Making Sense of the 'Terminator' Franchise Timeline
The Terminator is not the first time-travel movie in cinema history, but it is the quintessential one. Director and writer James Cameron posed questions in this sci-fi classic that most of us hadn't thought to ask yet. Not to mention he cast the Muscles from Brussels in one of best roles ever. However, as the franchise carried along with more time-travelling and more Terminators, it made it very easy to lose the plot. So, with the fifth Terminator film, Terminator Genisys, in theaters today, we thought we would straighten out the timeline for you.
So, the initial concept was that in the year 2029, the last dregs of humanity are in a post-apocalyptic war with sentient machines. The machines are run by a program called Skynet, which sends a cyborg designated T-800 back in time to 1984 to kill resistance leader John Connor's mother before he is even born. To counter, Connor sends back his most trusted ally, Kyle Reese, to protect his mother. The big reveal at the end of the movie is that Kyle Reese has fallen in love with John's mother and they conceive John.
Fun fact: Before filming X-Men: Days Of Future Past, director Bryan Singer consulted time-travel guru James Cameron about the mechanics of going back in time.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
There are not many sequels that are as good or better than the original, but T2 sits among that elite company. In this instalment of the franchise, it is 10 years later (1995). John is now a teenager and Sarah is locked up in a mental institution for trying to tell people about the coming machine armageddon. Enter the prototype liquid metal T-1000, sent from the future to kill John when he is young and vulnerable. Not to be outdone, the resistance has now figured out how to capture and reprogram T-800s, and they send one back to protect John from the the T-1000. At the end of the film, Sarah kills the T-800 just in case.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
It is almost 10 years later again (2003) and John is staying on the move, but now with a girlfriend named Kate Brewster. Skynet figures that third times a charm and send their latest Terminator, called a T-X aka Terminatrix, to eliminate John. The filmmakers on this one weren't terribly original and simply chose to have the resistance send a reprogrammed T-800 back to fight newer models yet again. This time though, John is trying to stop Skynet from going live and negate Judgement Day all together.
Fun fact: The makers of Rise of the Machines were also behind the abysmal Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show. The series starred actress Lena Hedley (bka Queen Cersei) as Sarah Connor.
This is the first Terminator film to take place after Judgement Day (2003); after the nukes have dropped and decimated most of the human race. The year is 2018 and we are finally in the future that the previous three movies have told us about. Here we get our first look at Terminator models that come before the T-800, as well as the Hunter-Killer, both of which were mentioned in the first film. Director McG got a little overzealous and created too many different machines, but his realization of the T-600 (pictured above), T-700, and the Hunter-Killer served the franchise best. He also introduced the prototype Infiltration Terminator, Hydrabots, Moto-Terminators, T-1s, Harvesters, Transporters, and Aerostats.
Fun fact: There was an unfilmed alternate ending that would have seen John Connor die from his chest wound and the resistance leaders killed by the Infiltration Terminator.
(SPOILERS) The new film deals with the most time-travelling yet. We start in the future (2029) where John Connor, Kyle Reese, and their band of resistance fighters are making their last offensive against Skynet. Then, as the T-800 from the first movie is initially sent back in time to kill Sarah in 1984, we travel with Kyle as he goes back to protect her. The thing is, somehow an alternate timeline is opened up and Kyle meets a Sarah that has a reprogrammed T-800, which has been protecting her since 1973. This Terminator has also informed her of the future and what will happen when, so they are ready for the T-800 and Kyle to show up in 1984. Oh yeah, and did I mention, they have built a time machine? Sarah wants to go to 1997 to stop Judgement Day from ever coming to pass, but Kyle knows things have changed and that an app named Genisys launched in 2017 is the key to saving humanity. We don't want to ruin the whole movie, but suffice it to say, Skynet has a couple new Terminators up its sleeve.