The Terminator Franchise, A Look Back

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It’s hard to believe that the original classic was released over 30 years ago, mostly because I wasn’t alive yet, nor would I see it for years to come. We grew up watching the Terminator movies, but it was mostly Terminator 2; I wasn’t even aware of the first Terminator until years after T2. In recent years they’ve re-released the movies several times, with these versions having both improved upon their originals (the T-1000 malfunctioning) and also added some dorky segments (the T-800 trying to smile) or the Back to the Future like ending of T2, but at least you can still watch the originals.

With Terminator: Genisys’ first weekend under its belt and its impending flop status looming, I thought it was a good time to look back at one of the most important movie sagas of all time. I haven’t seen Genisys yet so you’ll have to wait for that review, but I will give my initial thoughts below.

 

The Terminator 1984

Terminator Franchise 1984This is an important movie for several reasons. The first one that comes to mind is that this movie really introduced the world to James Cameron. If it wasn’t for this he probably would have directed Piranha 3 and we never would have gotten Aliens, The Abyss, or any of the other technological boundary pushing movies he’s made. The fact that most would attribute to this is the introduction of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, Conan was released earlier in the year, but this is what rocketed him into the stratosphere. It’s also an interesting movie because it’s the only one in the franchise that is a horror movie. Sure, it has elements of action and sci-fi, but it has a good portion of horror blood pumping through its veins. It’s a very moody flick set in what feels like a sparsely populated dilapidated Los Angeles, perhaps to mirror a present version of the future wastelands of 2029.

Even if you don’t like the movie you still have to respect it. Cameron had so much passion (or ego) about the project that he sold the rights for a buck in order to direct it. That takes some guts. It was a b-movie that defied expectations, spawned many knock offs (including Robocop) and went on to become one of the most important movies in history.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

I would venture that this is the most famous of all the movies. It gave birth to so many one-liners, even some that the first actually spawned, that it probably holds a record for that. And of course it’s the movie that started the CGI arms race.

T2: Judgement Day still has some elements of horror, like with the T-800’s history lesson on Skynet, but it ups the ante 1000 percent and shifts gears into full-blown action mode and proceeds to melt your face off. I would argue that it is one of, if not the greatest action movie of all time. The first half of the flick is a steady build until the pin is pulled on the grenade and it is non-stop until the emotional, tear jerking at the end. While the story is repetitive of the first one, it never feels that way. Hell, with the exception of Terminator Salvation, they all follow the same pattern. It figures out a bigger and better way to retell the first story and at the same time continue the narrative.

Terminator Franchise T2

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

A lot of people attribute Salvation as the worst movie in the franchise, but I will argue until the end of days that this is the worst, hands down. I’m not going to sit here and bash this, because I still enjoy watching it, but it became a parody of itself. It’s a great story and logical progression of the story line that again feels fresh, and the action scenes are some of the best of the series, but it was poorly executed. It’s chock full of dated references and Arnold no longer feels like the stoic hero. What I like about this one is that at the very end it throws a curve ball at the audience and doesn’t end on a happy note. The ending we had come to expect didn’t happen and poor Chris Hardwick was left to fend for himself against the machines.

Terminator Salvation

Terminator Franchise SalvationThis movie gets a lot of hate and I’ve never understood that. Was it because of McG? Or the absence of the true Arnold? Was it the fact that it was the first to be rated PG-13 (which is the stupidest complaint I’ve ever heard)? I really don’t know. In my opinion McG stepped out of his bubbly Charlie’s Angels persona and delivered a mature action movie that took us to a place we really have never been before, the future. What I liked about this was the inclusion of the T-600’s. We had heard about them before, but never seen them.

To me it felt like a return to the roots of the Terminator mythos. It’s dark and gritty and not a lot of hope. It also builds John into a badass and puts an interesting spin on his rise to power. How would you react if you knew the future, but no one else did? I would have loved to see the continuation of this story. Unfortunately, with Genisys, I’m just going to have to imagine what would’ve come next.

Terminator: Genisys

As I mentioned before I haven’t seen this yet, but that doesn’t stop me from having my own opinions. I am a firm believer of not judging a movie until you actually see it, however we are human and we form judgements. I’m not a big fan of this recent trend of forgetting some sequels and rewriting the timeline by traveling back in time, but the way Genisys went about it seemed pretty interesting. One of the things that bothered me about T3 was how Arnold had physically changed. They’re all supposed to look the same and yet this one looked a little haggard. Genisys solves that by saying that they age, which I dig a lot. As for the turning of John Connor into a cybernetic killing machine, well, we’ll have to wait and see.

The series has had its ups and downs and has had its future in question multiple times, like most franchises, but for the most part they are all solid movies and I will be the first in line for any future Terminator movie.

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Jim Lincoln (The Film Department)

A man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery. Writer of things. Watcher of stuff. Quoter of movies. Master of puppets.

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