Posts Tagged ‘terminator

The Terminator Franchise

I should first admit that I think that not only is Terminator 2: Judgment Day the best sequel of all time (yes, even edging out Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back), it’s also one of the best movies of all time, period.  In addition to incredible action, effects, and pacing, the movie manages to deliver an important message about human nature and our propensity towards violence and self destruction.  The final line is so powerful that I’ll never forget it.  Sarah Connor narrates over an empty road during the night: “The unknown future rolls toward us.  I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope.  Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”

This film delivers on the promise from the first movie, when Kyle Reese repeats the words John Connor made him memorize to Sarah: “Thank you, Sarah, for your courage through the dark years.  I can’t help you with what you must soon face, except to say that the future is not set.  There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.  You must be stronger than you imagine you can be.  You must survive, or I will never exist.”  Indeed, the transformation of Sarah Connor from the first film to the sequel is staggering — she goes from a naive and gentle waitress in The Terminator to a hardened and violent soldier in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.  Linda Hamilton’s performances in both films are incomparable.  The best part is that they do indeed change the course of history that night at Cyberdyne Systems, one in which their Terminator stands as an unstoppable force against law enforcement in what can only be described as a preview of the apocalypse they’re trying to prevent.  Poignantly, no fate.

This second film is the perfect ending to the franchise.  There is zero need to go any further, but given the nature of how Hollywood works as a profit-driven enterprise, more sequels were inevitable.  As such, we were given what I consider one of the most offensive followups in cinematic history: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.  Not because the film was all that bad: truly, most of it was enjoyable, in the mindless action movie sense.  But because of the ending when it’s revealed that Judgment Day is inevitable after all, that everything that has come before was all for naught.  The central tenant of James Cameron’s two films was discarded all for the sake of generating more sequels — which he had no part of, I should point out.

Terminator: Salvation was a confusing mess, so much so that I barely remember it.  The post-Judgment Day world that is shown in this film is radically different from the portrayals in the James Cameron entries.  As such, I can’t even consider it canon (for whatever that means at this point), since the most recent Terminator: Genisys seems to ignore this as well.

Speaking of, I went to see Genisys yesterday, and just like Rise of the Machines, I felt like this was a completely enjoyable action flick.  Unlike Rise of the Machines, however, Genisys avoided throwing a giant middle finger at the No Fate thread from the original films, at least.  Nevertheless, this film’s overarching plot and how it fits in with the timeline is bizarre and borderline non-sensical.  Even so, I appreciate that this movie essentially establishes that it’s in its own parallel timeline, which at least affords it the possibility of taking the franchise into another direction without denigrating the Cameron ones.

Genisys shows us parts from The Terminator, but turned on its head because of the timeline changes.  Instead of the Sarah Connor who was blissfully naive at the beginning, Kyle Reese discovers one who is already trained and ready for the oncoming apocalypse.  But the strangeness of this version of Sarah is that, unlike Linda Hamilton’s Judgment Day incarnation, Emilia Clarke’s rendition is has much softer edges.  In a way, I’m fine with this, but on the other hand, I feel like the writers decided to make her more likable to modern audiences.  The tough plus sweet combination is a strange one for the Sarah Connor I know.

Similarly, Kyle Reese is quite different this time around, except that it makes less sense because he’s still supposed to be the same incarnation as Michael Biehn’s version.  And while Jai Courtney does fine work in his portrayal of this version of Reese, I feel strongly that his is considerably weaker.  Considerably safer.  What I mean by that is that Biehn played an emotionally shredded Kyle Reese who had seen nothing but nonstop horror and death in his life, and bore all kinds of scars both literally and figuratively.  This was a man with severe PTSD who feels wildly out of place when he travels to pre-Judgment Day 1984.  You can completely understand why such a disaffected person would fall in love with a photograph of Sarah Connor, this idyllic beauty that looked like she lived on another world.  The fantasy of her ran deeper for Kyle than we could comprehend.

Conversely, Jai Courtney’s Kyle Reese is shown to be more gallant, more emotionally stable.  He comes off like a more generic expression of what a solider should be, as is often the case in contemporary action movies, as opposed to what one can become after decades of agony.  The juxtaposition between Courtney’s Reese and Clarke’s Connor is more an awkward blind date than what Biehn and Hamilton had, which was more visceral and mutually dependent.

After thinking about this, I realized what my preference for a sequel would have been for the Cameron movies.  Rather than mess around with the idea that somehow the actions of Sarah, the Terminator, young John, and Miles accounted for nothing, I would rather have seen a film that follows up with the war-hero John Connor’s time after he sends back the two guardians to protect his mother and younger self.  Instead, I would go with the Back to the Future 2 idea of time travel with split timelines (alternate realities).  While Judgment Day was averted, the time that older John Connor lives in continues, its own world.

