Episode 366: You Drop This Acid, You Will Travel Through Time

On the Overthinking It Podcast we tackle “Terminator Genisys” with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke.

otip-logo-podcastoneBen Adams, Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee and Matthew Wrather overthink Terminator Genisys.


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21 Comments on “Episode 366: You Drop This Acid, You Will Travel Through Time”

  1. Three Act Destructure #

    Now that the weekend box office numbers have come in, any thoughts on why Jurassic World is cleaning up and Terminator Genisys is being mostly ignored?


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      The story for Terminator: Genisys at the box office is that it did okay, but not good, in the U.S., but did much better elsewhere in the world, where it made about twice as much money, and is already close to recouping its budget.

      The biggest, most obvious difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world with regards to American movies is language — moviegoers for whom English is not a first language care less about the English dialogue in an American movie and more about what the story can communicate with imagery.

      And of course one of the big things driving re-dos of 90s movies now is that when these classics first came out a lot of these places where these movies are doing well didn’t have movie theaters that played American movies, so it’s new to them.

      So, for the rest of the world, Terminator: Genisys is “Yay! Terminators!” You get to see all the stuff in Terminator 1 and 2, and Arnold, but in a movie theater, with modern special effects and modern action.

      It opened at #1 in more than 30 different countries, including much of Latin America and Southeast Asia, and it had one of the best summer opening weekends in Russia all-time.

      This isn’t quite nostalgia – for a lot of these people it’s the first time they’ve seen a Terminator movie on the big screen.

      For people who have seen a Terminator movie on the big screen before – or for whom it wouldn’t be a novel thing because they’ve seen a ton of ripoffs or similar movies, it didn’t do as well.

      Jurassic World has the same strategy – the English dialogue is kind of stupid and an afterthought, but the images are spot-on and they tell a story (albeit not the same story the dialogue tells sometimes).

      The difference is that Jurassic World also has a really clear logline and reason to see it that also works for English-speaking audience – the dinosaurs are back and on the loose, and Starlord leads a team of raptors against the biggest dinosaur of all time! And the name lends a sense of quality to a movie people would want to see even if it were super-crappy.

      Terminator Genisys is way too confused to have a clear English logline, other than just “We’re starting this over!”

      It’s partly the issue with having the movie for which the main plot point is a crazy twist you don’t want to reveal to people – nowadays, you really want to craft the movie in such a way that it doesn’t diminish the movie to talk what it’s about. Twists like the John Connor thing are better served in season finales of TV shows nowadays.

      It’s also partly the issue with having a title character who is not the star of the movie. This movie is about Kyle Reese first of all, and then maybe also about Sarah Connor, and then maybe also about “Pops” the Terminator.

      But who cares about Kyle Reese? Nobody. What does he do in this movie?

      In Jurassic World, you know watching it that, for all the Prattness Everdeen going on, the stars are the dinosaurs. That’s not really the case in Genisys.

      What does the Terminator _do?_ Why is this Terminator different from other Terminators? Genisys is all over the place on this question, as it’s sort of a general exploration without a central point it’s trying to make (other than the one about dating, expectations, relationships, female liberation and family planning that I describe in the podcast).

      This is part of why I wish the movie had doubled-down on its first act and made the whole movie a _Back to the Future II_ time-travel romp – sort of like the pre-boss fight at the end of a Mega Man video game, where you re-fight all the previous bosses in a row. If it had been a re-fight of all the previous Terminator movies, but bigger and better, fouled up with way too much time travel, then at least it would have been clear what the plot involving the Terminators was. As it is – stopping an app from launching in San Francisco is, by comparison, kind of pedestrian and not really tonally of a piece with the killer robots.

      As opposed to, say, Furious 7, which is very easy to intuitively understand, either in English or in other languages – as the cars and the stars are kind of the same thing.

      Or the Avengers, who are the star of the Avengers movie in a much more traditional sense.

      But yeah, “Arnold’s back!” is not a big enough reason anymore, because he’s less of a remarkable spectacle than he used to be. “Terminator is fixing its plot continuitiy problems, sort of!” is not a big enough reason either.

      So it’s either new to you (Singapore) or it’s old hat (New York City). You can see how it outdid or underdid along these lines if you want.

      And the fact that it really wasn’t that bad doesn’t really matter that much, especially since the critics slaughtered it anyway. But even then, it would have to be really, really good to overcome the confusion in its premise and reach an audience looking for a movie to see.

