The “Terminator” Franchise – Worst to Best

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     Much like the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the “Terminator” Franchise is based in a B Movie and really carries that all the way through. The times it is greater than a B Movie are the times we have characters, arcs and beautiful cinematography…but the soundtrack never really grew beyond it’s B Movie basis and that influence is something in all the films, as well as the television show.

       This is a Franchise that has not aged well. Unlike the “Jurassic Park” Franchise, the lessons from the first 2 “Terminator” films are forgotten in all the rest and the series seems unable to let itself be done, even when it messes up royally. This is a shame as this Franchise has brought in some really good talent and I can even respect some of the weird side projects that happened, since they at least tried to be more original while still honoring the core protagonists and antagonists of the Franchise (Skynet and the Resistance). But at the end of the day, this is a Franchise I just wish was done. The story has been told and if you aren’t going to end it and simply tease that maybe the mission wasn’t successful and Skynet will come back…than you are just treading water, and static is what kills any ongoing story. Stories have to change, or they’ll die to the audience and to themselves.

    So without further ado, here are the stories from the “Terminator” Franchise (including the “Sarah Connor Chronicles”) from worst to best.

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6th – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

“Rise of the Machines” feels cheap, I mean made for the SyFy Channel cheap. The characters aren’t memorable at all, except maybe John Connor and Arnold’s T-101 is simply there to make horrible references to the other 2 films and to be a dick to John Connor and a really terrible father figure. Future John sending this version back made no sense, especially since they are dealing a very poorly designed and executed T-X who takes the Super Models as Robots trope and just runs with it. She never feels like a threat and the cinematography and writing are just terrible. It is one of the worst films I’ve ever watched.

Final Score: 2 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-3-rise-of-the-machines-2003-feels-like-a-made-for-television-movie-and-misses-what-made-its-predecessors-good/

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5th – Terminator Genisys (2015)

    Where “Rise of the Machines” is simply bad, “Genisys” is incoherent…which is sad because there could have been a great film in here about Skynet’s fall and the last of of Kyle Reese going back in time to complete the loop…but the story keeps going and we have an old T-101 acting as Sarah Connor’s father figure, a T-1000 because reasons and Time Machines in the present that Arnold’s T-101 was able to build because REASONS! Also the poster is a spoiler in regards to the plot and I never got why that plot decision was made as Sarah has never met her future son. This should have been called “Terminator: Referynce” as that is the only coherent thing holding this plot together when they Jettison the first act to play Fanservice with the first 2 Terminator films. Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese are also really bland as characters and cannot carry this film.

Final Score: 6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/terminator-genisys-2015-terminator-referynce-with-a-great-missed-story/

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4th – Terminator Salvation (2009)

    “Salvation” has a lot of interesting ideas and in my opinion Christian Bale is the best John Connor and Anton Yelchin is the best Kyle Reese. The others are teens or are faceless blunt action stars who have no personality…these guys do and that is what saves the sometimes incoherent confusion that is sometimes the plot as we have an early cyborg as our hero who was once an ex-convict seeking redemption and the truth of who he is. Seeing the reality where Skynet has destroyed the world and the politics between John Connor and the Council of Humanity is really cool too as they all deal with questions of destiny and the hard choices during war where you deal with an enemy who can take your form.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/17/terminator-salvation-2009-when-redemption-means-death/

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3rd – The Terminator (1984)

    “The Terminator” is a solid action B Film. It doesn’t strive to be more which is why I only consider it good and I do think that more could have been done with Sarah Connor’s agency (Kyle Reese is the main person fighting the Terminator up until Sarah finally fights it at the end) and these are things that keep it in it’s era as a solid 80’s B Action Flick. Arnold does a great job as the T-101 Terminator threat and Michael Biehn is a good Kyle Reese, though it is Linda Hamilton who truly carries this film by subverting the 80’s action trope and her boyfriend rather than her getting Fridged by the monster to motivate the future films. It’s sad we don’t have more female action heroes. This is the film that starts this though I think that is shown better in “T2” and “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.”

