Let’s Terminate This Film Series

I decided to do a marathon of the Terminator movies. I’m not sure why, other than the fact I’m a big Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. After all, he is the star of the greatest movie ever made. I remember enjoying the first two movies as a kid, but as an adult these things rarely hold up to scrutiny. Plus, I had never seen the fourth movie. So, I decided to watch one a day, and write a mega-review trashing them all.

The Terminator

The original Terminator is a 1984 cheese fest. Watching it today, you can see just how incredibly dated it is. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “LOL BUT BRIK ITS A MOVIE ABOUT TIME TRAVEL SO OF COURSE EVERYTHING IS GOING TO LOOK DATED LOL!” Technically, that’s true. But the cheesy 80s synthesizer music certainly doesn’t give The Terminator a timeless quality. The music is so fucking bad, I cringed every time it started up. I suppose the main titles theme is alright since it evokes the monotonous, single-mindedness of the titular killer robot, but other than that, the music sucks major ass.

The acting doesn’t fare much better. The only person who turns in a good performance is Michael Biehn as Kyle Reese. Arnold is good, I suppose, but he just acts like a robot, which isn’t much of a stretch for him. Linda Hamilton as the main character Sarah Connor is a disaster with her ridiculous shrieking and forced line delivery. She looks like she’s still stuck in rehearsal. Her line “You’re terminated, fucker” is so bad, just try not to laugh out loud when you hear it. The typically good Lance Henriksen is criminally underutilized. The rest of the cast (cops, Connor’s roommate, people with a line or two) are generally terrible. They were barely passable by 1980s acting standards, and completely suck by today’s.

Other stuff makes me want to bash my head against a wall. For example, why do they stick Arnold in a bunch of prosthetic makeup when he’s driving the cop car? He doesn’t take any physical damage in this scene, so the only purpose it serves is to make him look like a freak.

Also, I can’t believe they used the ridiculous trope of “girl with headphones plays music so loud she can’t hear her boyfriend being murdered in the next room.” And let’s not forget how self-proclaimed “Criminal Psychologist” Dr. Silberman is taking emergency pages in the middle of the night. Oh, is someone needing some emergency talk therapy? He’s doing the job of a Psychiatrist, but whoever wrote this movie didn’t give a shit enough to get it right, which is what always happens to the medical profession.

Finally, there is a scene where Reese tells Connor he knows she survives, otherwise he wouldn’t be there to protect her. That makes sense because if she died, John Connor wouldn’t have been born and wouldn’t have sent Reese back in time. The problem with that line is it saps the tension from the movie, knowing that she will survive the entire ordeal.

It looks like James Cameron wrote and directed this movie, but not before ripping off a couple The Outer Limits episodes that were written by Harlan Ellison. Essentially, what Cameron ended up writing was a big chase movie. Reese and Connor run away from the Terminator, it catches them, and then they run away some more. It’s pretty mindless when you think about it. The only truly great scene was when Arnold delivers his famous “I’ll be back” line, and then shoots the fuck out of the LAPD station. Surprisingly, the sex scene wasn’t any good. When you fuck up a scene with nudity, then clearly you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. Although, it wasn’t as bad as the sex scene in Thirst.

Not everything in this movie is terrible, though. Cameron shot this thing on a shoe-string budget, and it shows at times, but overall he did a great job with it. His direction is top-notch, and they had some fairly impressive special effects considering the era and low budget. Cameron has a clear vision for his movie, and that translates well to the audience. It certainly can be very entertaining when the scenes are firing on all cylinders, like the police station scene or the nightclub scene.

Some people out there say this is the best movie of the franchise. They say that because they know the second movie is really the best, and they want to stand out as being different. There is no way in hell this movie is better than T2. People who think that are assholes.

Verdict: Average

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

T2 is by far the best movie in the entire franchise. It also happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies. I saw it in the theater as a kid, and was utterly blown away. And I don’t love it simply out of nostalgia. No, even on rewatches, I can still see this is a damn near flawless movie. One of the greatest examples of the sci-fi/action genre.

