The Terminator series is a science fiction franchise encompassing a series of films and other media concerning battles between Skynet’s artificially intelligent machine network, and John Connor’s Resistance forces and the rest of the human race.
Skynet’s most well-known products in its genocidal goals are the various terminator models, such as the original “Terminator” character, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first film. Schwarzenegger also portrayed other Terminator characters; however, it is made clear that these are different units. The latest film in the franchise is Terminator Salvation, released over Memorial Day weekend, 2009.
The central theme of the franchise is the battle for survival between the human race and the self-aware artificial intelligence that is Skynet. Skynet is positioned in the first film as a US defense computer system by Cyberdyne Systems which becomes self-aware and, on perceiving all humans as a threat, seeks to wipe out humanity itself. It initiates a nuclear first strike against Russia, ensuring a devastating counter strike and a nuclear holocaust, wiping out much of humanity instantly. In the post-apocalyptic aftermath, Skynet builds up its own autonomous machine-based military capability, which includes the Terminators used against individual human targets, and proceeds to fight a war against the surviving elements of humanity, some of whom have organized militarily into the Resistance. At some point in this future, Skynet develops the ability of time travel, and both it and the Resistance seek to use it to win the war by preventing or forestalling their present timeline.
In the franchise, ‘Judgment Day’ is referred to as the date on which Skynet becomes self-aware, decides to exterminate humankind, and launches the attack on Russia. Due to the element of time travel and the consequent ability to change the future, several dates are given for Judgment Day during the franchise. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah states that Judgment Day will occur on August 29, 1997. However, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines shows that the Judgment Day holocaust has been postponed to July 25, 2004. In Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the day of judgment was delayed to April 21, 2011, due to the attack on Cyberdyne Systems in T2.
The passing of the final date for Judgment Day of April 21, 2011 prompted BBC News to pose the question, “How close were the Terminator films to the reality of 2011?”, comparing how far present day technology and society had developed compared to the predictions of the franchise.
The Terminator is a 1984 science fiction film released by Orion Pictures, co-written and directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn. It is the first work in the Terminator franchise. In the film, machines take over the world in the near future, directed by the artificial intelligence Skynet. With its sole mission to completely annihilate humanity, it develops cyborg assassins called Terminators that outwardly appear human. A man named John Connor starts the Tech-Com resistance to defeat them and free humanity. With a human victory imminent, the machines’ only choice is to send a Terminator back in time to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor, before he is born, preventing the resistance from ever being founded. With the fate of humanity at stake, John sends soldier Kyle Reese back to protect his mother and ensure his own existence.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the 1991 sequel to the original Terminator film released by TriStar Pictures. It is co-written, directed, and produced by James Cameron and stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, and Robert Patrick. After the machines failed to prevent John Connor from being born, they try again in 1995, this time attempting to kill him as a child with a more advanced terminator, the T-1000. As before, John sends back a protector for his younger self, a reprogrammed Terminator, identical to the one from the previous film. After eleven years of preparing for the future war, Sarah decides to use the same tactics the machines used on her: prevent Skynet from being invented by destroying Cyberdyne Systems before they create it.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is the 2003 sequel to Terminator 2 released by Warner Bros. domestically and Columbia Pictures internationally, directed by Jonathan Mostow and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, and Kristanna Loken. As a result of the destruction of Cyberdyne at the end of T2, the Skynet takeover has been postponed, not averted. In a last attempt to ensure a victory by the machines, a new terminator, the T-X, is sent back to kill as many of John Connor’s future lieutenants as possible, including John Connor and his future wife Kate. After the future Connor is terminated by a version of his previous protector, Kate reprograms it and sends it back to save them both from the T-X.
Terminator Salvation is the fourth installment of the Terminator film series, again distributed by Warner and Columbia, and with an original release on May 21, 2009. It was written by John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, Jonathan Nolan, and Anthony E. Zuiker, directed by McG, and stars Christian Bale as John Connor. After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, John struggles to become the leader, but in this future, Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington, who was personally recommended by James Cameron) has somehow altered it, and the T-800 (Roland Kickinger with CG-rendered facial likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger) is coming online sooner than expected. The film also centers on Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and how he became the man he was in the first film.