As the one person I know who enjoyed Terminator: Salvation, I was sure that I would find something to like in the universally panned fifth installment of the franchise. Here, future John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to save Connor’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke, no relation except to the Targaryens), from Skynet’s shapeshifting robots. We’ve been here, we’ve done this, but who doesn’t love a little cyborg dustup, right?
Unfortunately (with apologies to those who don’t know), the trailer spoiled quickly that the future John Connor was co-opted by Skynet in the future, and he travels after Reese. What occurs is some classic Shakespearean drama where in true Oedipal form, Connor the cyborg tries to kill off Reese and his mother to prevent them from ending Skynet. Nevermind that we’re supposed to buy all of the scientific hoopla surrounding time travel: we now are supposed to buy that whacking a couple in the past won’t prevent a future offspring from still existing, and there is something so rudimentary about humanity that it can be connected by a set of 1s and os into being part-human, part-machine (but mostly machine).
In the one scene that soared above the others (with apologies to Arnold Schwarzenegger who plays his T-800 to the hilt as protector/papa), Connor has a showdown with the three heroes in a parking garage and offers them the chance to join him or die. While I am not much for lengthy discussions on spiritual warfare and conflict, I found the scene carrying me back to Matthew 4:1-11 when Jesus is tempted three times by the devil. He’s offered sustenance, safety, and power, which he rebuffs.
But isn’t it always the case that temptation is most enticing when it looks like what we think we need? When it’s what we want or comes packaged in a way that we think we ‘love’ it? For Sarah and Reese, the temptation comes in the shape of their own progeny, their own love, their own future. It tries to sell them on something that doesn’t even exist anymore, but which they would, in their heart, want to be true.
And still, they fight it off. They prove heroic by turning aside the lies and fighting for the future, and for those innocents around them. Unfortunately, it gets lost in the shuffle of confusing what-ifs and special effects overload, but it’s why there will be another Terminator film, too.
As much as I hate to admit it, when that time comes – “I’ll be back.”