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/

/Terminator Salvation

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/

The Terminator Poster

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 11 – “Self Made Man” – Good Ideas but Unfocused

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      “Self Made Man” was an interesting episode but it didn’t really good. I liked Cameron making a friend and them researching the past, but it feels like following a T-888 is stupid when there is Catherine Weaver out there, it’s like a filler side quest related to an enemy who was never interesting to start with. Still, it was interesting but unfocused.

    The episode was directed by Holly Dale and written by Toni Graphia.

     The story involves Cameron recognizing a T-888 they defeated in the 1920’s and figuring out why it was there as well as Riley and John’s relationship getting fleshed out more when Riley pulls John into a party.

The Pros: Cameron – Cameron is invesitating a fire at a Speakeasy from the 1920’s when she recognizes a T-888, over the course of the time she makes friends with Eric, the nigh shift guy who works there and does what she can to help him but her bluntness ends up pushing him away as well as her reminders of mortality in her attempts to connect. She is still focused on the mission though and when he isn’t there she offers donuts to the next night shift worker. She also takes out the T-888 for good.

The Investigation – The investigation leads to them learning about the rise of gangs in the 20’s and that Stark, the T-888 was sent to kill the Governor in 2010. This leads to a confrontation and her taking out the T-888 as well as learning that the 3 points are a point in time as Stark saw them in the stars.

Eric – Eric is a nice guy who is pretty insecure in himself having just dealt with his mortality through cancer but does all he can to help Cameron until her honesty is too much for him. He felt like a full character and his arc was done by the end, I just hope he’s alive in that universe.

Okay: John Connor – John goes to a party believing Riley to be in trouble and is used by him as we see her steal and John’s PTSD come out…all of this to get close to him and get him to reveal what he knows about the future. I hate Riley and John should be smarter.

The Cons: Riley – Riley is super manipulative as she fakes being in danger and steals the host’s lighter at a party in order to start a fight. All this just to get close to John. God I hate this character.

  This was an okay episode, definitly one of the weaker ones. The 1920’s plot felt like it was going nowhere even though it was fascinating and time with Riley and John was just weak…why couldn’t we have had time with John Henry and Agent Ellison or more Catherine Weaver plots? Ah, well. This was filler and felt like it.

Final Score: 5 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 2, Episode 5 – “Goodbye to all That” – The Cost of the Future

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        This episode is filler but it is good filler. “Goodbye to all That” shows John that he can’t escape his destiny or the fact that he is going to lose people, he has already lost people but he is going to lose more in order to be saved in the future and the past. That’s a lot to take and he does a good showing that in his eyes and facing that dilemma. The side mission with Sarah Connor is pretty great too.

     “Goodbye to all That” was directed by Bryan Spicer and written by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz.

      The story involves Derek and Kyle going to protect a future Resistance member named Marty Bidell. There are three and after the first one is killed, Sarah protects the one who is still a child while Derek and John protect the one at a military camp. Both must deal with the consequences of that protection.

The Pros: The Future – The future has high stakes and involves Kyle Reese risking it all to save a civilian transport being taken to a camp. This leads to Bedell risking it to save him which ends up saving John Connor too since he was trapped in the transport too. It’s done really well with Derek the one most willing to look out for his men and stick to the mission while Kyle is the idealist willing to risk all for others.

Derek Reese – We see Derek’s cautiousness and he has a great moment where he shuts down a boy who sees war as a game when he describes what it’s like to lose one of your brothers in arms and just how serious war is. It is a great speech that gets rid of idealization very quickly.

Sarah Connor – Sarah kidnaps the child Bedell in order to save it and after is doing her best to take care of him knowing he doesn’t trust her and knowing she can’t reach out to his folks without him getting killed by the T-888. It is a rough situation for her but she does a good job and grows from it, also she knows she’s a bad mom, which makes her pretty deep as a character as she is doing her best.

John Connor – John tries to convince Bedell to leave the school at one point but changes his mind later after Derek reminds him what is at stake and after they 3 of them take out the T-888. It is great seeing his dilemma and when he learns of Bedell’s sacrifice he weeps for how hopeless and powerless he feels against destiny and the tragedy of the future.

Loss of Choice – John wrestles with his lack of choice, Bedell does as well and we are never told what the right answer is. The future can change but it still feels set and that is something all the characters are dealing with whenever a Terminator rears it’s head.

Okay: The Bedells – They are kind of bland. The kid is just a  kid who has nothing unique about him and the military guy is just a tough guy who wants to get out. They really don’t have any depth and just feel like a character created for sake of story. Still, they weren’t bad.

The T-888 Bedell Terminator – This guy looks like a Terminator but it also is no Arnold or Cameron or Catherine Weaver. It’s an expendable minion so at most it can be okay.

This was a good episode that shows the price of war and wrestles with destiny. I really enjoyed the moments between Derek and John and between Sarah and Marty as both of them grew from those conversations. Still isn’t a favorite episode though. The T-888 and the Bedells bring it down from being truly great.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 5 – “Queen’s Gambit” – Arraying the Board

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 Well the T-888 is finally gone and as is the more interesting character who is replaced with a more standard bitter hero. I really hope Derek Reese isn’t wasted, but I’m not having much hope on that, though I could be wrong…it’s just there wasn’t much with him this episode, he’s pretty much only there to cause drama.