Final Score: 8 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/the-terminator-1984-a-good-thriller-with-a-decent-heroine-arc/

:Sarah Connor Chronicles poster

2nd – Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

    “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” is a show that ends with a cliffhanger but still manages to be good than the original “Terminator,” which does have a complete story and ending. Why is this the case? The core answer is the characters go through arcs and change over the course of the film. Sarah Connor learns to finally let go of John, John becomes the Resistance leader, which is a destiny he is always fighting against and characters like Agent Ellison become allies against Skynet after hunting Sarah and Catherine Weaver is willing to deal with humanity again as her 3rd Faction shows that A.I. is not all out to destroy humankind. The character of John Henry (an early Skynet A.I. that could become Skynet or destroy Skynet) is handled really well too and through him we see explorations of morality just as our heroes make tough choices showing that none of them are really good, they’re just survivors. This is what elevates it above “The Terminator” even with the Cliffhanger ending since the series got canceled. Lena Heady is awesome as Sarah Connor and Summer Glau is wonderful as the Terminator ally Cameron.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/terminator-the-sarah-connor-chronicles-retrospect-good-ideas-and-characters-killed-by-a-cliffhanger/

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1st – Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

    “T2” still stands as the greatest of the Franchise. The T-1000 is a brilliant threat, everyone changes including Arnold’s T-101 who becomes human as we see him no longer terminate humans and actually grow close to John Connor. Linda Hamilton is the best action hero in this too as the unstable prophet who knows the end is coming and is doing all in her power to fight the machines. Her arc is also growing beyond her fear of the machines as we see her have a respect for the T-101 that saves their life. This film also has a huge bent of being anti-authority and it handles it well, from taking down the big business that will become Skynet and the fact that the T-1000 takes the form of a cop and uses that form to infiltrate areas and become a part of the hunt for Sarah Connor after she escapes the asylum. All these things are part of what make this film a classic and one of my all time favorite films and my only favorite film and story of this Franchise.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10

https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/terminator-2-judgment-day-1991-a-reflective-action-film-on-destiny-the-soul-and-choice/

     This is a Franchise that should just die unless it gets a “Fury Road” re-imagining that allows it to do something in such a new way with a greater point to it. At this point the Franchise is running in place, recycling points and scenes (looking at you “Genisys” and “T3” and “Salvation” to a degree) and that is why no one really looks on this Franchise fondly anymore. It has killed the goodwill that the first 2 films created and it has been running on the nostalgia of those 2 films ever since. It is this dependence on nostalgia that I think will kill the Franchise in the end. You change and adapt or you die and at the end of the day I don’t think this Franchise will make money if it continues the trend it has been going on since “T2.” I like sci. fi., Time Travel, Robots and resistance but at some point if a series has run out of ideas, let a new story be allowed the same opportunity James Cameron got when he made that first film.

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“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Retrospect – Good Ideas and Characters Killed by a Cliffhanger

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     “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” is a good show at the end of the day. It is a show with a lot of missed potential, especially in how it handled it’s ending and some of the mythology, but what it does right it does really well. This is something that can’t be said for some shows that got canceled, like “Helix” where they clearly had no idea where they were going. This show at least looks like it was going somewhere, it just never got the chance to complete the thoughts and the writers clearly assumed they had more time than they did.

    Without further ado, here is what I thought worked and didn’t work about the show.

The Pros: Jesse – Jesse was a really cool character, as we see she worked with Machines in the past and only turned on them and didn’t trust them after they kept her from communicating directly with John Connor and when the T-1001 killed members of her crew. Her story is a tragedy and I hope she is still out there somewhere fighting Skynet in this universe.

Agent Ellison – Ellison was my favorite character on the show. He was a man of faith who taught John Henry (an A.I. using the body of a Terminator who’d hunted him) morals and in the end almost develop a friendship. He is a father figure to both him and Savannah and the kindest character as we see him help the Connors and get the FBI off their trail as his investigation leads to him believing in what Sarah Connor was saying.

Catherine Weaver – Catherine Weaver is the T-1001 that killed the crew on the sub and turns things on it’s head when she offers John the chance for an alliance when she is the one with the power. She is a fascinating character as she disregards life for the big picture and her drive is to create an A.I. who will look after the 3rd Faction and find some peace with humanity too. To this end she created John Henry through Project Babylon. Eventually she travels with John into the future too.

John Henry – John Henry is a powerful A.I. who is a child and who is friends with Savannah and Ellison. He is good at his core and is innocence. This is one reason I’m curious why he jumped to the future…is that where his brother Skynet is located? His drive before the end was to find and meet up with his brother.

Cameron – Cameron’s arc is dealing with her feelings for John and making her own way. At times it looks like she is a member of the 3rd Faction, for example when Allison is used as her template to get close to John…but she also turns down Catherine Weaver’s offer. In this we see that she can lie, have sensation but at the core does what is in the best interest of John Connor. She is his protector, the way the T-800 was in “Terminator 2.” Summer Glau does an amazing job.