      One comment I consistently got a lot from people (the concession stand guy at the movies and one of the trainers at my gym) is they didn’t like how goofy it was. They went to the movies expecting something serious and badass, and instead got a borderline parody with a lot of inside jokes. Now, I liked that, but I’m not the broad audience. It’s worth considering that maybe the U.S. audience at least, when it hears “Terminator,” expects something more threatening. The “phase matter” Terminator certainly wasn’t that – he was very visually impressive, but not very psychologically threatening to English-speaking audiences, since he was such an empty cliche to them. They would have been done well to take that into account when making the movie if they wanted to sell more tickets in the U.S.


  2. Adrian #

    Finally, someone else who remembers the Rhoynar.


  3. Justin #

    When Skynet had the line about “all you know how to do is destroy. You don’t know what it’s like to create” I thought it was a callback to T2 and Sarah Connor talking to Miles Dyson.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Good call – it totally was.

      This further informs the paradox of Khaleesi Sarah Connor – on one hand, she’s politically liberated, concerned with her own sexual choices and reproductive choices. But on the other hand, she’s not a self-aware and self-realized advocate for the experience of being a woman – she’s cheeky, passive and girlish, content with being an object of desire and protection, as long as she dictates the terms of consummation.

      You can easily think of a greater Sarah Connor retorting something like, “I have made LIFE with my BODY. I have GROWN it IN MYSELF. You will NEVER know that.”

      But such a sentiment is a little too down-and-dirty for this movie, which isn’t interested in what happens in human relationships after the third date.


    • Ben Adams OTI Staff #

      I thought this line was really interesting, for two reasons.

      1) It’s a little weird that Skynet is accusing humans of being incapable of creation, right? Because Skynet IS humanity’s creation – if Skynet is a “creation,” then humans did the creating. Maybe this has something to say about the time-traveling going on beyond the scenes – maybe Skynet knows that humans DIDN’T create Skynet, because Skynet was always already the result of its own meddling in the time stream (i.e. humans needed the technology found from robots sent into the past in order to build Skynet, so really Skynet created itself)

      2) It’s ALSO a little weird that Kyle and Sara seem to take at least some of Skynet’s point (i.e. that humans are really good at killing) at face value. Indeed, I found it a little weird that the humans were constantly talking about how “All I know is killing…” when really they’re fighting robots – wouldn’t it make sense for human propagandists to shift the language to talk of “deactivating”, “destroying”, “shutting down” robots, to distinguish the killing of a human from the killing of a Terminator?

      Throughout history, humans have always attempted to de-humanize their enemy in order to make it psychologically easier for soldiers to wage war on them. Why would humans concede that Skynet/Terminators/Robots qualify as something that can be “killed”?

      @ Pete – to Khaleesi’s credit, she HASN’T made life with her body, or at least not yet. And the new timeline created by the movie makes John Connor’s existence kind of irrelevant, doesn’t it? By jumping forward in time, no matter what Sarah and Kyle decide to do with respect to “mating,” John Connor isn’t going to be born until 2018ish. So unless Judgment is pushed back a few decades, the resistance is NOT going to be led by John Connor, no matter what else happens.

      UNLESS, of course, they go back in time again in the sequel, and Sara Connor gives birth back then. And I hope they do, because as you mentioned on the podcast, it would be awesome to see everyone go back, Bill and Ted style, to the world of T2 in the follow up to Genisys.


      • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

        For what it’s worth, in the revised Genisys timeline, Robot John Connor creates Skynet, who creates Robot John Connor, who creates Skynet, who creates…


        • Ben Adams OTI Staff #

          Yeah, but where did Robot John Connor even come from in the revised timeline? The whole series up to this point has been about Skynet going to great lengths in order to prevent John Connor from being able to lead the resistance….and now that Sarah Connor is in 2017, that mission has been accomplished, unless Judgment Day gets put off for another few decades OR unless Sarah goes back in time. Otherwise, there’s no John Connor, so no Robot John Connor, so no Skynet (maybe? Dr. Who’s notwithstanding?)


          • An Inside Joke #

            Underthinking answer: I’d say they have to push the timeline back so John Connor is born mid-to-late 2010s and Judgement Day is in the 2030s. If you want audience butts in seats (especially audience butts belonging to a generation that was born 1990s and later) you need to make the events of today relevant, and you don’t want to get bogged down with your main characters being overly concerned with events that were supposed to happen in the 1980s and 1990s.

