John Brancato, who co-wrote the screenplay to Terminator Salvation with partner Michael Ferris, told reporters that the duo took inspiration from the original film's central time-travel paradox. In James Cameron's original 1984 Terminator, John Connor sends Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) back in time to protect Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and conceive John. (Spoilers ahead!)
In Salvation, a grown-up Connor (Christian Bale) must rescue young Reese (Anton Yelchin) from Skynet so that he can later fulfill his destiny as depicted in The Terminator.
"That's so much of what the whole series is about, the idea that you'd actually have to find your own father to save his life to create you," Brancato said in a group interview last Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif. "Although, of course, that's totally paradoxical, because there you are. You're not, like, suddenly going to dissolve, like in Back to the Future, probably, but you sort of have to play the necessity of the Terminator world."
If fans have an issue with the logic of Connor's removing an obstacle to his own conception, Brancato says Cameron started it. "I don't know that there's any more paradox than was established probably in the first Terminator film," he said. "John Connor exists because he sends his own father back to create him, so he's basically setting up his dad with his mom, which is kind of an interesting situation."
Brancato added that he felt no need to "correct" any logical holes in the franchise storyline. "It seems that that's so central to the whole mythology," he said. "I mean, they didn't have to [have it] in the first Terminator film, with the straight time-travel paradox the way they did. It was kind of cute that they did. Somebody in the process pointed out this is maybe the first film that's both a prequel and a sequel, which is kind of a nice thing about time travel."
The time-travel device also presented the writers with a problem as to when to set Terminator Salvation in time. The year 2018 is far enough away in our real-world future but early enough in the mythology that the film would not have to address technology that could render the story overly complicated.
"During the production and the development process we went in different ages, different times," Brancato said. "How much technology is there? Are they, like, working on simple liquid-metal stuff? Is there a little time travel? A lot of that just fell away. We just took it to a more nuts-and-bolts feel."
Terminator Salvation opens May 21.