REVIEW: GUIDE TO THE TERMINATOR FRANCHISE
THE TERMINATOR (1984)
Bek: One of the greatest romantic movies of all time. Directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn, this is a love story co-starring a killer robot (Schwarzenegger). I had a huge crush on the hero of this movie, Kyle Reese (Biehn) when I was a teenager. I mean, how can you not fall for a hero who has the line: “I came across time for you.” I mean *sniff* there’s all the feels right there.
Bek: An original concept with the pace is fast and furious, the story compelling. And even better, because the movie is done mostly through Sarah Connor’s point of view, you go on the journey with her and feel involved in the story.
Char: Yes. I also loved Kyle Reese. He’s the ultimate tragic hero – selfless, tough, ruthlessly on mission, but undeniably and vulnerably human – and it’s easy to believe he’s from a starving and desperate future time. For a number of years, I’d turn it off before Sarah finds he’s died at the end, because it was too sad. I loved all the subtle depth in the romance that interweaves with the time paradox – the photo of Sarah that he carries for a time was given to him by John (his son, which Kyle doesn’t know) and it’s the same photo that gets taken of Sarah right at the end when she’s thinking of Kyle. I’ve always also been kinda bummed that it’s Sarah’s actions that ultimately kill him. *blubbers quietly in a corner*
Char: *sucks emotions back in* BUT! beyond that, the story is tight, the killer robot villain is an excellent example of “if your enemy isn’t stronger than you, there’s not much of a story”. Kyle even says, at the moment Sarah believes him and asks if he can stop it, “I don’t know. With these weapons? I don’t know.” Still gives me chills. Also, full points for the gritty 80s feel, complete with synth music, shaggy mullet cuts, tie dye, and Bill Paxton playing a punk at the start.
Bek’s Grade: 10 killer robots out of 10
Char’s Grade: 10 uzi 9mms out of 10
TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991)
Bek: The blockbuster sequel that made Schwarzenegger’s career. Directed by James Cameron again, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong. This is the first movie I saw in the cinemas and it make a huge impact on me and my desire to tell stories.
Char: Yeah, I remember my friend’s dad taking us to see it at the drive-in, and it was the first movie I’d seen there. I would have been 11, maybe? Ahem. Anyway …
Bek: The Terminator is sent back to save young John Connor (that little snot, Furlong) from Liquid Assassin-Terminator. Meanwhile, Sarah Connor has been locked up for being crazy fit. I mean, just crazy. The Terminator and Little Snot rescue her, Liquid Man tries to kill them all.
Bek: What I thought was so great about this movie was how Sarah Connor was such a huge role: she’s strong, flawed, tormented and dynamite on-screen. She’s the type of complex female character I feel is missing in many modern action films, though recently we’ve seen a small surge in interesting women characters who can hold their own.
Char: Totally. Her transformation from the soft, vulnerable Sarah of T1 into the warrior mother of T2 (which Kyle describes to her in T1) is really believable. And the depths of her conversion often lead her to do somewhat desperate and stupid things, which actually undermine her objectives, and therein is the complexity. Plus, I spent years wanting to be able to do chin-ups like that.
Bek: There’s also heaps of repeat imagery from the first film, but with a massive budget for impact. Unfortunately, lacked Kyle Reese factor.
Char: Yes, it’s a different kind of movie. It’s a survival film, not a love story. Kyle actually does appear in the director’s cut (which actually is kinda nice, because it marks the transition from Sarah being a moth bashing herself on the inside of the prison walls to focusing her determination into clever, cunning, escaping Sarah – that sequence is one of the best pressure convergences I’ve seen in film) but otherwise, it’s about how Sarah deals with a huge responsibility, that she never wanted, all on her own.
That aside, it’s totally iconic (even with the corny lines), pushed visual effects of the time to new places, and again had a villain so much stronger than the heroes. Also launched Edward Furlong’s descent into the former-child-star-wasteland, which is a shame because of all the castings of John Connor, he’s the one I believe the most.
Bek’s Grade: 10 Sarah Connor chin-ups out of 10
Char’s Grade: 10 screechy Axl Rose theme songs out of 10
TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003)
Bek: Third instalment. This time directed by Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown, U-571). This movie is set 10 years from where the last Terminator left off. Staring Claire Danes and some weedy kid, Arnold Schwarzenegger and some chick playing a new sparkly Terminator. In this movie, a new lady Terminator shows up to kill a grown up John Connor and … zzzz…..
