Retrospective on the Terminator Movie Franchise

Retrospective on the Terminator Movie Franchise

Over thirty years ago, James Cameron made his mark on cinema when The Terminator became a massive hit, spawning a franchise. Even though the film has become a staple of science fiction entertainment, it began with humble beginnings. Similarly, James Cameron had yet to create a notable reputation when he literally dreamt up the film. After the release of the film, Piranha II: The Spawning, Cameron slipped away to Rome in an attempt to renounce the film. During his stay, he fell ill, which led to a fever dream filled with a metallic torso that chased him through fire.

Even though his agent initially laughed off the concept, Cameron tarried on with a new agent. He then enlisted Gale Anne Hurd, who fell in love with the vision of a rampaging metal menace. So, they worked together to formulate the general concepts of the film, especially the strong heroine, Sarah Connor.

As they finalized the concepts for the film, they hunted down the right studio that would invest in both the script and Cameron. Luckily, one of his mentors, Barbara Boyle, also worked for Orion. With her support, he managed to sway the executives to invest in both him and the script.

From there, they needed to find the right man to become the killing machine, the Terminator. Originally, the studio thought O.J. Simpson would be the right man for the role. They also wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger as Kyle Reese. However, Cameron’s meeting with Schwarzenegger convinced him that the man was the right fit for The Terminator. They then found Linda Hamilton, who became their Sarah Connor. With all the pieces in place, they brought a modern totem pole in science fiction to life.

Join us as we look back at the Terminator movies

The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator (1984)

In the year 2029, the human resistance desperately fought for the right to survive. Their leader, John Connor, gave them all the hope they needed to keep the fight going. However, they discovered that Skynet was planning a potentially devastating plot involving time travel. While they could not stop Skynet from sending an assassin into the past, they sent one of their most trusted soldiers, Kyle Reese, back as well. As the Terminator set foot in Los Angeles in 1984, he began his search for the mother of the resistance, Sarah Connor.

Meanwhile, Sarah Connor lived an unimpressive life as a waitress and student at West Los Angeles Junior College. Upon realizing that someone had hunted down and murdered multiple women named Sarah Connor, she began to fear for her life. Even worse, she noticed a man following her. So, she slipped into a packed club to call the police. As she waited for the police, both her protector and her worst nightmare caught up with her.

As Kyle Reese saved Sarah Connor’s life, he taught her the basics of how to survive against the metal menace. He explained that the Terminator was a killing machine that only looked human. Underneath its organic shell was a machine skeleton that had no feelings or concerns. It also would never stop until it achieved its objective.

Beyond the lessons in survival, Kyle Reese admitted that he had fallen in love with Sarah Connor as soon as he saw her photograph. So, he became the father of the resistance before he sacrificed his life to bring down the Terminator, saving the life of Sarah and his unborn son.

Terminator II: Judgement Day (1991)

Terminator II: Judgement Day (1991)

Even though Sarah Connor survived her first encounter with a Terminator, she felt that the danger could always resurface. So, she dedicated herself to becoming tough enough to protect her family. She also began to strike out at potential sources of Skynet, like computer companies. As she attempted to blow up the headquarters of a tech company, the police caught her. So, they sentenced her to a mental institution while her son went into the foster program.

Even though Sarah had passed along her knowledge of the future to her son, he convinced himself that she was insane. So, it came as a shock when a shape-shifting T-1000 began to hunt him down in the form of a police officer. Luckily, the resistance sent a reprogrammed T-800, the same model that once hunted down his mother, as his protector. To keep the machine in line, the resistance programmed the T-800 to follow John’s commands.

After breaking his mother out of the asylum, the trio fled into the rural area south of the city. As they hid away, the T-800 explained the history of Skynet, where Cyberdyne System’s Miles Bennett Dyson developed the microprocessors that run the machines. While Sarah initially intended to run to Mexico, a nightmare convinced her to take down Cyberdyne Systems. She hoped to destroy Skynet before it came into existence.

After meeting with Dyson, they realized that killing an innocent man would not end Skynet’s threat. So, the group broke into Cyberdyne’s headquarters to destroy Dyson’s work and the remnants of the original T-800. They then dealt with the T-1000 for the last time at a steel factory, melting it down. To fully rid the world of Skynet’s threat, the T-800 sacrificed itself in the molten vat as well.

Terminator III: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Terminator III: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Even though Judgement Day never came as once predicted, John Connor still believed that the danger could surface any day. So, he grew up living a life off the grid, without a permanent residence or even a telephone. To survive, he took on freelance jobs that would not help any future computers track down his location. His fears became warranted as Skynet once again sent back a cybernetic assassin, the T-X, to kill his future lieutenants.

Similar to 1991, the resistance sent back a reprogrammed T-800 to protect John Connor and his future wife, Katherine Brewster. However, this one listened to Katherine since the machine slew the future Connor before its reprogramming. After escaping from the T-X, the trio visited Sarah Connor’s gave, which hid a secret weapons stash.

Meanwhile, Kate’s father, General Robert Brewster led the government’s Skynet project. Unwittingly, they fell for Skynet’s ploy for global dominance. By disguising itself as a computer super-virus, Skynet pushed the government into activating it to stop itself. Thus, Skynet had its opening to take over the world’s most destructive weapons.