With Arnold’s massive popularity, it was a given he would return as the star. But now he had to be the hero. How could they do that if he already died in the last one? Simple; he plays a different terminator, one that was reprogrammed by John Connor in the future to be good, and sent back in time to protect himself when he was a boy. Naturally, Skynet sends back its own terminator, the advanced T-1000, to kill John. What follows is another chase movie, but one that surpasses the original in every conceivable way.

First, the action. The action scenes are amazing. Cameron had a big budget for this movie, and was able to showcase the shootouts, the explosions, and the bone-crunching fights the way they were intended. Each action scene builds upon the previous one, mounting the stakes and building tension. Each time you think the T-1000 has been defeated, it comes back, and the protagonists must devise another means of defeating their seemingly invincible enemy.

Second, the story. The story in T2 is more elaborate than the first. It takes the concepts of the first film but expands upon them. The characters branch out, involving others who were integral in shaping the future. They find their way over to the Cyberdyne lab where Skynet was created, and try to destroy it, preventing the war. The theme here is that the future is not written, and fate can be altered. The singular chase from the first film is deviated from as the protagonists eventually become the pursuers, trying to kill Skynet before it can be created.

Third, the famous special effects. T2 was one of the first movies to expertly use CGI. We see glimses here and there, but the initial mind-blowing moment was watching the T-1000 melt through the bars of the psychiatric prison. After that, pretty much all bets were off. The CGI allowed us to imagine all kinds of possibilities for movies yet to come. It enhanced the villain, and showcased just how different (and far more dangerous) he was from the original terminator. The CGI does look dated when you watch it today, but it was used sparingly, was done tastefully, and generally holds up.

Fourth, there are a ton of classic lines like, “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby.” This movie has more fun than its predecessor and revels in it. It isn’t afraid to tell a joke now and then, lightening the mood.

Fifth, everything else. Pretty much everything about this movie makes it the greatest in the franchise. The acting, from all parties, was top-notch. The directing was tight and focused. The soundtrack was spot-on. The pacing was perfect. Not a single scene feels too short or drags on too long.

With T2, Cameron nailed the Terminator universe. It is a perfect film. I’ve watched it dozens of times over the years, and cannot find a single flaw. It’s funny, exciting, action-packed, and has a deeper message to convey. It’s one of the smartest and most entertaining sci-fi/action films of all time. It will be impossible for almost any other movie to beat it in its genre.

Verdict: Awesome

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

T3 has a lot of problems. The biggest problem is that it is a completely unnecessary film. It is a total rehash of everything that happened in T2. Skynet sends a Terminator back in time to kill John Connor, another terminator comes back in time to protect him, there are a bunch of chase sequences, and the heroes take the fight to the machines in an attempt to prevent the creation of Skynet. If being a rehash wasn’t bad enough, all the events are far worse than what we got in T2.

In Arnold’s introductory scene, he walks into a bar and takes the clothes off a male stripper. This scene obviously is meant to hark back to Arnold’s introductory scene in T2, where he walks into a bar and takes the clothes off a biker. Although, I have to admit I laughed pretty hard when Arnold told the stripper to “Take off your clothes” and the stripper replied, “Patience, honey.” Unfortunately, the scene goes on and ends retardedly with Arnold “talking to the hand.” Ugh.

The only other part I found to be clever was when John meets Arnold’s terminator. Initially, he thinks that this is the same terminator from T2, but it isn’t. It wasn’t there to blow up Cyberdyne, and it never said, “Hasta la vista, baby.” Upon realizing this, John laments, “Oh man, I’m gonna have to teach you everything all over again.” Stupidly, however, he doesn’t take the time to teach this terminator not to kill humans, yet this terminator purposefully does not kill any humans when it shoots at the police with a mini-gun, which is almost exactly the same as the Cyberdyne scene from T2. So, is this terminator special because it has a fucking conscience or something? What the fuck, guys?