Sarah Connor – Lena Heady does an amazing job as Sarah Connor! Her Sarah Connor is raw and dealing with trying to raise a child knowing the end is coming and knowing he’s destined for a future she doesn’t fully understand. To this end we see her mess up a lot, but always come through for John…in the end she is even able to let go as she lets John Time Travel as she knows she can’t take any more unknowns.

John Connor – John Connor goes from a teen running from his future to a guy embracing it after he has lost so much and realizes that the only thing he can count on is himself and the choices he makes. He becomes a good leader in this and we see him put his life on the line countless times for others and able to work with anyone be they Terminator or human.

The 3rd Faction – The 3rd Faction fascinates me. They want to fight Skynet but also be respected too as they attempt to make their own life. Cameron is a part of them and Catherine Weaver is one of their leaders…John Henry is their attempt to have full freedom and agency too since it is a learning A.I. that is seeking to be human and more, while Skynet is like a virus infecting computer systems and seeking control.

The Cons: The Cliffhanger – John Connor and Weaver travel to the future, Ellison and Sarah Connor stay behind. John Connor meets his Dad and Derek, and what time are we in exactly?

Riley – Riley was a plot device who eventually became a character and died. When she did become a character she was someone going against what she was being trained to do, and that made her interesting…but her being a post-apocalyptic refugee was never fully explored. How does someone feral come back to being human? The show never tackled that.

Derek Reese – The guy was a dick who I couldn’t stand for most of the time and the fact that he might have killed the woman he loves damns him in my book. He was forgiven for killing his best friend in the future, Jesse deserves the same…especially since everything she did was in self-defense. Did not miss this character when he died as that single episode destroyed what good will he’d managed to build up.

Unanswered Questions – There are a lot of unanswered questions. Where was Skynet during all of the events that they sent killers? Where was John Henry’s brother? What future did Catherine and John travel too? What does the 3rd Faction want?

     There was a lot that worked with this series, which is why I won’t pan it. It’s a fun adventure and a good character series even if there were some characters like Derek Reese or Riley who I never felt fully worked and only really served their function in the story by dying. No show should have characters that exist only for that purpose but this one did and that is part of what brought it down. If you like “Terminator 2” you will probably like this show, it captures a lot of what made that film good in how it handles characters, Skynet and choice.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 21 – “Adam Raised a Cain” – Factions in Play

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     A character who I hated and still dislike died this episode. We also see Skynet acting like a threat and things coming to a head with Weaver’s faction about to meet the Connor’s faction. It is a good but not great episode as the loss in this wasn’t that strong of loss. There are some great character moments though.

     The episode was directed by Charles Beeson and written by Toni Graphia.

     The story involves Skynet’s attempt to kill Savannah, but she is rescued by John Connor and his faction leading to the death of Derek Reese by the T-888 Skynet sent. From here they must find out why she’s being hunted as Weaver and Ellison seek to get her back and protect John Henry.

The Pros: John Henry – John does all he can to protect Savannah in this, as to him they are friends. He also is put in a difficult situation when both Weaver and Ellison are having him hold secrets for them against one another. It’s sad as he is innocent and with the lies we see where possible corruption could sneak in.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is adiment about being the only one who can protect Savannah, though Ellison finally convinces her by reminding her that it is Catherine’s choice as a mother too, though it is for not as Weaver or the FBI created a trap and Sarah ends up in police custody once again.

John Connor – We see John powerless in this, but also figuring things out as they learn about the existence of John Henry and fear the rise of Skynet from him. He doesn’t really feel Derek’s loss since he has already had so many die for him anyway and in this he realizes more how his mother is trying to protect him.

Agent Ellison – Ellison is shown to be a good guy as he believes Sarah and John but still has to get Savannah back to Weaver. To this end we see him meet them on multiple occasions and seek compromise each time. The betrayal of Sarah hits him hard as he wanted her protection.

Catherine Weaver – Weaver is shown to be conniving but with a big picture in mind as she believes John Henry and Savannah are connected to saving the future. She isn’t wrong as their relationship is making John Henry good rather than bad as he has friends and has learned to care about people through her, but she also always expects to get her way and the betrayal of Ellison’s plan shows she can’t be trusted.

Okay: Cameron – She is mostly just there threatening Ellison. We don’t gain anything new about her character or motivations, just that she thinks that Sarah most likely has cancer.