In this still post-Judgment Day world, I would portray the battle against the forces of Skynet as still continuing.  While the resistance managed to destroy its central core, all the machines it had created are still functioning, still obeying their directives.  Perhaps, like bees, the machines will designate a new queen, and a new AI, born without human design, to emerge and present a wholly new kind of threat.


Written by Michael

7 July 2015 at 1:54 pm

Sci-Fi TV and Me – May 16, 2009

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Just wanted to drop some thoughts on the sci-fi shows I watch, with emphasis on their finales.  This is spoiler-laden.  You have been warned.

1. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The finale ended in a very strange way, perhaps one that will confuse most people.  Sarah makes a conscious decision to not follow her son, John, into the future to remain attached to him at the hip at every single moment — as she’s been apt to do since she was pregnant with him at the end of the first Terminator movie.  Instead, she allows him to go off by himself with the T-1001 into one of the possible futures.  (Yeah, they’ve gotten into the whole alternate timelines thing.  There are two characters on the show from two separate future realities, and they don’t have the same recollections as a result.)  Odd.  Anyway, I get the sense Sarah feels like she needs to stop the war from happening more than anything — that following John would be a mere tactical decision that would keep him protected in the short term, whereas not following him and trying to undermine Skynet in the present is a better, braod strategic decision for his well-being (and the world at large by extension).  Convoluted but interesting.  Probably never find out what they were thinking, though, since I fully expect the show to be cancelled.  I can only hope to eat those words, but its continued bad ratings are the result of a weak storyline involving Reily.  They gambled on that screwy subplot and lost.

2. Dollhouse

The finale was fun, even if I’m not sure I buy how Helo Agathon — I mean Paul Ballard — decided to start working for the Dollhouse.  Yes, this gives him an opportunity to keep a close eye on it, and vice versa from the Dollhouse’s perspective.  Do we really believe, however, that the Dollhouse, with all its resources, really needs Ballard to help hunt down Alpha?  True, they hadn’t been able to find him previously, but who’s to say that some ex-FBI agent whom they duped for months with a next-door neighbor Doll qualifies as a brain trust?  Anyway, the show was renewed for a second season, with the caveat that its budget will be reduced.  Bummer, but the show honestly failed to earn its second season, and was only granted one due to the guaranteed DVD sales courtesy of the Cult of Whedon.  Don’t get me wrong: I love the show.  But its ratings were abysmal, and Whedon can no longer point the finger at Fox mangling with his show’s schedule, a la Firefly.  His weak pilot only served to turn many viewers away before he could even establish an audience, and since then, they’ve hemorrhaged their remaining viewers every week.  If TV executives weren’t so cuthroat, I’d be inclined to say the second season of Dollhouse is an apology for what they did to Firefly: regardless, we’ll have to wait until later this year to see if this investment is worth it.

3. Fringe

I still love this show.  It’s straining a little under the weight of its own conceits, I won’t lie.  But they whipped out Leonard Nimoy as Dr. William Bell, so I remain sold.  And the image at the end of finale in the alternate Earth where the Word Trade Center is still standing was, in a word, ballsy.  (Another Fox show whipped out an unexpected reference: Lie to Me had a terrorist plot that is initially attributed to Al Qaeda, though this is later disproved.  I’m a little surprised to be seeing these kinds of references dropped so easily: is it too soon?)  However, I do take one exception with an image from the alternate Earth.  There’s a picture of the Obamas moving into the “new White House” on the front of a newspaper.  Ignoring why there’s a new White House, let’s focus on Barak Obama being president in another reality: isn’t it more reasonable to think that John Kerry would have defeated George W. Bush in 2004, were it not for the Trade Center attacks which provided him with a lot of gravitas that he didn’t have otherwise?  (Not a political statement: just an observation.)  I think a headline reading that Kerry was elected to a second term would have been more likely.  Anyway, I can’t wait for next season of J.J. Abram’s funhouse of crazy science fiction.

4. Smallville

Not legitimately sci-fi, but since I mentioned it in my last post on this subject, I’ll mention it here.  So, I like this season much better than last, though the finale was a bit odd.  I mean, seriously?  That’s all we get for the epic Doomsday fight?  One big punch followed by a super jump?  Sigh.  I am happy to hear, however, that the drastic thing they do in this episode (kill Jimmy Olsen) is something they don’t intend to take back.  I’ve been critical of this nonsense of showing us something for one episode only to yank it away at the end — usually courtesy of some kind of time-altering device.  Yes, this a dramatic departure from canon, but you’d have to be insane to think that there’s any way Smallville fits into the Superman mythos for even a moment.  Consider it an alternate reality (Elseworlds).

