The Terminator franchise has been spread out over a fairly long period of time – Salvation will mark four movies over twenty-five years.
And the question that’s been on my mind is, why another entry now? Terminator 1, 2, and 3 all correspond to specific moments in history, and those moments are clearly reflected in the films. So what’s the deal with Salvation?
Allow me to backtrack…
Terminator 1 came out at a pretty perfect time. 1984 was the year of hating technology. On the one hand, you had personal computers and cell phones and all other sorts of futuristic doodads making their ways into homes and offices, and tech-geeks were telling everyone that they had to adapt or else face obsolescence. And then there was the small issue of the Doomsday clock reaching its highest point since the 50s, basically telling people that nuclear destruction was imminent. So a movie about why we should hate advanced machines armed with nuclear weapons was more than welcome. Hence Terminator 1’s unexpected success.
But then 1991 rolled around and undid everything Terminator 1 had built. Microsoft had just released Windows 3.0 and people were learning that they loved their home computers. Cell phones were no longer Zach Morris sized. Oh, and the Soviet Union collapsed and the Doomsday clock hit zero (the lowest point in its history) and most people wanted to laugh off any of those fears about bombs and robots and stuff.
So 1991 may have seemed like an odd year to release another Terminator movie. But the series showed surprising versatility and easily adapted to the new era. In Terminator 2 the robots were our friends! And nuclear war could easily be averted with enough forethought! And the kids are alright and families are reunited and killing machines learn how to love (sort of). Terminator 2 told us there was compromise, which was precisely what we already knew at that point.
And then we entered the Internet era, and we had all sorts of new reasons to hate the machines. Pedophiles were lurking in chat rooms, the next generation of men and women were disappearing into online video games, and have you seen how expensive those non-Zach-Morris-sized cell phones are? And of course certain events at the turn of the century shook our faith in the idea that global destruction had been averted… I don’t want to play the worn out card that many pop culture historians use, but according to interviews, September 11th had a profound effect on Terminator 3.
And so, with 2003’s T3, we were right back to where we were in 1984: nuclear war is inevitable, the few machines that are friendly are heavily outnumbered by an army of Terminators backed by the military industrial complex, the kids are not alright, and the survival of the family unit rests on some very thin shoulders. Everybody panic.
And now we’re in 2009 and we have number 4 coming out. What does this mean? Why now? Keep checking back for my answers to these questions as I advance my over-analytical, wildly-unfounded film student assertions! And in the mean time, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.