Best and worst terminator movies
Best and worst terminator movies

The rise and fall of the Terminator movies

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There’s a new Terminator movie coming up and it will be directed by Tim Miller. Fortunately for us, it’s will be ignoring the previous films in the franchise (whew!).

Thereby, it thankfully erases the unintended parody that was Terminator Genisys (2015). The Terminator franchise is one of the biggest in the world. However, The very essence of the first two Terminator movies directed by the exceptional James Cameron, was and is being slowly ripped apart. And ripped apart in a way not unlike the T-1000 using a huge metal thingamajig that beat up Arnie’s T-800 in the climax battle of T2: Judgement day.

Let’s talk about what worked in the franchise back then, and to what’s now making Skynet want to ‘Asta La vista, baby’ itself.

1. The Terminator (1984) – The sci-fi slasher movie

Rise and Fall of Terminator franchise
Terminator 1 was a fantastic movie. Source: Warner Brothers

James Cameron was almost as famous as Sly Stallone in the first Rocky movie before this movie came out (not very).  The story was well told and the characters were beautifully complex.

The movie relied heavily on the time’s famous psycho-slasher movies too. Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese was a solid character playing a battle-worn soldier sent back in time by the leader of the human resistance, John Connor with a very clear mission: Don’t let John Connor’s mother, Sarah Connor die. Sure, he eventually fathered John but that’s probably the only time he wavered from his mission.

A lot of scenes show his inner struggles in coming to terms with the world he was in now and the tragic, post-apocalyptic world he was born in to. (A deleted scene also solidifies his mental agony). It’s gut wrenching and an apparent result of his mind being used to the battle field, which I’m sure is reminiscent to any soldier post-war.

The character development in the movie was brilliant, relatable and believable. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor evolved smoothly from a damsel in distress to a woman who would fight back if the need ever arises. Of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the title character made him creepy enough to give you nightmares.

Interestingly, Arnie was called in by Cameron to play Kyle Reese, but in a franchise-altering move, they both decided the role of the Terminator would make more sense for the Austrian bodybuilder. Complete with his generous muscles and relatively less dialogue, he instilled fear just as a cybernetic killing machine from the future should.

2. T2: Judgement Day (1991) – The Terminator plays the protector

Terminator 2 was the best terminator movie
Terminator 2 was even better. Source: Warner Brothers

The sequels in a lot of franchises have never really worked, mainly because they ended up being overshadowed by the glory of the original.

T2: Judgement day is, of course a rare exception beating the original in many, many ways. Arnold Schwarzenegger was back but this time, he wasn’t out for blood. He was the faithful, devoted protector of John Connor, reprogrammed and sent back in time by the latter’s future self to kick metal behinds.

Not only does this machine long to understand human emotions but somehow manages to form something impossible with John Connor: A bond of friendship. The repercussions of the previous film grace the sequel with Sarah Connor now admitted to a mental institution. Her killer biceps makes an appearance too, which is barely a surprise given that you are now aware of being responsible for humanity’s survival.

We finally get to meet John Connor, who is a ten-year-old rebellious kid bending machines to his will from the very start (stealing money from the ATM scene was classic) Edward Furlong did an amazing job in balancing the right amount of logic and compassion needed for a future leader of the human race.

The T-1000 versus the T-100
The T-1000. Source: Warner Brothers

The villain, T-1000, played by Robert Patrick is a mimetic poly-alloy sent by Skynet to kill John Connor. He, or rather it, is smarter, faster and can also shape shift to look like the harmless old lady next door. The adrenaline inducing chase sequences, the David vs. Goliath situations and not to mention the emotional scenes that tug at your heart strings make this movie a class of its own.

The movies that followed only relied in the success of these movies. They were weak imitations and barely had a story that made you stand up and applaud or sit down and cry.

3. T3: Rise of the machines (2003) – Why?

Terminator 3 was pretty bad
Terminator 3 was terrible. Source: Warner Brothers

Arnie came back but James Cameron sat out for this one (good call).

The Terminator was a protector again and was sent from the future by John Connor’s wife played by Claire Daines. The movie safely discards the previous movie’s attempts at stopping judgement day because ‘they only postponed it’. This wouldn’t have sat well with the Terminator from T2 under all that molten metal. Nope not at all. And everything we went through in T2 felt wasted.

Woman in Terminator 3
The villain in Terminator 3 wasn’t terrifying. Source: Warner Brothers

The baddie, a Terminatrix or a T-X as it’s fondly called, is played by Kristanna Loken and hardly comes close to being frightening or threatening although being a superior model to Arnie’s T-800 and Patrick’s T-1000.

Her mission was to kill as many of the future resistance officers, since John was incognito until she luckily finds him. The movie relies heavily on bad puns and past references in a rather mocking way.