5. Heroes and Battlestar Galactica

I’ve yet to resume watching these shows and will do so soon, now that I’m running out of stuff to watch.  Reactions to follow eventually.

Written by Michael

16 May 2009 at 2:26 am

Sci-Fi TV and Me

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So, I’ve got a lot of television shows I’m currently watching on rotation now, in several different genres, but here are my feelings on my sci-fi ones:

1. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

I felt like the last great episode was where Cameron went to the library and hung out with the guy with bone cancer.  Since then, we’ve gotten so bogged down in Reilly stuff that the show was really starting to get on my nerves — which is tough frankly, since Summer Glau is in it.  That said, I’ve really liked the last two or three episodes, since they writers seemed to decide the Reilly stuff was getting on their nerves, too.  I just hope that these positive tidings can save the show from cancellation.  Perhaps Fox will appreciate that the next Terminator movie will likely renew interest in the show.

2. Battlestar Galactica

I loved this series until the creators decided to skip a year between seasons two and three.  I really liked the idea of Baltar winning the election, but they quickly undid that in favor of a Cylon occupation that made little sense, which was then followed by reinstalling President Roslin.  Truly, the last great episode I remember after this bizarre turn of events was Baltar’s trial.  That said, I haven’t seen any episodes since Starbuck took a rag tag crew on her crazy journey, but I will catch up and watch the series finale sometime this spring.  Maybe they’ll rock me in ways I don’t expect.

3. Dollhouse

I came to this show wanting to believe that because it’s a Whedon production, it would instantly be brilliant.  It wasn’t — in fact, the first episode, which was penned by Whedon himself, was actually rather dull and uninspired.  The subsequent episodes, thankfully, were much better, and I’ve stuck with it.  I just watched the episode tonight (only the second one written by Whedon) and thought it was brilliant.  I think if he had brought this level of quality to the premiere, it would currently have more viewers.  We’ll see what this show can manage in the weeks to come.  Nevertheless, I remain positive about it.

4. Heroes

After an insanely brilliant season one (and an okay season two, marred by the writer’s strike), I’ve been greatly confused with season three.  It had started to improve last I saw it (before winter break), but I haven’t checked in on it since.  I’ll likely give this a view this spring to catch up, but I fear the shakeups at the producer level (Loeb was fired) will forever affect this show.  And not in a good way.

5. Fringe

I think this show is wonderful.  It’s not especially witty or clever, though the overarching storyline is filled with a lot of great intrigue.  (I love intrigue.)  And I appreciate that the creators are unabashedly sci-fi fans, which is an honesty missing from shows like Battlestar Galactica.  And that they have a sense of humor, which Dollhouse surprisingly lacks.  (It has a little, don’t get me wrong, but it’s nowhere near Whedon’s previous works.)  These things being the case, this is my favorite sci-fi show on television now.

Also, I’ve learned that Sci-Fi Channel will be changing its name to Syfy this July.  I believe this to be incredibly stupid for two reasons: first, changing a name to make it more trademarkable is weak sauce (which they’ve stated as a reason for doing this); two, their claim that this name somehow clarifies that they show more than sci-fi programming now is insane.

Believe me, I get that they’re having an identity crisis given that they’re showing more fantasy than they ever have.  Fair enough.  But the name change doesn’t help me understand that the channel now has cross-genre content.

I hope I’m wrong, but I somehow feel that this could herald the beginning of this channel’s slow, painful death.

In still another aside, I’ve been replaying Mass Effect recently.  I’m again convinced that this game’s story exceeds many movies ‘and television shows’ storylines so far and away that I can’t even express it.  Can’t wait for the sequel.  You go, Drew Karpyshyn.  You go.

And finally (I promise), Smallville — not really a sci-fi show, but I mention it here because I must — needs to stop whipping out It’s-a-Wonderful-Life clones.  They’ve shown us one thing and then taken that thing back so many times now I may scream.  I can’t believe I’m still watching this show, save for the fact that I usually finish things I start.  (It’s my obstinate nature.)  However, I do give them kudos for this week’s episode because it wasn’t entirely bad.  Jimmy’s back, after all.  And so’s Tess Mercer.  (Meow.)

Sadly, it’s been renewed for an eighth season, so the sojourn continues for another year at least.