'Terminator: Genisys' Trailer: Time Travel Gimmick Provokes Deja Vu

'The Terminator' (1984)
Have 'Star Trek' and 'X-Men: Days of Future Past' stolen 'Terminator's' thunder?

There’s something familiar about the Terminator: Genisys trailer — and I don’t mean the sight of Arnold Schwarzenegger wandering around with a gun like an unstoppable killing machine.

Instead, it’s the fact that the movie borrows the reboot gimmick from J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek, wherein the original timeline fans are familiar with is changed by time travel, explaining away new actors in familiar roles and any and all differences between events as fans already know them and whatever happens going forward. It’s a cheat that’s smart on behalf of the producers behind each project, in that it allows for a clean slate while maintaining that the original stories still “happened” — it’s just that they don’t count now that time has been changed. In other words, it’s a reboot that allows producers to have their cake and eat it, too.

If anything, the gimmick makes more sense in a Terminator movie than Star Trek; at least the former franchise has always been based around the ideas of time travel and changing the past to affect the future (Star Trek, by comparison, had limited its time travel stories to occasional gimmicks that allowed for cheaper episodes (and/or movies) set in contemporary times). It could definitely be argued that the plot of Terminator: Genisys is very much in keeping with everything the franchise has stood for to date.

Terminator: Genisys isn’t the first movie to follow Star Trek’s lead in using time travel as a MacGuffin to clean up messy franchises; this summer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past also went back in time to undo the events of X-Men: The Last Stand and open that franchise back up to future development. It’s either a sign of mainstream audiences’ increasing familiarity with concepts that had previously been the stuff of sci-fi paradox fiction (or Doctor Who episodes, which may just be the same thing), or a sign that we’re at the point where everyone has seen Back to the Future enough times to be comfortable with time overwriting itself from now on.

Of course, what the Terminator: Genisys trailer doesn’t do — and what the movie itself may similarly duck — is answer whether or not the time traveling has rewritten the “original” Terminator timeline altogether, or simply shunted it off into a parallel universe. That latter fate was the one that befell Star Trek’s original timeline (including The Next Generation and everything moving forward), at least according to the officially sanctioned spinoff comics.

If that does turn out to be the case, then it shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, if there’s one thing that everyone knows about the original Terminator, it’s that he’ll be back — even if he has to cross timelines, realities and his own theoretical nonexistence to make that happen. Terminator: Regenisys, anyone?

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