Everything else is rehash, rehash, rehash. The villain is a new model terminator, called the T-X. Just like in T2, it is better in every way that Arnold’s terminator. It is also liquid metal (like T2), and the only difference is it has some on-board projectile weapons this time. Despite being a robot, it doesn’t act like one at all. It apparently has emotions, because it acts surprised when it encounters John Connor’s blood, and it screams with a really angry face when it realizes it is about to die and John Connor will get away. Unfortunately, it can’t portray emotions well when it is mimicking human beings. While the T-1000 was able to perfectly mimic human emotions (the default cop version is charming and when it poses as the foster mom it acts like a normal human), the T-X cannot. When it portrays Kate Brewster’s fiance, it acts completely robotic. Again, what the fuck, guys? Did Skynet think that kind of programming wasn’t useful and got rid of it? Ugh.

The movie also seems incredibly rushed. They move from scene to scene at a break-neck speed. There is little time to stop and breathe, to let the characters and plot develop. When dealing with a now-adult version of the man who will save the human race, this seems like a missed opportunity.

In the movie’s defense, I will say that I enjoyed two parts. The chase sequence with the T-X driving the crane and Arnold hanging off the back was pretty cool. The way it ends was even ripped off in The Dark Knight. Seriously, watch them both and see for yourself. Also, the ending was badass. When I first saw this movie in the theater, I couldn’t believe the filmmakers had the balls to actually have Judgment Day take place. All that work trying to prevent it didn’t help, and the war with the machines still came to pass. Also, this is the only Terminator movie that doesn’t end in a goddamn factory.

Overall, though, this movie sucks because it’s like the Chinese version of Terminator 2. I know you got sick of reading about the T2 comparisons, and believe me, I got sick of writing about them. But there are so many, you can’t avoid them. The cheesy dialog, the stupid T-X robot emotions, and the completely rehashed nature of this movie make it worst of the series.

Verdict: Bad

Terminator Salvation

I waited three years after the theatrical release of this movie to see it, simply because I heard it sucked really hard. I didn’t want to expose myself to such trash, so I avoided it. But for this marathon I had to watch it. I prepared for the worst.

This movie takes place after the nuclear winter of Judgment Day, during the war against the machines. John Connor (now played by Christian Bale), is older and a veteran when it comes to fighting terminators. The Resistance has found a technology that may be the key to defeating Skynet. In order to use it, they’ll have to bomb the fuck out of the Skynet base where Kyle Reese (John’s father) is being held prisoner. Obviously, Reese can’t die because if he dies in the future, he will never go back to the past to bang Sarah Connor, John will never be born, and LOL ISN’T TIME TRAVEL FUN LOL?! Complicating matters is Marcus Wright, the first infiltrator terminator. The technology is still somewhat crude, so he’s a human-machine-hybrid. He doesn’t even know he’s a terminator. He was implanted with a mission to gain John’s trust so he can lure him to Skynet where John can finally be killed, and he unwittingly does it.

Wright is interesting because he has a very nice character arc. He begins as a murderer on death row, and by the end he redeems himself, voluntarily choosing death so someone else can live. With the exception of T2, this has the most complex plot of any of the movies. They actually put some time and thought into the story and it really shows. It is also the only Terminator film that isn’t a goddamn chase movie.

The world of TS is well conceived. Finally, we get to see a future that isn’t perpetually night-time, but it’s still dirty and dangerous. The war with the machines is completely believable. The director, McG, only had a couple of movies under his belt at the time, and they were both of questionable quality: Charlie’s Angels and We Are Marshall. But I have to say he handles the Terminator universe quite well. It isn’t rushed, it isn’t a rehash, and he spends an appropriate amount of time building the world of the future before jumping into the action.

I also liked the callbacks to the other movies in the series. They have some of the lines that have been in the others like “Come with me if you want to live.” I was surprised and happy when Connor said the iconic, “I’ll be back” line. They show the old model terminators with the obvious rubber skin as alluded to in the first movie, they play some of Sarah Connor’s tape recordings, they use the “No fate but what we make” motto from T2, and they even have a nod to T3 using the Terminator fuel cells as a means of destroying the Skynet base. As far as I can tell, they didn’t retcon anything, and, most importantly of all, they paid respect to the movies that came before.

