Sequel Saturday: Terminator Franchise Salvation, by Mat Bradley-Tschirgi
Next week, we get the fifth film in the legendary Terminator franchise: Terminator: Genisys. Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), it’s the only Terminator sequel series creator James Cameron has outright supported. It looks to be the Back to the Future 2 of the Terminator series with alternate timelines. Think of a reboot/sequel hybrid along the lines of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek.
I have strong ties to the Terminator franchise. As a kid, I was obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger (True Lies) since my Dad took the family on a misguided theatrical adventure to the original Conan the Barbarian. The flick had the beheading of a mother, topless women demons, and snake cults- everything a first grader could want! After Terminator 2: Judgment Day came out on VHS a few years later, Dad showed my sister and I the first two movies. Pretty sure it was a first time watch for him too.
The first Terminator is the most intense in the series. A white-knuckler science-fiction thriller, it features what would become the mainstay James Cameron heroine kicking ass as the male hero plays more of a supporting role. The time travel plot machinations are kept to a minimum as the narrative is stripped down to an extended, feature-length chase scene.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day makes for a softer, kid friendly T-800. The “savior” John Connor is now a punk teen played by Edward Furlong (Stoic). The T-800 is sworn to protect him against the superior, villainous T-1000 model sent from the future. The T-1000 can morph; the T-800 can’t. So 1990’s, such wow!
After a little over a decade, the franchise struck back with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Despite having a narrative than existed mainly to spin its own wheels (a junkie John Connor tries to stop Judgment Day from occurring as he is pursued by the T-X, a female terminator played by Kristanna Loken (In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale). Aside from a marvelous ending and a game Schwarzenegger partaking in a solid gay joke, it’s a wash.
Still, it’s better than the most recent theatrical flick in the series: Terminator Salvation. To take the series to the post-apocalyptic future run by robots was an inspired one. Too bad director McG tells a squalid, emo tale lacking vim and vigor regarding the origins of Kyle Reese and John Connor. Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) has a fun, if small, role as a corporate baddie.
Thus far, only half of the Terminator series has been decent. I like the time travel lunacy vibes the trailers for Terminator Genisys promise, even if they are spoiler heavy. The latest entry is meant to start a new trilogy. We’ll see if audiences are game to give this entry a heartier support than they gave Terminator Salvation.