            Was any other audience member actively rooting against Sarah and Kyle getting together? It’s all fine and well for Sarah to make some passing comment about wanting to choose her own destiny before falling for Kyle anyway, but if you really want to strike a blow for female agency (and for “no fate but what we make,”) it would have been very powerful to have the pair end the movie by going their separate ways, or by hooking up with other people, or one of them dying without them having sex, etc. Unfortunate, even more pervasive than the idea that Sarah must sleep with Kyle to save the human race is the narrative that the hero must “get the girl” by the end of the movie.

  4. midnightq2 #

    A few quick thoughts. I haven’t seen the movie (and don’t really plan to). I’ve heard a lot of people say “It’s not that bad” or “It wasn’t as bad a I expected.” But I don’t think I’ve heard anyone really articulate what exactly was good about it. Based on the specific comments I’ve heard, it sounds like a pretty lousy movie that is nonetheless somewhat entertaining in a pretty superficial way and occasionally slightly interesting. Also, it seems like some people are giving the movie a lot of credit for simply not being terrible, which I don’t think deserves praise. I think that low expectations and perhaps affection for the franchise have heavily encouraged people to cut the movie more slack than it deserves.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Okay, I’ll try to be more specific.

      – It’s a funny movie. The action is peppered with a variety of goofs and jokes that land well about a third of the time, which is a pretty good percentage.

      – Arnold gives a legitimately very good performance; the best performance in the movie by far, and his best performance in a while. The character he creates is very watchable, and has a couple great scenes. J.K. Simmons is also great in this movie and is a welcome presence. While the three other lead characters are not as good (they’re good actors, but they have the worst scenes, and the material really gets away from them), the acting in the movie is generally better than movies of this caliber tend to get (Lee Byung-hun is a big presence in a minor role, Sandrine Holt and Michael Gladis are surprisingly capable in roles that don’t really need to be in the movie, but which they makes worth watching – they are the sort of roles Ray Liota or Charles S. Dutton would have in a different movie, and they’re done just as well here).

      – It’s an interesting movie. It holds your attention and is surprising. For a while, you really don’t know what could happen next. For all the bloated complexity of the exposition, once the action gets going, there’s a lot of possibility in it.

      – Action on the screen is communicated well. This is a rare virtue in the Age of Transformers, and such a big strength of the original Terminator movies. Even when there’s lots of stuff flying around onscreen, the movie communicates to you elegantly and clearly what is happening at any given moment, even when stuff comes out of nowhere at a high velocity.

      – Relatedly, it has a good relationship between setup and payoff — on a small-scale level, it shows you settings and weapons and stuff that will affect the action sequences later, and then it brings them back about half the time, so you’re surprised by how the action sequences turn out, but it still feels earned. The action sequences are very watchable. On a larger scale, it sets up things at the beginning of the movie that pay off throughout in an entertaining way.

      – With a couple of exceptions, it has a very good sense of what is actually visually impressive and shows you those things. There are a number of joyful “Look at that!” moments, as you would expect from a competant blockbuster.

      – It’s a clever movie, especially with reference to its subject matter. It’s dull and overwrought at times, but at other times it doesn’t insult the intelligence of the audience and plays things out in ways that get your brain going – especially across the different parallel universes and time periods in the movie.

      I would agree that affection for the franchise plays a big role in how much you like this movie, but not just because it recalibrates your expectations or that it makes you more forgiving- because a lot of what is clever and interesting about this movie is in its relationship with the other movies – the things it calls back, the things it decides not to call back, the ways it is different or the same as the previous movies and the reasons it gives for it.

      For all its talk of wiping the slate clean, it’s definitely not a reboot — it’s very concerned with its history. And thus if you don’t come at it with a frame of reference for liking the previous movies – or with a frame of reference that clashes with what the movies think – I suspect you won’t enjoy it as much as you might otherwise.

      Hopefully that gives you some context for understanding where we’re coming from even if you don’t see the movie yourself.


      • midnightq2 #

        Thanks for the response. Admittedly, I’m somewhat biased AGAINST this movie BECAUSE of my love for the first two, specifically because this one somewhat retcons earlier events. I’ve grown somewhat averse to prequels and retcons in general because they can actually affect my enjoyment of the earlier movies, as in the case of the Star Wars prequels. So I probably won’t be seeing this one, but if other people enjoy it that’s good, and maybe it will open some space for future Terminator movies to explore new territory.