4. Terminator: Salvation (2010) – The Dark Knight’s John Connor in a war film

Terminator 4
Christian Bale as John Connor was in fully fledged Batman mode. Source: Warner Brothers

The Terminator movie directed by McG took a bold step away from the original time-travelling, Connor- protecting action film to a human vs. machine war film.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Cameron didn’t involve themselves in this one especially since the former couldn’t let go off his political duties.

It could have been a brilliant film almost at par with the originals. Alas, it fell short with a number of flaws. The story barely came close to explaining or even initiating Connor’s (played by Christian Bale this time) fight against Skynet.

It also somehow ended up being another rescue movie when daddy Kyle Reese played by the late Anton Yelchin gets taken by Skynet. Who intend to use him as bait to try and kill John Connor.

Marcus - Sam Worthington
Marcus played by Sam Worthington. Source: Warner Brothers

A new cyborg called Marcus (Sam Worthington) makes an appearance and steals the show. Unfortunately he dies donating his heart to the leader of the resistance in the end.

The special effects were great including the new T-800 played by Roland Kickinger, with Arnie’s face CGI-ed. The story and characters fell short except maybe for Worthington’s Marcus.

Oh, also someone should have told Christian Bale, that John Connor did not need the Batman’s voice.

5. Terminator: Genisys (2015) – The Parody

Sarah Conner and Pops
Pops and Sarah Conner in Termintor: Gen-uinely awful. Source: Warner Brothers

Many years later, Genisys was announced.

The 65-year-old Arnie was coming back. The loophole that the Terminators’ infiltration feature allowed them to age with time like a normal human being helped made this possible. Smooth.

The movie was also going back to the franchise’s safe bet on time travel. The trailers dropped revealed that John Connor played by Jason Clarke was going to be the bad guy (sigh). Uproar from fans could be heard all the way in 2040. A T-3000?!

I’m sure every Terminator fan gave it a shot and their worst fears were confirmed. The movie was an unintended parody of our beloved Terminator. Using recreated scenes from T1 and T2, the movie held us by the collar and demanded us to take it seriously.

Genysis was the worst of the Terminator movies
Four actors not right for the roles. Source: Warner Brothers

Kyle Reese played by Aussie actor Jai Courtney was a love struck soldier who couldn’t keep his eyes off Sarah Connor played by GoT star, Emilia Clarke. This pretty much destroyed the character’s strong points from The Terminator – which were his focus and dedication to the cause.

This Sarah Connor was different and raised by a Terminator, she fondly called Pops (please make it stop). Pops also played the protective Terminator-in-law to Courtney’s Reese (cue more eye-rolling).

Skynet had always been a software running commands to the machines but we finally see it having a human form played by the famous Matt Smith (for about 2 minutes of screen time), maybe it was inspired by Agent Smith from the Matrix trilogy? Either way, it was bad.

Skynet was also going to have a new origin. It was now a software app that invaded every other IoT in the digital world and had to be stopped in the year 2017. A lot of things were kept in the dark mainly how Matt Smith’s Reality hopping Skynet changed John Connor to a T-3000, and who sent Pops to save Sarah Connor back in time. (Un)fortunately, we’ll never know.

The movie tried and failed by referencing the previous two films plots which shouldn’t have happened given that it’s an alternate timeline. It ended up being as confusing as a mixture peanut butter and jelly with egg yolk and vodka.

Genisys was basically a sci-fi, rom-com with a creaky Terminator and the eleventh Doctor briefly appearing without his TARDIS.

6. Tim Miller’s Terminator (2019) – A New Hope?

2019 Terminator
Is Terminator (2019) actually going to be good.

Tim Miller’s Deadpool was one of the best R-rated movies in recent times.

After his exit from Deadpool 2, he decided to take on the Terminator franchise. The dream team: Arnold, Linda Hamilton (yay!) and James Cameron are back this time.

Cameron will be exec producing and the good man has advised us to forget the debacles that were ‘Rise of the machines, Salvation and (ugh) Genisys’ as and I quote “bad dreams”.

The latest info on the new flick is that it will star a new female lead. The movie will involve the passing on the baton to the younger generation. It’s a soft reboot which hopefully gets the same treatment as Blade Runner 2049, The Force Awakens and Jurassic World, where the universe is intact with a new story.

The movie will once again rely on the Terminator’s ability to age, for Arnold to come back. Linda Hamilton (yay again!) being back as an older Sarah Connor is proof that this is the direct sequel to T2. But what’s interesting here is how will a female lead come into the picture, since all the previous movies revolved around the legend and freedom fighter, John Connor.

If anything is to be learned from the previous (successful) instalments, it’s that without a good story and good character development, the CGI can only do so much. Genisys proved that beautifully. I mean seriously, the iconic line of  “I’ll be back” needn’t be thrown in just to prove it’s part of the franchise, it really is okay to leave it out.

Like Linda Hamilton said when Salvation came out, the franchise came full circle with the first two movies but there will always be someone to milk the cow. Let’s hope that’s not the case with Terminator (2019).

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