Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in high-tech kill mode with the new Terminator Genisys. This time, Skynet wants to kill John Connor and with use — wait for it — time travel to do it. Just another day at the artificially-intelligent-war-machines office. Genisys enlists Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke to take over for Linda Hamilton (and Lena Headey — the Game of Thrones connection continues) as the Mother of Saviors of Mankind. Will Genisys erase the memories of Terminator Salvation as completely as Skynet wants to erase John Connor? Time will tell. But for now, let’s look back at memorable moments from the past four films in the franchise.
LIKE BEING REBORN
The opening scene of the original Terminator, when the naked T-800 unit (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in the present from our desolate future, accompanied by crackles of lightning, remains an iconic movie moment. Dudes and ladies alike can appreciate his amazing physique, and frankly, you wouldn’t even attempt to laugh at this unclothed killing machine if he walked up to you. It didn’t go well for the punks in the original or the bikers in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
STORMING THE STATION
The immortal “I’ll be back” line emerged from this sequence, where the Terminator crashes through a police station with a car, then proceeds to gun down every cop in sight in his quest to eradicate Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). Director James Cameron may love making high-octane action movies, but his onscreen violence feels real and jarring. This incredibly nightmarish assault will make your head spin.
CREATING JOHN CONNOR
In a rare moment of tenderness in the original movie, Sgt. Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) — the soldier from the future tasked with defending Sarah Connor from the rampaging Terminator — expresses his passionate feelings for her that have propelled him across oceans of time. Then it’s on till the break of dawn. And that’s how John Connor gets conceived. It’s kind of a mindfuck if you think about it.
BENEATH THE SKIN
Thinking they have killed the T-800 after blowing it up with an oil tanker, Kyle and Sarah are shocked to see its metal skeleton, skin facade seared away, rise and continue pursuing them. Even with the stop motion effects being used back in 1984, he still looks sinister, badass, and unstoppable.
When the T-800 shows up in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, teenage John Connor (Edward Furlong) is stupefied to learn that he is there to protect him from an even deadlier model (the shapeshifting, liquid metal T-1000, played by Robert Patrick). In one wild, high speed chase sequence, the T-1000 chases John down with a truck and tries to squash him on his motorbike, with the T-800 in hot pursuit on a Harley.
During a nightmare, Sarah Connor watches a playground full of moms and kids incinerated by a nuclear explosion that violently consumes L.A. It’s one of the most chillingly effective depictions of how such an inferno might look if our worst fears became reality. And it’s only a minute long.
MEETING ITS MAKER
A heavily armed Sarah Connor tracks down Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), the man responsible for the creation of Skynet, the sentient computer system that will later create Terminators and wage war on mankind. She ultimately cannot pull the trigger, but when the T-800 arrives and the idealistic scientist learns what he will eventually create, Dyson decides to help them destroy his research. It’s gotta suck learning that your life’s ambition was a mistake.
FROM CHILL TO KILL MODE
One would think that after being frozen in liquid nitrogen and splintered into dozens of pieces that the T-1000 would be kaput. But since it happens in a steel mill, the heat from nearby molten metal helps warm up all the little bits, which dribble back together and give rise to its rebirth. A little worse for wear, but seriously creepy.
SWATH OF DESTRUCTION
The action-packed but brainless Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines tries to distract us with a cold but sexy Terminatrix (Kristanna Loken) who can disperse electricity, rapidly shape shift, and enhance her own boobs. But the flimsy story and irritating characters (including an emotionally neutered John Connor) kill our buzz. However, when Loken’s TX unit tries to run down Connor and his future wife with a giant crane truck, that’s pretty impressive. She rips up city blocks and shreds buildings to create utter carnage.
Watching bulked up Arnold take on slimmer Kristanna is pretty funny because no matter what he does, he can’t defeat her. Obviously her Terminator is stronger than his despite the size difference, and when they duke it in a military base, they practically turn the entire place into rubble. But did they have to spend half the time bashing each other with sinks and toilets in the men’s’ room? Keep it classy, Hollywood.
ATTACK OF THE 100-FOOT TERMINATOR
In Terminator Salvation, an adult John Connor (Christian Bale) in 2018 must find and save his father, the then-younger Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who must survive to go back in time to conceive him with the now-dead Sarah Connor. (Only in the Terminator universe does this make sense.) Teamed up with a drifter named Marcus (Sam Worthington), Kyle and his mute child friend Star (Jadagrace) flee a towering Harvester assigned to capture humans for experimentation. It’s an effects extravaganza as the trio fends off a ginormous Harvester, sentient motorcycles, and a massive transport ship. Admittedly, it all feels hollow despite the shock and awe tactics.
WELCOME TO SKYNET, HAVE A PLEASANT DEATH
It took four films for us to finally see what Skynet headquarters looks like, and it certainly is an impressive evil empire. With its high rise tower surrounded by a manufacturing plant belching out balls of fire, it looks like it would be at home in Blade Runner. The sleek but clinical building that John Connor infiltrates to save Kyle Reese could use a little warmth. Because machines. But don’t stay too long — the human cattle sent here are guinea pigs for the development of human-looking Terminators. Not a fun fate.
Bryan Reesman thinks Skynet may become self aware soon. Don’t say he didn’t warn you.