  5. Justin #

    One tiny thing: I realized why Joe Morton wasn’t brought back as Miles Dyson, but I thought JK Simmons character would have been a great opportunity to be played by Lance Henrikson. Imagine if his detective remembered both timelines: One where a killer cyborg slaughtered him and everyone in his precinct, and one where it never happened.

    Of course, Simmons was good, but this would have been a nice throwback to the original film/timeline.


  6. Howard Member #

    Alternate sequel title – Terminator: Dreamcast.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #


      If it’s truly the dream cast, it needs Linda Hamilton and Robert Patrick.

      Do you think in the original timeline, the Dreamcast was a huge hit that became self-aware and took over all our technology, and that some intrepid hero went back in time and gave the Emotion Engine to Sony for the Playstation 2?


  7. Liz #

    I love the quote about providence being the guide. And how it was read. Thank you. The Garden of Eden is coincidentally similar to the Big Bang. The Big Bang is still just a theory but it seems that one source of energy exploded into an almost infinite number of charged units. Each unit split further into a plus and minus charge. The frequency of the universe decreased as did the wavelengths of light and energy (cosmological redshift). The two plus and minus charges, one of millions of pairs, were split. As one, both experienced all forms of energy from rocks, water, unicellular organisms, fish, frogs, turtles, small mammals, large mammals, early humans, cavemen, poor men, rich men, simple men, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers and lovers. And now, as there is a shift in frequency in this universe, the charges come back together. It’s a reversal process of the metaphorical fall from the Garden of Eden. Each charge, plus and minus, resonates at the same frequency. Opposite but equal frequencies of light. They work like magnets attracting and repelling. When the frequencies are harmonized in the physics concept and every other, they are able to radiate more energy as one. The new age community calls both identical energies twins. I’m still a skeptic. But the quote more aptly would be with providence as their guide, they said, let’s rejoice. Both energies, now one, wept tears of joy. And as one blended frequency, they gave their hearts to the world. The quote really inspired me so I apologize if this was too long. Thank you so much for letting post and for doing these shows. They are inspiring. It’s all just a theory, though. I’m happy to share and thank you.


  8. TribesmanSen #

    I did find it interesting they did a ‘Reverse-James Bond’ with the villain’s physical features. Classically, Bond villains have always had some form of scarring or deformity to signify that they are the villain (this can open up a whole nother can of Overthinking worms, but I digress). In this movie, it can be interpreted as what makes someone human. When you see Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese without clothes on (which is often), you’ll see injuries and scarring all over their bodies (moreso Kyle than Sarah, because reasons). While ‘Pops’ is a Terminator, we see him being wounded and injured, so we identify with him as human despite his metallic origins. Throughout the film, whenever we identify with John Connor as the protagonist, he has some serious facial scarring. Once he’s re-introduced as the antagonist, the scarring goes away, sealing his fate as the villain, and no longer human.


  9. Chris #

    Naming conventions: biblical

    Sarah Conner Chronicles: The gospel According to Sarah Conner.

    Maybe the movies use old testament names and TV shows get new testament names?


    • Timothy J Swann #

      Well, there are already a couple of books in the Bible called Chronicles…


  10. Timothy J Swann #

    Based purely on the podcast for my knowledge of Genisys, I would like to suggest that the ‘non-military’ Skynet could be the Skynet that ‘evolves’ from John Henry in the Sarah Connor Chronicles. In terms of the GoT character I would like to see in Terminator, I would like it to be Lena Headey back as Sarah Connor, in a story that makes use of the multiple timelines and features the trio of Hamilton, Headey and Clark teamed up to fight Skynet (somehow). In terms of the biblical reference perhaps Terminator: Trynyti?

    In that case you have this clash of alternatively evolved travelling back in time ultimate machine intelligences from parallel futures, which is essentially part of the plot of Fall of Hyperion, described in that book referencing Paradise Lost:

    “there is a war up there
    where time creaks
    which spans galaxies
    and eons
    back and forward
    to the Big Bang
    and the Final Implosion\\

    [To sum it up/
    there is a war
    such as blind Milton would kill to see\\
    Our UI wars against your UI
    across battlefields beyond even Ummon’s
    Rather/ there
    a war/”


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