The biggest problem with the movie comes from a particular story element. Skynet has targeted Kyle Reese and John Connor as its Number 1 and 2 priority targets to kill. The machines even make a statement about Wright being the first to be able to kill John. Here’s the problem: In movies 1-3 it makes sense that John Connor must die. Skynet was about to be destroyed and sent terminators back in time as a last ditch effort to kill the man it knew would bring about its downfall. In TS, however, there is no time travel. Everything is contained in the year 2018. The war is far from over. There is no way that Skynet would know that John Connor and Kyle Reese would be crucial to its downfall. So, in that respect, the movie fails pretty hard. They could have sent a terminator back to inform Skynet in 2018 or something, and at least then it would have made sense. Apart from that, there aren’t any major issues with the plot.

The acting isn’t great. Bale mostly whispers or screams his lines, but he does a passable job. Bryce Dallas Howard is terrible as Kate Brewster, her line delivery is completely flat, and most of the time she has a deer-in-the-headlights look on her face. And how exactly is she a doctor? In T3, she was a veterinary tech. Suddenly, she is now a human medical doctor. I kind of doubt she went to medical school after the nuclear winter. Anton Yelchin did a fantastic job as Kyle Reese. He was cheesy as Chekov in Star Trek, so I was a little worried here. But his acting was spot-on, and he really evoked a young Michael Biehn, so I was impressed. Moon Bloodgood’s character was disposable, as was her acting. Finally, Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright was mixed. Funnily enough, he played the lead character in James Cameron’s Avatar the same year as TS was released, which is another property started by Cameron. Here, just like in Avatar, his acting is OK, but he has a terrible fake American accent. His native Australian accent comes through often, so it is all the more irritating. There is no reason Marcus Wright could not have been Australian. His acting would have been less distracting that way.

Oh yeah, and Arnold’s “cameo” in this movie was pretty cool, too. Overall, this is a solid entry into the series, and I find it to be the second best. Yes, that’s right, fanboys, Terminator Salvation is better than The Terminator. Deal with it. Let the hate replies begin.

Verdict: Average

The Terminator franchise is an interesting one. It has a compelling mythology, and they did a good job of sticking with it consistently throughout all four movies. If you chose to only watch T1, T2, and TS, you’d have a pretty decent trilogy. The only problem is that you wouldn’t see Judgment Day in T3. I guess what you should do is only watch the last 5 minutes of T3 between T2 and TS.

My overall series ranking: T2 > TS > T1 > T3

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind Terminator 5 being made. They should have it show the end of the war against the machines. The climax of the film could be John Connor sending Kyle Reese and the “good” terminators back in time to protect himself and his mother. That would bring things full circle, and would be a pretty cool ending to a decades-spanning film franchise. After that, though, they need to terminate this series.*

Terminator 5 is upon us, beginning another trilogy of Terminator movies. Will it be any good? We’ll find out soon. I hope so. But it would be nice if they terminated this film series before it gets terrible.

* I wrote that part before Terminator 5 got made. This is an old post that never made it up until today.

16 Responses to “Let’s Terminate This Film Series”

  1. June 29, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    Surprised how negative you are of the original. I really think it’s better than T2 honestly. I don’t think the acting is that bad outside of the minor roles of the roommate and such and Sarah sounding awkward worked since she is just a young woman who isn’t experienced or confident in herself in that time. Though that could be a product of her bad acting but still.

    Meanwhile the cheesy acting form the asylum workers and the psychiatrist from the first movie kinda bothered me and John is irritating and has horrible line delivery throughout the whole movie. Sarah doesn’t do much better either. Really I think the acting is just as bad in the second overall the difference being that there are more characters this time. The story is just as mindless as the first as well really only now it’s more complicated. The terminator is knowledgeable of the entire human anatomy and knows the best way to kill anyone in any situation but doesn’t know what tears are? Can’t smile without being comedically awkward? It’s just as loose with logic and facts in that regard for the sake of the story just like the first movie and every Cameron movie really. Other than that it just feels really bloated while the original is smaller and more contained as a simple chase movie. The sequel is the same thing except it’s bigger, dumber, and longer.