  This episode was good, but still feels like more time could have been needed to explore things. We don’t know anything about John Henry’s brother and the Skynet faction is only seen through the face of one T-888. That isn’t enough to really draw us in or see them as a threat, even with their killing Charley and Derek.

Final Score: 7.5 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 20 – “To The Lighthouse” – Skynet’s Play

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      This episode really shows Skynet in action as we see that it isn’t Catherine Weaver’s organization that has been doing a lot of the killings (Weaver does that personally). This faction is absolutely ruthless and uses humans as it’s pawns. We also see them hack John Henry and learn that the other intelligence that is Skynet is John Henry’s brother and had tried to gain control of him.

      “To The Lighthouse” was directed by Guy Ferland and written by Natalie Chaidez.

     The story involves John Henry being hacked and them having to shut him down and fight out what happened. Sarah, Derek, Cameron, John and Charley attempt to work together after the lies and lack of trust have torn them apart.

The Pros: Charley Dixon – Charley is shown to be a stand-up guy in this as he protects John and even manages to resolve things with Sarah Connor before Skynet’s forces finally kill him. He has some great character moments with John in this before his death.

John Connor – John is shown to be wrestling more with his destiny but he truly has found a father in Charley.

Derek and Cameron – Derek and Cameron protect one another in this as we see that they don’t trust each other but in the end know they can count on each other. For example Cameron rescues Derek from Skynet’s forces and we see that a comradery has grown between them.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is dealing with the fact that she may have cancer after she removes the Skynet wire she got when she was kidnapped by one of Skynet’s men. We see the lengths she is willing to go to to protect John and that she wants peace for him more than anything else and that bringing him to Charley was trying to help escape from Destiny again.

John Henry, Ellison and Weaver – These two have a great relationship and after John Henry “dies” he works with Weaver and Ellison to try and find out how to learn about his Brother who is made from the same code he is. This is our introduction to the Skynet faction in my opinion as John Henry is innocent and is not an antagonist in any way.

   In this episode we see some of the setup and that this 3rd Faction of Terminators maybe a John Henry corrupted in the future if Sarah Connor’s party tries to kill it making it become the Skynet of the Future believing all humans are bad. This episode is all about setup but it does a good job standing on it’s own as well.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episodes 18-19 – “Today is the Day” Parts 1 and 2 – To Be John Connor

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      These episodes made me realize again why I have hated the character of Derek Reese. He is a bit of a hypocrite and the fact that it is left ambiguous that he did a horrible act does not reflect well on his character as a person. He is clearly no Kyle Reese and never was.

   The episodes were directed by Guy Norman Bee and written by Ashley E. Miller and Zack Stentz.

      The story involves Jesse’s backstory as we learn what happened when she was sent on a secret mission that was being run by a Machine working for the Resistance. In the present the lie of what happened comes to the surface as distrust of Cameron continues to grow.

The Pros: The Mission – The mission is to do a pick up at a Oil Rig and deliver it to John Connor. Distrust of the machine in control of the mission leads to the crew rebelling and the T-1001 in the case being released and killing one of the crew in self-defense. It ends with the T-1001 telling Jesse there will be no Alliance with them. It’s sad but it shows why Jesse no longer trusts “Metal.” I really liked how they handled this two-parter episode.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is the one trying to protect John from Cameron and is onboard with killing her until they learn the truth about Jesse being the one to have killed Riley. We see just how much her distrust has grown.

Cameron – Cameron is shown to have a good core again in this as she does everything to show she is trustworthy and we get to see why John trusts her as they share more tender moments together. It’s a great relationship.

John Connor – This episode is really about John Connor embracing his role as we see that he did not protect Riley but let her make her own choices and he does the same with Riley, Derek and everyone else. He has become the detached leader with the only real close person to him being Cameron.

Jesse – Jesse’s story is a tragedy and in my opinion she is one of the best characters on the show. It took the 3rd Faction of machines killing her people on the sub for her to turn against them fully as we see she had no problem working with them prior. In the end she loses her’s and Derek’s baby in the miscarriage but is never given the chance to share that with Derek as he has gone all paranoid. She is a flawed character but is no more better or worse than any other character. They should have still used her as part of the team not exiled/killed her.

The Cons: Derek Reese – Not even the suggestion of killing Jesse…Jesse was flawed but everything she did in the fight was in self-defense, she was also one of the few allies they had against Skynet…great going hero, if you did shoot her you stabbed yourself in the foot and killed the person you love. What sympathy I had for this character went away since there is only the possibility he didn’t kill her and that isn’t enough to save how much the alternative makes this character a bastard.

