The Terminator

James Cameron introduced a complex saga of time travel, impending destruction of all society, and battle against futuristic robots in the 1984 Terminator. Made for a mere $US6.4 million, the movie was a surprise hit that grossed $US36.9 million and made a star out of the then relatively unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger and capitalized on many of the stars of Cameron’s other smash hit, Aliens.

Schwarzenegger portrayed a T-800 terminator cyborg who traveled from the year 2029 to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton), mother of the future and still unborn post-holocaust warlord, John Conner. Rushing behind the assassin robot came Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), intent on protecting Sarah at all costs.  The conflict didn’t involve just the main characters.  It was a fight for the survival of all mankind.

Kyle was sent by the elder John Conner through the same time machine used by the T-800 which was supposed to be destroyed after his passing. Kyle and Sarah battled the cyborg through the streets of Los Angeles, eventually destroying him in a factory.

Throughout the dialog and flash-forward scenes, we learn that the devastated Earth was demolished by a computer network called Skynet, that determined mankind was a threat and sought man’s ultimate destruction, temporarily sparing a few to be used for manual labor. John Conner led the resistance that saved mankind and led to the fall of the machines.

The Terminator had arrived to change all that, and it had failed.

In 1991, the story was continued with the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In this yarn, Arnold Schwarzenegger returned as another T-800 Terminator. In contrast to his first role, in this sequel he was sent to protect a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) from a new robotic assassin, the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). This new killer robot was constructed from a mimetic polyalloy, having the ability to take on the form of practically any object or person it contacted.

In this story, we also learn that Sarah Conner has has single-handedly opted to wage the war to stop the future holocaust she’s convinced will come, allying herself with combat specialists and the fringes of society to ward off the industrial developments that will lead to Judgement Day.   During an attempted bombing, she was arrested and placed in mental institution.  With the help of John and the T-800, she escapes and the three become refugees who flee to Mexico.

Sarah soon learns that Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), one key scientist working for the Cyberdyne Systems’ Special Projects Division, is the man responsible for the creation of the first cybernetic defense system, the very system that later launches the nuclear attacks against mankind. Sarah first attempts to kill Dyson but is stopped before she completes the act.

Within the night, she, John, and the T-800 convince him that he has started the path to the end of the world. He joins them in a strike against the Cyberdyne lab, designed to destroy the progress made and prevent SkyNet from becoming a reality. They are detected during their break-in at SkyNet and tracked by the T-1000. There is an intense showdown, which ends with Dyson getting horribly shot and then setting off explosive charges at the moment of his death as the three escape with the T-1000 on their trail.

The more advanced Terminator chases them an operational steel mill where they have their last showdown with the T-1000, eventually driving it into a vat of boiling metal. John Conner tosses the robotic arm and stolen CPU chip into the same vat before reluctantly lowering the second T-800 into the same mass of boiling metal. Humanity seems to be saved. The holocaust and devastating attacks against mankind are averted.

  • Best Make-up: Stan Winston and Jeff Dawn
  • Best Sound Effects Editing: Gary Rydstrom and Gloria S. Borders
  • Best Sound: Tom Johnson, Gary Rydstrom, Gary Summers, and Lee Orloff
  • Best Visual Effects: Dennis Muren, Stan Winston, Gene Warren Jr,
  • and Robert Skotak

In 2003, in a twist of the series, we learn that although the “future is not set”, its ultimate direction has already been decided. The new form, altered in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, is shown in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. In this second sequel, we see that events averted in T2 are still imminent, despite attempts to change them. The timing and details have been shifted, but the basic form of Judgment Day still remains.

A decade after Judgment Day was supposed have occurred, a third T-101 assassin robot also reprogrammed to protect the now 22-year-old John Conner (Nick Stahl) in his last days before Judgment Day. After the death of his mother, Sarah Conner, John became a drifter and potential drug abuser, wandering the streets of Los Angeles, avoiding computerization and modernization, fearing that any personal computerized info will be used by other machines to hunt him down.

Concurrently, an even more advanced Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), arrives intent on killing not only John Conner, but all of the leaders of the future resistance against the machines including Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), a key leader and John’s future wife. The T-X, also called the Terminatrix, doesn’t prove to be any more deadly than the T-1000 robot despite being more advanced, although she does have the ability to take control of other computerized machines.

John and Kate learn that this T-850 successfully murdered the future John Conner before being reprogrammed by her to protect him against this third Terminator threat. Rather than fleeing into Mexico, as the Kate of the future intended, the two rush to disable SkyNet before it can order the launch of nuclear missiles. Rather than finding an embedded computer system barricaded into a mountain, they find a well-protected nuclear bomb shelter, stocked and prepared. John and Kate survive the exchange of nuclear missiles that ultimately does wipe out the core of mankind.

Despite the previous efforts, SkyNet still takes control, only in T3 its form has been altered to be a sophisticated computer virus rather than mass of supercomputers, the original concept having been stopped by the events of T2. In many ways, this film, like Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, serves as a little more than an explanatory display, showing the origins of the futuristic hardware, including smaller versions of the flying Hunter-Killer machines. Although still heavily based in robots chasing a human target, T3 does a marvelous job of laying the foundation for a new series of films, set in a post-apocalyptic world where man struggles for survival against the machines.

– written by the Two-Brained Cylon

In January 2008, FOX-TV premiered a limited-run series entitled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  Set in the time period after the end of T2, the series chronicles the lives of Sarah Connor (Lena Headey, East Enders), John (Thomas Dekker, Heroes), and a “disguised” Terminator defender named “Cameron” (Summer Glau, Firefly) as they prepare for the coming fight while trying to stay hidden from a Terminator sent back to kill John.

In the pilot, mid-1990’s high-schooler John is discovered by the pursuing T-888 Terminator and rescued just in time by Cameron, who is revealed as a Terminator herself (even re-using the Schwartzenegger line “Come with me if you want to live” from T2).  As the T-888 closes in, Cameron leads Sarah and John to a bank, where they discover a machine that will transport them into the future has been built into the vault – it seems the Resistance of the future has been sending back people to help prepare for the coming conflict, and caused the equipment to be built into the vault itself.  Also secreted in the vault is an advanced rifle; as the time machine reaches its peak energy the T-888 breaks through the vault door; John shoots it to devastating effect, just as they are transported away.

They wind up in the middle of a street, naked, as cars screech to avoid them. Unnoticed, a flaming Terminator skull bounces across the hood of one car.

They have been transported from the 1990’s to present day in the hope that the Terminator won’t find them.  They are at first unaware that a piece of it accompanied them, but as time passes they discover the truth, as it has re-assembled itself.

They also discover that old friends can change, that they must remain vigilant and “off the radar” (much to John’s frustration, being an otherwise normal teen).

They also discover that the Resistance has been sending back fighters, singly and in small groups, to begin the preparations.  One of them is the brother of Kyle Reese, although he does not know he is John’s uncle.  He is distrustful of Cameron, despite her assistance.

-written by John Pickard