Sequel Saturday: Fixing the Past, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
The recent trailer for Terminator Genisys features familiar characters going back in time to an alternate timeline to fix the horrific events in the future. Every once in a while, movie sequels attempt this plot. Why go through a complicated time travel setup to bring old fans and new blood back into a series? The rapid-fire references to the old films confuse the younger audience while too many cutesy one-liners annoy the older audience.
The rare film that gets this working has to juggle all the plot threads perfectly. Back to the Future Part II hops between timelines so much that we see alternate timelines of the same eras. Marty McFly has to go back to 1955 to stop the younger Biff from using an almanac he receives from an older Biff, who also arrived in 1955 from going back in time. Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale’s crisp narrative from the original becomes a weighty hodgepodge that requires multiple viewings to even understand what’s going on. Back to the Future Part II has its moments, but it loses the clarity of the original.
In the case of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, it’s debatable whether the time travel element was even necessary. Later in the film, it is revealed that Spock from the original TV series has travelled back in time. There’s a reason in the plot for this, but it comes off as a forced way for an old cast member to interact with a new one. It feels like a moment from a very special episode of a TV series. That old Spock comes back for a cameo in Stark Trek Into Darkness cheapens this moment even further.
The theme of fixing the past to save the future has been central to all of the Terminator movies. I’m hoping Terminator Genisys will be a good film. The contradictions of the past four flicks make me wish they would have nuked any sense of continuity and just gone for a hard reboot instead. It’s a much cleaner way to revisit a series than having to go through the pains of a time travel plot.