Movie Monday: The Terminator Franchise

In this edition of Movie Monday I’m going to ramble about the Terminator movies.

***Contains Spoilers***

The Terminator

A cyborg is sent back in time to assassinate the mother, Sarah Connor, of the human resistance leader, John Connor.  At this time she is not even pregnant.  In the future mankind is at war with an Artificial Intelligence called Skynet which all but wiped out humanity.  The Terminator is sent back just as mankind has defeated Skynet.  To protect his mother John Connor sends back a resistance fighter, Kyle Reese.

James Cameron gives us a film which rarely gives the characters time to absorb what is happening to them.  It is one big chase film in some senses.  Arnold Schwarzenegger is The Terminator.  He captures the role perfectly and portrays that heartless killing machine the Terminator is.  I think a big part of the belief he is able to put into the role is he’s size.  Its rare that in everyday life we come across someone of his physic which just adds to the character.  Michael Biehn plays Kyle Reese as a wiry resistance fighter well.  He gives the character a wild, almost eccentric quality which makes him seem crazy.  With Linda Hamilton as the young, and maybe a little naive, lady which both men are targeting.  One trying to kill her and one trying to protect her.  The special effects are outstanding for a film in its time and shows Cameron as a pioneer of special effects.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

In the sequel John Connor is a ten-year old boy living with foster parents as his mother, Sarah Connor, is in a mental asylum after trying to blow up a computer factory.  In his ten years of life John Connor has had his mother preparing him to become this future resistance leader that he is to become one day.  So he’s world has collapsed after she was committed and he was told that she was crazy.  John is rebelling against his foster parents and the law.  Now he is the target of a new Terminator that is sent back to kill him, this Terminator is an advanced prototype and far superior to the earlier models.  As in the first movie the resistance is able to send back a protector, to make sure that the young John Connor survives this assassin from the future.

James Cameron raises the bar with the special effects here.  I first saw this film in my early teens and it blew my mind away, the effects on the T-1000 are brilliant! Robert Patrick plays the T-1000 and he plays it very coldly which serves the character perfectly.  Linda Hamilton returns as a much tougher Sarah Connor.  She has found her inner strength and is efficient in most weapons and is very resourceful.  She is also very single-minded in protecting her son.  Arnold Schwarzenegger does not quite reprise his role as the original terminator but as another machine which is obviously the same exterior model as the previous Terminator.  Again he plays the role perfectly.  Schwarzenegger was born to play this role and no doubt it will be the role that he is most remembered for.

Judgement day is my favourite of the movies.  Partly because it is the first one that I saw and its one of the defining movies ever.  It was not the chase film that The Terminator is, in T2 John and Sarah Connor go on the offensive and take the fight to Skynet, taking the future that they have always know off and trying to prevent any of it happening.

If I ever put together my top 10 movies, this would be in it, fighting for the no.1 spot.

Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines

If I could delete a film from history it would be this one.  Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only main character to return to the franchise and even he could not save it.  Jonathan Mostow directs it and was not the right man for the job.  Going into the film I had a bad feeling as Mostow had Directed U-571, which is a film which claims an American submarine crew captured a German coding machine during World War two when in fact it was British forces that captured it.  That bad feeling was confirmed.  Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is used more for comedy value then any real advancement of the story.   I never thought I would cringe while watching Schwarzenegger playing this role.

The basic plot is a new advanced Terminator is sent back to eliminate John Connor’s lieutenants as well as Connor himself and his future wife, Kate Brewster.  Like in T2: Judgement day John Connor tries to prevent Judgment day from happening with the help of The Terminator and Kate Brewster.