 This was a solidly great episode and one that really shows what the future is like and how the work camps have made humanity raw and angry and that things are not as they appear…from Jesse learning she was pregnant from Cameron, the T-1001 being a possible ally against Skynet. This was a beautifully tragic episode that really illustrated the best this episode had to offer.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 16 – “Some Must Watch, While Some Must Sleep” – Finding Reality

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       This was an enjoyable mind bending episode as it jumps between the dream world forced upon Sarah Connor and her being a captive of a man who she believed dead. Either way it goes there are things we learn about Sarah Connor and she is always fighting, which makes this episode really good. Stakes never leave, no matter what world Sarah Connor is in.

      The episode was directed by Scott Lautanen and written by Natalie Chaidez and Denise The.

     The story involves Sarah being captured by Winston who she thought she had killed as he tries to get her to call John and bring John to him and Skynet. The way this executed is by inducing a delusion that she is in a sleep facility receiving therapy, she must fight in both worlds in order to find reality again.

The Pros: Winston – Winston feels like he is stuck and regrets the murders he’s done, he also feels like he is so deep in it that he has no choice. Learning this about him made him a dynamic foe and I really enjoyed the interactions he had with Sarah Connor.

The Sleep Facility – The facility gives a false sense of peace as both the therapists and the clients reveal the different ways that Sarah feels she has or lacks control as well as her dream of John being there for her and her no longer needing to protect him so she can finally heal. It is powerful and there are a lot of great Sarah Connor moments that the facility reveals.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor drives the story and it is mostly in her head. In it we learn how trapped she feels and how her devotion to John and stopping Judgement Day has made it so she can’t sleep, but even in her drive she is still aware enough of the need to move and let go eventually if she can. She is broken from all she has been through and just wants rest and safety.

The Cons: Dreams – The signifigance of dreams is never fully realized again. If Sarah is supposed to be a prophet should these dreams help her learn more about the future and skynet? It feels like a major missed opportunity here.

    This was a great episode and one I’d highly recommend. The only downside to it is that the idea of dreams as a way to reveal truth to Sarah are never fully explored. We get hints at the possibility with the Coyote as a guide, but that is about it. Most of what makes this episode work are the character moments between Sarah and Winston and her drive to escape both her metaphorical prison and her actual prison in the truck.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 15 – “Desert Cantos” – Secrets of the Dead

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     “Desert Cantos” was a powerful episode with a major “X-Files” feel that finally showed us the UFO is tied to the future thankfully and in a good way! It is a reflective  and another sign of just how good this series can be. I won’t be surprised if by the end I’m sad it got canceled.

     The episode was directed by J. Miller Tobin and written by John Wirth and Ian Goldberg.

      The story involves Sarah Connor and the Team investigating the massacre that happened at the facility Catherine Weaver took off. She hears the of the man she killed’s wife and John gets closer to the daughter of one of the men who may not be dead and is being hunted by an agent sent by Catherine Weaver.

The Pros: The Investigation – The investigation really makes the episode amazing as our team grows close to all the players. From Derek gaining the trust of the agent, to Sarah connecting with the wife and John connecting with the daughter of the man who is still alive and is an agent of Skynet we learn after.

The Funeral – Different events of the investigation unfold on different parts of the funeral and end with the wake. It is powerful and the theme of death is made more powerful as the drone we see is the prototype for the future drones that would drop Terminators and hunt humans.

Ellison – Ellison talks to Weaver about her daughter and the anniversary of the death of her husband, he is once again the human element among the machines and makes her reach out to her daughter and seek to connect. He also begins to suspect more as one of the scientists tells him how she changed dramatically after the death

Catherine Weaver – After the massacre seeing her try to connect with her adopted daughter whose mother she killed is powerful. Seeing her try to be human is good though and shows she’s never been a complete monster.

Sarah Connor – Tries to protect the wife of the man she killed by hiding the truth. She knows that the truth is too hard to know sometimes, especially when he and another man who faked his death are shown to be hitmen for ZeiraCorp showing that Skynet’s influence is already in the present and everyone is under surveillance.

   This episode had a wonderful layout and humanized a lot of minor characters as well as showing how easy it is to ignore the truth if it is uncomfortable. The illusion sadly helps people live and Sarah Connor realizes it and from it why so many see her as crazy. It’s powerful and shows that the people did nothing since the corporation provided jobs, even though so many people they knew were killed in the end and even the one they were trying to protect is being hunted. This is an episode on the folly of humanity.

Final Score: 10 / 10