It's not an exaggeration to say that the Terminator franchise has been a mess ever since T3: Rise of the Machines tried push past the legacy of James Cameron. Terminator: Genisys was not at all the reboot that fans hoped for, but things have gotten slightly more hopeful since it was announced that Deadpool director Tim Miller is doing another soft franchise reboot, with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning and, James Cameron himself producing
However, even while Miller and Cameron try to untie the convoluted knot of Terminator continuity, the team over at Den of Geek have spotted what could be considered a minor but important inconsistency in the Terminator mythos.
That inconsistency can really be boiled down to a simple question: What are the Terminators really made of?
As DoG points out: In Cameron's original Terminator movie, we saw the scene above of a battle-damaged T-800 sitting in a shoddy hotel room, trying to get a location on Sarah Connor's whereabouts. While the T-800 sits there in the room, there are flies buzzing around his face, and when the hotel janitor comes to the door, there is the famous exchange between Schwarzenegger's Terminator and the Janitor, in which the latter asks, "Hey buddy, you got a dead cat in there?" and Schwarzenegger replies, "F*ck you, asshole."
Besides delivering one of Terminator's best one-liners, this scene also subtly establishes a piece of continuity that the later films (even T2) seem to have forgotten: A Terminator's flesh and blood covering is only a temporary disguise.
The scene in the hotel room clearly hints that the T-800's flesh is in a state of decomposition, as indicated by the swarming flies and smell of death that the Janitor references. However, in T2, T3, Salvation, and Genisys, this aspect of the Terminator design seems to have been entirely forgotten.
Genisys is the most flagrantly inconsistent on this front, as in that movie, Schwarzenegger's T-800 model (affectionately referred to as "Pops" by Sarah Connor), appears ten years before the events of the first Terminator; suffers damage when battling his 1980s T-800 counterpart (the Terminator from the first film); and even damages his hand while dissolving a T-1000 with an acid trap. And yet, when Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese jump forward in time to modern times, we see "Pops" re-grow his damaged flesh while maintaining the integrity of his epidermal layer - despite having aged 30-plus years since first arriving in the 1970s.
This is clearly a major inconsistency in the Terminator mythos, as there's no real wiggle room to argue why Schwarzenegger's character in T2, T3, and Genisys would have a different function than the Terminator he played in the original film. All of the Schwarzenegger T-800s come from the same era of development, and would, therefore, have the same function.
...So why the change in continuity? Well, there's an answer for that...
As DoG points out, the big change in the Terminator continuity mostly came as a by-product of a change in approach to the franchise.
The first Terminator was pretty much an indie horror film. It was a $6 million-dollar movie about a sci-fi themed monster/killer, relentlessly pursuing an innocent young woman through a nightmarish terrain (a dark and gritty '80s Los Angeles). You could take ou the T-800 and replace him with Schwarzenegger in a Michael Myers mask, and there would be little difference.
However, when T2: Judgement Day arrived, the Terminator franchise went through a big transformation, becoming a series of sci-fi-themed blockbuster action-thrillers with huge budgets. With that transformation, many of the horror movie elements were shed - especially when it came to Schwarzenegger's T-800, as Ahnuld became a full-fledged action movie star.
Well, action movie heroes don't typically feel very heroic if the flesh is rotting off of his/her face, and so that aspect of the Terminator design was pretty much jettisoned.
This brings us to the central question now facing the Terminator franchise: should it go back to its horror movie roots? While Tim Miller and James Cameron attempt to answer that question in their upcoming reboot, we want to hear your opinion! Hit us up at @ComicbookNow or discuss with me @KofiOutlaw.
Photo Credit: Twitter / @SomosXbox