Char: This movie can eff-off, quite frankly. They made so many mistakes. Claire Danes and the some-guy are terrible castings, they didn’t have Sarah Connor (she’s this franchise’s version of Ellen Ripley, so WTF? – her “death” wasn’t even canon), and they decided to make the villain a woman just because, it seems, we hadn’t done that yet.
Bek: The only thing I remember clearly about this movie, is when the Liquid Terminator Lady is pulled over by cops and she makes her boobs big to get away without paying a ticket. Lame. Worse than lame, this movie bored me to tears. And if there’s one thing guaranteed to upset cinema ushers, it’s weeping patrons.
Char: That’s what I remember, too, and that her “amazing weapon” (arm-rocket-thingie) gets disabled early. Double lame. She’s basically a hybrid of the original terminator and the liquid metal terminator – in being both, she is lesser than either. Awful villain. Boring movie. I was disappointed they didn’t all die at the end.
Bek’s Grade: 1.3 Bored Beks out of 10
Char’s Grade: 1 Judgement Day out of 10 deserved
TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009)
Bek: Set in the year 2018, this is the fourth instalment and I don’t care who directed it. Follows the adult John Connor (played by Christian Bale) in the future as mankind’s salvation and … oh, sorry, I dozed off again there ….
Okay. This was a horrible movie. Two men and robots. No cool female characters for me to relate to, no brains, no plot. This movie was frustrating and it bored my pants off. And if there’s one more thing guaranteed to upset cinema ushers, it’s pantless patrons.
Char: Agreed. My anticipation of seeing a movie set in the post-Judgement Day future (which was always so enticing when shown in snippets in T1) made it even worse. Wasn’t Sam Worthington in it, too? How did that happen? Connor is also completely uninspiring – go find the guy who played Connor in the opening sequence of T2 and cast that guy. Bale is too soft! They’re all too soft!
I’m actually going to be heretical and say I didn’t mind the kid cast as a young Kyle Reese – I thought they’d managed a good likeness. But the script was horrible, like they wrote one draft and decided to film it. I succumbed to angry muttering in this film, which would have been angry yelling in my lounge room.
Bek’s Grade: 1.1 Pantless Beks out of 10
Char’s Grade: 1 compound super-profanity out of 10
TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)
Bek: Fifth instalment of the franchise. Directed by Alan Taylor, and starring Emilia Clarke (From Game of Thrones – Khaleesi!), Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney and You-know-who (Schwarzenegger, for those who don’t). This movie is about Kyle Reese going back in time to save Sarah Connor. But everything is different now (I’m still not sure why) and instead of Sarah being a waitress in need of rescuing, she’s a gun-toting warrior woman.
I watched the first half through squinty eyes. Really, I say? That’s John Connor now? That’s Sarah Connor? Really?
Bek: Anyway, the movie has a super complicated plot with pithy techie explanations that I suspect would give the more science-savvy Char a rage stroke. Fortunately, about half way, I decided to just go with it and by the time credits rolled, I didn’t mind how everything was put together.
Char: I must admit I’m still anticipating my rage-stroke. Due to a combination of baby sleeping cycles and the unfriendly session times at my local, I’m yet to see this one. But that won’t prevent me passing limited judgement on a few things. Firstly, WTF is Jai Courtney doing as Kyle Reese? Did the humans discover some secret stash of protein powder and human growth hormone in the future? You’re supposed to be a desperate, starving freedom fighter, dude!
Bek: I also think this movie might have done better if they’d kept one very big spoiler out of the trailers, which I won’t reveal for those who are still going to see. But I mean, talk about giving a big twist away. Either way, it’s a reasonably good addition to the Terminator franchise.
Char: And I don’t mind the likeness of the Sarah Connor, but she’s awfully pixie looking. But those things aside, the trailer did look kind of interesting, and I’ve heard from die-hard fans of the series that they didn’t hate it. That sounds like at least a draw.
Bek’s Grade: 6 Mother of Dragons out of 10
Char’s Grade: [Witholding Judgement Day].