, (and probably wouldn't appreciate Marty 1 trying to take it over).

But here's the rub: the only way Marty could really guarantee that, when he comes "Back to the Future," there will be a twin Marty that also goes back in time, is to do nothing. That means, no helping Mom and Dad, no helping Doc, no helping Uncle "Jailbird" Joey, etc.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:43 PM on May 25, 2009


The theory really breaks down when you try to incorporate Batman and Robin, Last Action Hero, or Junior.

Not to mention Jingle All the Way.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:04 PM on May 25, 2009


What about when he's talking about getting his knob polished in "Pumping Iron"?
posted by Burhanistan at 9:18 PM on May 25, 2009


David Foster Wallace overthinking Terminator: F/X Porn
posted by papafrita at 9:55 PM on May 25, 2009


"Let's face facts. The timeline was perectly closed off at the end of Terminator 2, until the movie studios decided they couldn't leave well enough alone and created the abomination that is Terminator 3. That's the long and the short of it."

Here, let me fix that for you:

"Let's face facts. The timeline was perectly closed off at the end of Terminator, until the movie studios decided they couldn't leave well enough alone and created the abomination that is Terminator 2. That's the long and the short of it."
posted by nthdegx at 12:26 AM on May 26, 2009


David Foster Wallace overthinking Terminator: F/X Porn

That was unexpectedly great! Anyone can toss off the now trite observation that action flicks are like porn (what's that mean?); a good essayist brings out the detail both of the subject matter and the theory.
posted by grobstein at 12:54 AM on May 26, 2009


Time travel? I love time travel. I'm going to nerd out & try to handwave some problems away, but if you find that tedious, hit "." to skip to the next comment. Really. It's okay. Go on without me.

The Cracked article seems to miss that there are different futures, with apparently different time machines with different capabilities, & fallible robots with limited knowledge.

The other comic book guy's doing something weird with n-jumps, unnecessarily spawning two new timelines instead of one when travelling back in time. I doubt a timeline ceases when anyone/anything goes back. Simplest explanation to follow the action: The Terminator had a non-forking timeline, but the sequels & the TV series had a forking timeline.
posted by Pronoiac at 2:59 AM on May 26, 2009


Hi there!

Welcome to - the future!

If you've changed your mind & you'd like to go back, press "," now.
posted by Pronoiac at 3:00 AM on May 26, 2009


Is this the future with the huge walking eye things?

In the distance, a bloodshot iris on horrible, horrible legs appears from behind a building.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,!

"Okay, now when am I? You there, um how do I get to the city?"

" Ego operor non agnosco "

" Oh perficio! mirus "

" Quisnam , vel quis es vos? "

" Ego meus ortus secui in meus via ut a sumptus secui. Haud res , addo mihi a peruro of vestri vilis vinum quod directus mihi ut vestri vilis ganea , velociter pro meus virga reperio vestri! "
posted by The Whelk at 6:09 AM on May 26, 2009


Man I love this stuff:

In fact, had the Terminator successfully prevented the birth of that child, then the Terminator would not have been sent back (at point D), and the original timeline would have been restored, forcing the world into an infinity loop.

Maybe that's why Terminator units are the perfect choice for this task; you can program them to make sure that they find their way back to C each time D arrives. Kinda sad when you realize these robots are necessarily doomed to repeat the segment of time they alter.

Also, Terminator: Salvation was a galactic disappointment. I would never imagine a story rooted in time traveling cyborgs could be so fucking dull.
posted by butterstick at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2009


He then explained that he was hiking once in California and got horribly lost. Stumbling, he found what looked like a park. His flashlight hit upon a display. It was the cross-sectioned tree, showing a time-line of human events, the same used in the movie.

Assuming it's where I think it is, I've been there too. It's Muir Woods, I think. (Also, where they shot the Ewok scenes with the speeder bikes, if I remember correctly. Which I might not.)
posted by inigo2 at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2009


Muir woods is awesome.
posted by garlic at 4:34 PM on May 27, 2009


By the way, all time travel movies are completely consistent--no paradoxes whatsoever--as long as you also suscribe to the parallel universe theory. I'm wondering if that's what they'll pull out in the last season of LOST, which in this last season has a pretty darned muddled view of time travel.
posted by zardoz at 9:30 PM on June 2, 2009


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