The Terminator

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For a franchise currently spanning three decades, what is it that makes Terminator so watchable?

The Terminator opened in cinemas in 1984 and grossed almost six times it’s budget in the U.S. alone. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was then coming up as a prevalent action star, gained his most famous role here that gave him the power to dominate action movies over the next two decades. The Terminator 2: Judgment Day followed seven years later and managed to outdo its predecessor in critical reception and box office takings five fold. It even managed to win four technical awards at the 1992 Oscar. On the other hand, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines popped up twelve years after that and due to poor critical responses and word mouth struggled to maintain it’s huge budget costs of $200 million. Lastly, Terminator Salvation was released six years later in 2009 and maintained the low box office figures of the third film despite being significantly stronger.

With reasonably long breaks in the franchise it would make sense that the films wouldn’t stay too consistent. Despite this, the basic stats show that certain elements did the exact opposite. These include how many chases occur with these hovering between 5 and 7 throughout, and also the weapons used by the lead character, which hovered between 3 and 6. The first three films even have exactly 5 Terminator vision scenes showing that certain aspects were recognised as successful and used again. Unfortunately however, the film’s styles are a different matter. The third film, Rise of the Machines, fails to deliver exciting and memorable chase sequences compared to the other films, instead delivering a villain who lacks terror and more standard Hollywood, light-hearted action fare such as two Terminator’s driving and battling on a crane truck.

With the third film’s lack of impressive action, there is an expected dip in the amount of explosions used, which are marginally less than the second film. However due to CGI progression it would be easy to expect more. The fourth film builds on the usual upward spiral of explosions to peak the franchise at 32. This is no surprise however, as the post-nuclear fallout setting, with a large-scale revolutionary war being staged, should garner more explosions than any other film in the franchise anyway.

Odd stats, like how many times the main terminator steals something, shows an increase throughout with the cyborg being shown stealing clothes and guns in the first film twice, and then 5 times in the third film. The fourth film avoids any proper stealing as the setting makes his finding items much easier; taking clothes from a corpse isn’t technically stealing from anybody. We also did a stat on how many times the Terminator smiled with the result being once throughout the entire franchise. This happens in the second film, which makes sense as Connor programs the cyborg to become more human.

The last film was a surprise failure at the box office (at least for us) after garnering Christian Bale and Sam Worthington who dominated the box office in recent years with their films The Dark Knight and Avatar. At the time of release, McG had been rumoured to be readying the film as the beginning of a trilogy with Christian Bale’s John Connor time travelling back to current day. We at FilmAttic would have loved to see this potential trilogy come to reality as Terminator Salvation was a brilliant follow up to the early films, but it looks like this will never happen.

Instead, Arnold Schwarzenegger is set to return as the Terminator in the fifth installment with a 2015 release year already scheduled. We’re hoping this won’t follow the poor example of the third film, but with so many dumbed-down sequels of action films being released in the last few years we aren’t holding our breath. It looks like the Terminator franchise has lost the audience’s confidence after the third film so perhaps Schwarzenegger returning to the franchise is what audiences need to invest more time into the series.

The Terminator franchise has had a roller-coaster ride and has really produced some of the best and most innovative action films ever made – in particular the first and second. With a new film set to be released in 2015 this is a perfect time to revisit the franchise as, perhaps with the exception of the third film, the franchise is well worth watching.

What we learnt from...

The Terminator

Never assume a Terminator is dead
Grenade kits can be bought from your local convenience store
If you need to travel through time you better get naked
Terminator’s are pretty good at self-surgery
Always trust the random man who shoots at the person trying to kill you
You’re never safe, even with 30 police officers around you
Punching through car windows won't hurt
The best father figures are killer robots
Always have a gun shelter available for an upcoming war
Tears confuse robots
If a naked man asks for your clothes you should politely hand them over. And your motorbike too.
A coffin is the best shield against gun fire ever created
Future world leaders are more stupid than you could possibly imagine
Don’t expect the cyborg you melted in molten lava to remember you when you meet up again
Don’t chase an advanced warship with an old school helicopter with the intention to bring it down
Criminals who get capital punishment will come back more powerful than ever
You, your mum, or your best friend could be a cyborg. Land mines will give you a quick answer.
A thumbs up sinking into molten metal can make grown men cry.