Worst To First: Ranking the Terminator Movies
This week, the latest Terminator movie, Terminator Genisys, was released to video. Based on the movie’s underwhelming domestic grosses, a lot of you probably decided to skip Genisys in theaters. Now that everyone can run out to Redbox to pick up a copy, I thought it would be a fine time to see where the fifth entry in the Terminator series fits in. First, I’m going to rank the Terminator movies from worst to first and then you will get a chance to do the same.
5. Terminator Salvation (2009)
Summary: Salvation was anything but for the Terminator franchise. At the time Salvation was made, Arnold Schwarzenegger was the governor of California. Officially, he had retired from acting so his involvement would be limited. But that didn’t deter the Halcyon Company from trying to reboot the franchise. They had recently acquired the rights to the series and they wanted to start capitalizing on it. They hired Charlie’s Angels director, McG, to helm the movie which would be set in the post-apocalyptic world after Judgement Day.
The plan was to create a new character as the lead who would be influenced by John Connor in much the same way Ben Hur crossed paths with Jesus. The script went through several rewrites and John Connor’s part was increased, but the messianic imagery remained. At one point, script details leaked on the internet which lead to a complete rewrite of the movie’s ending. The movie was supposed to end with John Connor dying. His face would then be grafted onto a machine who would go on to lead the resistance. But in a final twist, the machine’s programming would kick in and he would kill all of the remaining human characters. Instead, the movie’s third act was rewritten to be less of a gut punch.
What’s Good: After having been teased with glimpses of the apocalypse in the previous movies, Salvation promised to be the movie fans wanted to see. We would finally get to see the battle between man and machine that had only been hinted at in the original trilogy. The movie boasted a strong cast including then-current Batman Christian Bale and Sam Worthington when he was still the rising star from Avatar instead of that guy who was in Avatar. The supporting cast included Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Ironside.
What’s Bad: Whatever flaws the other Terminator movies may have, they are all a lot more fun that Salvation. From the beginning, the Terminator movies have had a little B-movie in them. But McG decided to make Salvation deathly serious. In post production, the film was desaturated which gave the movie a colorless, drab look. Perhaps due to the many rewrites, the story never builds any momentum. Salvation is just a chore to sit through.
John Connor Curse: Many of the actors who have played humanity’s last hope, John Connor, have had a tough time of things which has lead some to speculate about a John Connor curse. Christian Bale, who played Connor in Salvation, currently has a very vital career. But at the time the movie was released, Bale made headlines when a recording was leaked of him dressing down the crew. Warning: this rant includes salty language.
After his rant went public, the actor apologized for losing it on the set.
Verdict: Salvation isn’t a total disaster. Sure, it was a disappointment both critically and commercially. But it still performed well enough that there were plans to move forward with a sequel. Those plans were delayed and then canceled over legal battles for the rights of the franchise. By the time the legal issues were settled, it was thought that it would be better to start with a clean slate rather than follow up on Salvation. The movie isn’t as bad as its reputation, but it isn’t good either. Of all the movies in the series, Salvation is the one I would least like to endure again.
Next: Fourth Place