Before dying, General Brewster directed Kate and John to a facility in Crystal Peak. Before they reached the facility, the T-X caught up to the group. While the T-X momentarily hacked the T-800, the machine momentarily shut itself down so its systems could reboot. Once it rebooted, it finally defeated the T-X by shoving its remaining hydrogen fuel cell into the T-X’s mouth. Unfortunately, Kate and John discovered that the General sent them to a fallout shelter so they would survive the incoming nuclear barrage.

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

Now that Judgement Day had occurred, the franchise focused on the events of the war against the machines. So, the story picked up in 2018, where John Connor helped the resistance forces fight against the oppressive Skynet. However, he had not yet become the leader of the resistance.

Elsewhere, a former death-row inmate, Marcus Wright, woke up to the devastated future. He then joined up with Kyle Reese and Star, who both hoped to join the resistance. After they explained Judgement Day and the war to Wright, he became determined to help them by repairing a short-wave radio.

After contacting John Connor, the trio made their way into the city to formally meet with the resistance. After stopping at the ruins of a 7-11, the machines captured both Kyle and Star. Since no one ever heard of Skynet taking prisoners before, John became determined to discover the cause. After a skirmish with the machines, Wright received serious injuries after a mine attached to him.

To the horror of both the resistance fighters and Wright, they discovered that Wright was a cyborg. While Connor believed that Wright was a Terminator, another resistance fighter, Blair Williams, believed in him. So, she helped him escape. As Wright escaped, Hydrobots almost killed Connor if not for the intervention of Wright.

As the pair infiltrated Skynet Central to save Reese, Wright blacked out when he synced with Skynet to deactivate the security. He then learned that Skynet used him as a Trojan Horse to lure in Reese and Connor. Even though Skynet expected him to side with the machines, Wright decided to side with the humans. In the end, he sacrificed his life by donating his heart so John Connor may survive.

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Like the original movie, Skynet sent a T-800 back to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor. However, a machine-infested resistance fighter killed John Connor while the time machine warmed up. Since Kyle Reese already was within the time Displacement Field, he escaped the alterations to the timeline that this event caused. However, he soon discovered the effects.

Rather than discovering an unprepared waitress, Kyle Reese encountered a fully prepared Sarah Connor. By her side stood a reprogrammed T-800, who she affectionately called Pops. Worse, a T-1000 was present in 1984, hunting them down. Apparently, Skynet sent the T-1000 after her in 1973. Since then, the two had survived and prepared for Kyle’s arrival. As the T-1000 caught up with them, Sarah and Pops disintegrated the machine with an acid trap.

Planning to stop Judgement Day, Pops sent them to 2017, when Kyle believed the New Judgement Day would occur. Meanwhile, the machine stayed in the past to help prepare for the upcoming battle.

As the duo arrived in 2017, they learned that the machines had assimilated John Connor and turned him into the latest model of Terminator, the T-3000. Disguised as a human, the T-3000 planned to help bring Skynet into existence with the launch of a new OS, Genisys.

In a bid to prevent Judgement Day, the trio infiltrated the building that held Genisys’s mainframe. During the strike, Pops used the T-3000’s weakness to magnetic fields against itself, tearing the machine apart in the magnetic field of a prototype time machine. They then took shelter in a bunker as their bombs destroyed Genisys.

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

In another timeline, Sarah Connor let her guard down for a moment while in 1998 at a Guatemalan beach bar. That day, a T-800 arrived on the scene and terminated John Connor. So, John Connor never grew up to become the leader of the resistance.

Decades later, the resistance sent Grace to protect the new leader of the resistance, Dani Ramos, a factory worker in Mexico City. Meanwhile, the machines sent back their newest Terminator model, Rev-9, which could separate between its endoskeleton and its mimetic poly-alloy exoskeleton. After slaying her father, the Rev-9 disguised itself as him before it hunts Dani down.

While unable to save the life of Dani’s brother, Diego, Grace helped Dani evade the Rev-9’s clutches. However, only the timely intervention of Sarah Conor helped the pair escape to safety. As they escaped, Grace passed out since, as an augmented human, she could only remain at full power for short bursts. Meanwhile, Connor revealed that she knew they were in danger thanks to a text message from an anonymous source.

Realizing that the Legion had replaced Skynet and the machines, the group tracked down the source of the texts. There, they discovered the T-800 who shot John, Carl. After completing its mission, the T-800 integrated into human society, now capable of thinking for itself. As it raised a family, it regretted its role in John’s death.

Despite their distrust of each other, the group decided to band together and take out the Rev-9. To finish off the Rev-9, both Grace and Carl sacrifice themselves. However, Sarah remained to help prepare Dani as the future resistance leader.

The bleak future of the franchise

In the past decade, the Terminator franchise had attempted to launch two new trilogies, both of which failed. While fans were lukewarm to Genisys, many completely despised Dark Fate. Thus, the future of the franchise is now up in the air. However, just like the Terminators themselves, the franchise always returns thanks to the inevitability of Skynet.

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Made in collaboration with:

Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

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