The Terminator series is a science fiction franchise encompassing a series of films and additional media concerning battles between Skynet's artificially intelligent machine network, and John Connor's Resistance forces and the rest of the human race.
- The Terminator (1984)
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
- Terminator Salvation (2009)
- Terminator Genisys (2015)
- Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
- Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008–2009)
About Terminator (franchise)
- I look back on some films that I’ve made, and I don’t know if I would want to make that film now. I don’t know if I would want to fetishize the gun, like I did on a couple of Terminator movies 30+ years ago, in our current world. What’s happening with guns in our society turns my stomach.
- The United States of The Terminator is presented as a nation fully in the grip of the Cold War, the fear of which leads to the development of an artificially intelligent defense system, Skynet. At some point in the future, Skynet achieves sentience and calculates that the eradication of humanity is in its own best interests. On a simple level, Skynet and the machines it produces to destroy humanity can be read as a conventional Cold War metaphor. Soviet communism had long been portrayed in film as a model of society that lacked emotion and human feelings, that it was a model of society that created virtual automatons. In 1950s science fiction classics such as Invaders from Mars and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, normal Americans are turned into such unfeeling robots. This reading of the filom is reinforced with the appearance of Arnold Schwarzenneger's terminator: his European features and Austrian accent are in broad terms suggestive of the otherness that constituted America's binary adversary.
However, Cameron's comprehension of the back-story is subtler and more sophisticated that a simple, metaphorical Cold War morality play. At the heart of The Terminator is a representation of the military-industrial complex and an imagining of the farthest consequences of America's unquestioning acceptance of its existence. The representation of the military-industrial complex is crucial, as it is a feature, whether explicit or otherwise, of the majority of his films.
- American capitalism is now in considerable part a military capitalism and the most important relation of the big corporation to the state rests on the coincidence of interests between military and corporate needs as defined by [the] warlords and the corporate rich.
Eisenhower's warning could be seen then as a very public airing of the concerns articulated by Mills about the increasing dangers to peace posed by coalescing interest groups. In his speech, however, Eisenhower offers only a partial vision of the military-industrial complex. In his conception, the term refers only to military/corporate interactions, excluding a group crucial to Mills' thesis (and to Cameron's evolving depictions): governmental authority. That Eisenhower should not wish to associate the government with a concept he was presenting was a potential threat to American society is not surprising. However, most on and definitions of the military-industrial complex locate a governmental aspect as an integral component, one third of a triumvirate.
Cameron adheres to Eisenhower's model of the military-industrial-complex in The Terminator rather than that of Mills. His use of the complex is no mere reflection but rather functions as a critique. Among the literature there are those who consider the military-industrial complex an essential component in the organization of American society. In The Terminator, and its depiction of the human future brought about directly by the military-industrial complex, Cameron is clearly articulating the dangers of such thinking. This commentary is expanded upon in, and central to the sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The apocalypse on the horizon at the end of the first movie is a direct consequence of an American military seeking power and dominance through technologies developed by Cyberdyne, a civilian corporation.
- Matthew Wilhelm Kapell, Stephen McVeigh. "The Films of James Cameron: Critical Essays", (2011), pp. 22-23.
- The theme that runs through all three of the latest sequels is that they seem to be made by people who don’t understand the world they are playing in. Or perhaps it’s just as simple as Hollywood scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. Every time the lore is revisited, an attempt is made to fill in the blanks and over-explain the original established timeline, or in Genisys‘ case, rewrite it.
But that’s the inherent quality about the Terminator franchise that filmmakers are failing to understand–it is those blanks that make the original two films so compelling. The thought that the future is both written and not written–that there is “No fate but what we make” is what makes it truly effective. Only horrifying glimpses of a Future War and a nuclear Judgement Day, leaving our brains to imagine the true horror in a kind of “Choose Your Own Ending” version of the end of the world. We don’t need to see the other side of the orb time travel device. We don’t need to see the events that led up to the first film. And we certainly don’t need to see the first film redone as the same but different. Any attempt to try and fill in those blank spaces is unfortunately doomed to not live up to what’s in our collective heads or what has been shown before, as it already exists in its best form. All it was ever really intended to be was two acts, so any attempt to further show or explain the timeline just causes it to collapse on itself.
- James Wallace, "Why The TERMINATOR Franchise Should Be Terminated", Nerdist, (April 16, 2015).
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