    “Queen’s Gambit” was directed by Matt Earl Beesley and written by Natalie Chaidez.

     The plot unfolds when Andy is killed a Turk Chess competition as Derek Reese arrives on the scene and finds himself being tracked by Sarah Connor before he is captured by the police. Agent Ellison discovers past Terminator battles and seems willing to listen to what Derek has to say but the T-888 who killed the Resistance fighters appears to come finish the job it started.

The Pros: Agent Ellison – I’m starting to like this guy. He is after the truth no matter how crazy it is and is even willing to listen to Derek since he wants to know why there is synthetic blood at every crime scene. He loses his chance to learn the truth though after the Connor’s break Reese out.

Cameron – Cameron is ruthless and doesn’t get people but she also proves herself as an ally of the Resistance even when Derek Reese tries to kill her. She’s super alienated at school at this point though.

Sarah Connor – Sarah saves Derek as she sees family as all she has left. This leads to her being reckless but also gives her hope for the first time she’s had in a long time, especially after she learns Derek did not kill Andy.

The Battle – The battle to save Derek Reese is fantastic! The T-888 fights them at the prison, on a truck and later it’s chip is taken out by Cameron, which finally leads to it’s defeat.

Okay: John Connor – He’s just kind of there. He tries to be there for the girl whose sister killed herself but he is pushed away and he picks up a creepy friend who hits on Cameron.

The Cons: Cromatie – Cromatie questions Charley Dixon which is just to cause drama between him and his wife and we see him mimic Ellison’s words on getting back to him if they have more information. Just kind of there, doesn’t feel like a threat.

Derek Reese – He’s meant to be intense like Kyle Reese from the original “Terminator” film but he isn’t. He doesn’t do a bad job but he feels unnecessary and his character is wasted this episode as he is mistaken for the one who killed Andy and stole the Turk until the T-888 arrives on the scene.

  This was a good episode, though that has been the entire series so far…at the same time though there haven’t been any great episodes since they all lack focus. There are great character moments and events but nothing that really binds them all together which makes Sarah’s narration at the end have less power since it is hard to really place the theme of each episode since there isn’t focus.

Final Score: 8 / 10

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles – Season 1, Episode 2 – “Gnothi Seauton” – Trust No One

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    “Gnothi Seauton” is a great episode that shows the price of forever being on the run and lying to people is having on the Connors, as well as how much they just want to be able to live a normal life and human relationships. From this John likes getting new identities while Sarah enjoys the time where she has no name as it lets her be free and get in touch with old contacts.

   The episode was directed by David Nutter and written by Josh Friedman.

   The story kicks off with them nearly getting killed by a T-888 who killed a Resistance Cell that was going to help them. It is then they realize they are alone again and Sarah gets in touch with Enrique to establish new identities. He sends her to his nephew Carlos and from here the story unfolds as she must get 20K to pay for the new papers and identities. The Terminator Cromartie also returns having survived the Time Travel Machine and retrieves it’s skull to continue the hunt for the Connors.

The Pros: Time War – We learn in this episode that Resistance fighters have been sent back in time to fight Terminators in the past. This is a little confusing as it shows at one point they get full control of a Time Machine but I guess it makes sense if Arnold’s T-800 in “T2” could get sent back, I just thought the technology would be more rare and wouldn’t be used so much but since it is, I like that it is used in the war and that the war is throughout time against Skynet.

Carlos and his Gang – Carlos and his gang are great where we see they understandably distrust strangers but come around and are true to their word. Carlos is also right about Enrique being a snitch, as he was ready to sell out the Connors to the FBI for money.

Cameron – Cameron mimics humans more in this and we learn that she only follows orders from the John of the future. She knows all about Resistance cells and locations and is able to read well too as she kills Enrique for lying to them about not being a snitch.

John Connor – John is trying to hold onto the life he had not realizing it is gone…from searching his history at a mall and later visiting Charley Dixon, Sarah’s ex-fiance. He is having trouble letting go and it is eating away at him.

Sarah Connor – Sarah Connor is feeling more isolated and alone and is fearful of Cameron as Cameron is out of her control. Her arc in this is making sense of all of that and we learn that she doesn’t know herself when she is on the run and in survival mode or what she is capable of…she only wants to protect herself and John.

Enrique – Enrique is Sarah’s friend from “Terminator 2” and in this we learn he found a working relationship with the FBI. This ends up costing him his life though when he is ready to sell off the Connors and Enrique kills him. Tony Amendola does a great job as him! He has been in a lot of sci. fi. shows so it is great seeing him again here.

Okay: The FBI – The FBI is still just kind of there and don’t feel fully fleshed out as an organization. For example I care nothing for the main investigator because I haven’t been given a reason too.

Charley Dixon – Dixon is also just kind of there as a plot device for John to show the life he could have lived. Plot device and not a fully fleshed out character yet.

The Terminators – Cromartie and the T-888 are just kind of there and they don’t have the level of the threat Arnold’s T-800 had or the T-1000. So far they are pretty weak and only feel powerful because they are robots not because they are Terminators.

  This was a great episode and the show is getting better. The theme of trust is huge with Enrique being a snitch who would have sold them out if Sarah hadn’t shot and also the fact that John and Sarah are taking new identities again in order to bring the war to Skynet. It’s a sad episode with strength to it.

Final Score: 8.7 / 10