Retrospective: The “Terminator” franchise is back

After the likes of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Jurassic World,” summer 2015 is resurrecting another one of its long running franchises with “Terminator Genisys” opening this week. The series contains four films and a television series, and with the fifth film looking to serve as a reboot and a sequel, here’s some things you should know about the series (obvious spoilers follow):

The Terminator

Release date: October 26, 1984

Box office: $38.3 million

Director: James Cameron

Plot: The one that started it all features one of the simpler plots in the series. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator, a cyborg sent from the future to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose son will one day lead the rebellion against the machines in the year 2029. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is sent back to protect Sarah Connor from the T-800 machine. The film ends with a climatic fight between Kyle and the T-800 resulting in the destruction of the Terminator and the death of Kyle. The last scene features a pregnant Sarah Connor, showing that Kyle Reese is John’s father.

What you need to know: This 80’s action classic features a very straightforward plot that will get more complex with later films, but it does lay a lot of groundwork. Viewers only hear a couple of mentions of SkyNet, who will become more important in future films. It is important to remember that Kyle is John’s father, the T-800 is an evil cyborg, and the Terminator’s arm is left behind which is later used to start up SkyNet. Oh, and people time travel nude. Get used to that.


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Release date: July 3, 1991

Box office: $204.8 million

Director: James Cameron

Plot: By far the most iconic installment of the franchise and frequently referred to as one of the best action films of all time, “T2” features Schwarzenegger once again as a cyborg, but this time he is protecting Sarah and John Connor from another evil SkyNet cyborg. The new, shape shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick) is sent back to kill 10 year old John. Future John sends the T-800 to protect him and his mother, who does just that.

What you need to know: Underneath all of the mind blowing action, “T2” expands the “Terminator” universe in multiple different ways. First, viewers are introduced to a new cyborg that is more advanced than the T-800. Also, it is important to remember that SkyNet starts a nuclear war called “Judgment Day” and go on to create machines that hunt down the rest of humanity. Lastly, people (and cyborgs) are still time traveling nude.


Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Release date: July 2, 2003

Box office: $150.4 million

Director: Jonathon Mostow

Plot: Arguably the most forgettable of the franchise, “T3” features a female cyborg, the T-X (Kristanna Loken), sent back to kill John’s future wife (Claire Danes), who is second-in-command of the future resistance. The T-X accidentally stumbles upon John Connor (played here by Nick Stahl) who learns that Judgment Day is near. The future resistance sends back an upgraded T-850 (Schwarzenegger) and John orders it to take him to the Skynet core to stop Judgment Day, but when they reach the shelter they realize that SkyNet has no core. Nuclear missiles are fired and Judgment Day is upon humanity.

What you need to know: The third installment might be the most forgettable but it does contain a couple of key points. First, it shows viewers the actual Judgment Day and foreshadows the future post-apocalyptic world. The film also proves that no matter what John or anyone else did to prevent Judgment Day, it was going to happen regardless. Lastly, viewers learn that John’s future wife is second-in-command, which comes into play (sort of) later in the franchise.


Terminator Salvation

Release date: May 21, 2009

Box office: $125.3 million

Director: McG

Plot: The first “Terminator” containing no time travel (meaning no one is nude), “Salvation” takes place in the year 2018 using the World War between humanity and Skynet as its setting. John Connor (this time portrayed by Christian Bale) leads the resistance and discovers that Skynet is developing Terminators incorporating living tissue. Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is one of these Terminators, but he does not realize that he is a cyborg until well into the film. The Resistance discovers a way that might shutdown Skynet, but it turns out to be a trap (insert dramatic music here). John learns this from Marcus who contemplates whose side he is on, and after a lengthy battle, and Marcus’ destruction, the Resistance wins.

What you need to know: Even though this might seem like a pretty essential part to the “Terminator” mythology, “Salvation” does not seem to have much of a tie to “Genysis.” The film takes place almost entirely during the war, which is at times cool to witness, but there is not much more than that. It feels like a small battle in the larger war. Due to the critical and box office failure, it does not seem that many (if any) of the plotlines used in this film will be used in future “Terminator” movies.


Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles

Pilot air-date: Janurary 3, 2008

Seasons: 2 (31 episodes)

Plot: Famous for ignoring the events of “T3” and “Salvation,” “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” takes place after “T2” and follows Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her son, John (Thomas Dekker), as they prepare for the inevitable war against the machines. Once again, an evil cyborg is sent back, this time as a T-888, or sometimes referred to as Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt), and future John sends back a Terminator referred to as Cameron (Summer Glau). The series follows their attempts to delay a Judgment Day once and for all, while also fighting off any danger that comes their way.

What you need to know: It’s not clear what will be kept from the series since it had a small, but very passionate following. There were interesting twists, but ultimately it did not have a big enough following to drastically change the series. Consider this a cool, but unnecessary side adventure.


Overall Recap:

The “Terminator” franchise is one of Hollywood’s most iconic franchises, but it’s not without its missteps. The series has been famous for ignoring major plot lines that have either been critiqued or simply unimportant in order to keep moving forward.

“Terminator Genisys” seems to be a direct sequel to the first and second installments, but it also seems to be a reboot of sorts. Without seeing the film (review will be available later this week), the trailer shows some iconic moments playing out differently. We’ll see if it all pays off when the film hits theaters everywhere this Wednesday.