    I do agree that Salvation gets too much hate because it wasn’t made by Cameron and deviated from the formula. On the other hand it’s completely forgettable and doesn’t add much to the franchise anyway. Its just as pointless as 3 and we all know that Reese and Connor will live. Oh, and giving Skynet and face and a voice was the dumbest creative decision they could have made with that movie and it telling the terminator hybrid its plan like that made no sense at all other than giving him the chance and motivation to redeem himself when it should have just wiped his memory and given it new instructions.

    Also the reason Arnold had all that makeup in the car was because he lost his eyebrows in the scene before and doesn’t have eyebrows the rest of the movie.

    • 2 Dober
      July 1, 2015 at 4:13 am

      Agree on this completely.

      Apart from the story recycling in Terminator 3 and its almost satirical tone about the franchise I really like the mainly hand made action sequences in this film.

      Also I can’t understand how anyone can like Salvation which was a disgrace to watch.

      • July 3, 2015 at 11:48 am

        Maybe it was the negative hype. When I watched it I thought, “Geez, it wasn’t the childhood raping holocaust everyone made it out to be.”

    • July 3, 2015 at 11:50 am

      Admittedly, they all have problems. They are all popcorn summer blockbusters. They don’t hold up to intense scrutiny. But, hey, if T2 isn’t one of the best of the genre, then what is?

      • July 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm

        Yeah its still definitely one of the best action movies of the 90s and beyond, but it was more your dislike of the original for things I felt were also in the second one. To each their own though.

  2. 6 lokifire
    June 30, 2015 at 11:34 am

    So I’m reading this, and I’m like: “Silly Brik, there’s only three Terminator movies,” but holy crap, the third one does exist! I completely forgot about it. I went straight from T2 (which is absolutely the best one, you’re completely correct) to The One Starring Christian Bale’s Face, and forgot anything came in between.
    Sounds like it was for the best, though, so I’m cool.

  3. July 1, 2015 at 4:25 am

    Can’t say I agree with you on the *effectiveness* of the original, even though you pulled it apart on a technical level. But hey, each to their own. Actually surprised you put Salvation up as “good”, i expected a “Bad” or “Shitty”, to be honest. I’ve heard shitty things about Genisys (or whatever it’s goddam called) but this whole thing needs to be shut down, quickly.

  4. 10 Radochna
    July 3, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Agreed. Well, maybe I wouldn’t be that hard on first one, and I’m not sure if T2 would made it to my all time best list, but overall my impressions are similar.

  5. 11 Jonny2x4
    July 13, 2015 at 12:30 am

    I’m glad to see there’s someone who feels the same way about T2. I’m not saying T1 is a bad movie, but when did it became cool to pretend it was better than the sequel? I remember liking T3 in theaters for some reason, even I can’t stand to watch it nowadays. Really need to get around seeing Salvation one of these days (it deserves a bit of credit for not rehashing the same time traveling plot from the previous films).

    Did you ever get around seeing The Sarah Connor Chronicle? It was pretty entertaining show, but unfortunately it got canceled after only two seasons and ended with John Connor trapped in an alternate timeline.

    Genisys was a turd by the way, but I don’t see why anyone would expect any better after those trailers. The fact that they spoiled the plot was the least of their problems.

  6. July 18, 2015 at 7:48 am

    I never took the “You *must* survive or I will never be” line as prophecy or set in stone. I thought of it more as motivational speaking. Especially since, as far as Reese is concerned at least, he thinks involved in the writing of a new time line at that point.

  7. 13 Peter D
    July 23, 2015 at 4:50 am

    T2 is a very good film but I view it as a stand alone movie, it doesn’t even need T1 to exist, only uses it as backstory. When you really de construct the series as a whole it becomes an idiotic mind fuck.

    FYI Salvation is gay because ‘let’s just throw John Connor against a wall for the umpteenth time’ rather than snapping his neck like a Terminator should. At least the TX actually Terminates people that matter such as Connors future Commanders and generals etc unlike all the other Terminators so it that respect she’s actually the best terminator of the lot!

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June 2015


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