James Cameron was not involved, neither was Linda Hamilton.  If Cameron was not to direct then they should have gone for a visionary director, someone who could bring a whole new element to these films.  The plot had already been done before and if I was writing it I would have focused on the nuclear holocaust which happens at the end of the film.  The Terminator could have gathered John Connor, Kate Brewster and Sarah Connor and got them to safety.  Obviously that would have meant that Linda Hamilton was persuaded to come back to the series, which I would like to think she would have done if her character of Sarah Connor had been given a strong part in the movie.  Claire Danes does well as Kate Brewster, but I was not convinced by Nick Stahl as John Connor.  The character just came across as a whiney little man.  I think an actor who was more physically imposing, or at least had the build to be physically imposing would have been better suited as Stahl is not the biggest of men and add in the way the character was written it made him seem a little pathetic.  Kristanna Loken as the new more advanced terminator tries hard but is not as intimidating as Schwarzenegger or Robert Patrick were.

Maybe I am being a little harsh about this film, but standing against its predecessors it needed to be something special.  It detailed the fall of mankind, and the rise of the machines.  This should have been a film or epic proportions, instead it felt like a cheap knock off.

Terminator Salvation

In this fourth film we see a departure from the time travel element that had been so important in the previous three film.  Here we see a film focused around the events years after Judgement day where John Connor is not quit the leader of the resistance and to a certain degree is still an outsider.  He is also viewed as a prophet of sorts.

The film starts before Terminator 3 happens and we see death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) sign his body over to Cyberdyne Systems for medical research after he’s death sentence is carried out.  We never really find out what he does to end up on death row though.  We then shoot forward in time to see John Connor Christian Bale) infiltrating a Skynet base and discovering evidence that a new terminator, the T-800 is being developed.  That base then blows up leaving Connor the sole survivor.  Then he goes to the resistance command and gets authorisation to try out a kill coded for the terminators.  He also learns that he and Kyle Reese are top of a Skynet kill list so he proceeds to try to find Kyle Reese.  Marcus Wright is seen to escape the Skynet base where Connor finds the T-800 plans.  Marcus befriends Kyle Reese before he is captured by Skynet.  After Reese’s capture Marcus becomes friends with resistance pilot Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood) who later helps him escape when Connor and the resistance discover that he is a cyborg.  Marcus saves Connor’s life as he is hunting down the cyborg after his escape and Marcus promises to help Connor get into Skynet’s San Francisco base.  Connor gets into Skynet, saves Kyle Reese, with a little help from Marcus but Connor is fatally wounded so Marcus gives his heart to save Connor’s life.

For me this is a good movie and I did not think that it was going to be any good at all.  From what I can make out I’m in the minority as many people did not seem to like the film.  My biggest doubts about the film came from McG being the director.  I’d seen Charlies Angels : Full Throttle and feared what McG would do with this film, but I am impressed.  The look of the film is unlike anything that we have seen in previous Terminator films, and gives us a new look of the future after Judgment day.  In the first two films we seen snippets of the future and its very dark and the war has been raging for many years.  Here the war has only been going for about a decade so the world is not quite as desolate as it is portrayed in the previous films.

Christian Bale is okay as John Connor, but it’s not he’s strongest role in my opinion.  I’d like to see an actor like Karl Urban or Adrien Brody take on the role.  Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kate Brewster, although I suppose she’s Kate Connor by this point, and has a secondary role but she still plays an important part of seeing the other side of John Connor.  There are a couple of good scenes between John and Kate which is a nice touch.  Sam Worthington almost steals the show as Marcus Wright

The only thing that I really did not like was the ending, I think it could have been done differently and still got the same message across.  That aside I think it’s a good sequel and potentially a good beginning to a new series of movies which tell the story up to the Resistance victory which pushes Skynet to send back The terminator to try to kill Sarah Connor

What’s next?

There are various rumours about where the franchise will be going next.  From what I’ve read the rights to movies has changed hands again and there are rumours that Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed on to do two more movies.  I kind of hope that one is false as I think he’s now a little too old to be running around playing an efficient killing machine, but we will have to wait and see.  I did read one thing that said that Joss Whedon had tried to buy the rights to the films.  I could not think of a better man to oversee any future films although I doubt he will ever have the chance.

If any more films are made they need to be loyal to the original films but at the same time bring something new and groundbreaking to the series, they need people who can raise the expectation in the Terminator films once more and give the fans the movies in this universe we deserve.

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