Eye For Film >> Movies >> Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season One (2008) Film Review
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Season One
Reviewed by: Stephen Carty
With 1984’s The Terminator and 1991’s T2: Judgment Day, writer/director James Cameron gave the world two unforgettable movies that still exist as mind-blowing examples of both science fiction and action. Unfortunately, while star Arnold Schwarzenegger lived up to his “I’ll be back” catchphrase and returned for the third movie, Cameron regrettably didn’t and Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines – though not the disaster it could have been – felt unnecessary, as the story was finished with T2.
Sadly, the show shares this fate to a certain extent, as it initially feels more like a cash-in to the popular movie franchise than an organic addition to the storyline. The action is set a few years after seemingly preventing the impending “Judgment Day”. Sarah Connor (Lena Headey) and her son John (Thomas Dekker) have been living ‘off the grid’. All a sudden more machines arrive to kill John – as well as carry out other missions – while one named Cameron (Summer Glau) has been reprogrammed to protect him. Using time-travel technology, Sarah, John and Cameron go forward from 1999 to 2007 to stop Skynet from every forming.
Thankfully, while the first half of the series stumbles somewhat, it picks up from the sixth episode, Dungeons And Dragons, onward, where the addition of Derek Reese (yup, Kyle’s brother) gives the stilted mix of grumpy mother and petulant son the shake required. Sadly, just as things are getting interesting Season One was forced to cut itself short due to the writer’s strike. Seems the pen is mightier than the Terminator.
One of the toughest aspects facing the show was keeping the time-travel elements straight. Though Cameron’s movies dealt with complicated paradoxes (like a man going back in time to father the man who will eventually send him back!) by using clever internal logic, it was always going to be more difficult to maintain with a multi-episode series. It’s done reasonably well, but a few questions nag - Why do the Terminators now have names as opposed to serial numbers? How can Cromartie’s body function without its head as that has the chip? How can his metallic head travel through time with Sarah and co since we know they need to be surrounded with living tissue to do so (as explained in the movies)?
However, things get better as the series progresses. Writer/creator Josh Friedman is obviously a fanboy as there are some great nods to the films; the ‘road view’, the title music and font, our ‘good Terminator’ saying “come with me if you want to live”, the Dyson home, Headey replacing Hamilton in familiar scenes, Sarah’s burned photo, our hero making a Terminator swear and, of course, the fact that Glau’s protector Terminator is called Cameron. Five geek points if you got that one.
As Sarah and John Connor, Headey and Dekker are competent (especially at the angst) without being outstanding. Elsewhere, Richard T Jones is excellent as the token FBI Agent on Sarah’s tail, Dean Winters brings sympathy to her former partner and Brian Austin Green is impressive as Derek Reese once you get passed the whole ‘is that the guy from Beverly Hills 90210?’ thing. Though you can see why Summer Glau was chosen – she has the requisite cold stare and detachment – she isn’t buyable as a near-indestructible killing machine with incredible strength. I mean, the metallic skeleton supposedly inside her is bigger than she is.
Of course, this is all Mr Schwarzenegger’s fault, as replacing him was always going to be impossible (Cameron knew this when he opted for Robert Patrick in T2). Here there are too many ‘bad Terminators’, none of them match Arnold’s memorable presence and they’re all too easily defeated. Anyone remember Kyle saying that they cannot be bargained or reasoned with, don’t feel pity, remorse or fear and absolutely will not stop, ever, until you’re dead?
Overall, though Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles certainly isn’t terrible, its biggest problem is that it will always lie in the shadow of Cameron’s unrelenting vision. There are some worthy moments – the flashbacks/forwards in Dungeons And Dragons, Dr Silverman (Bruce Davison) in The Demon’s Hand, the rockets overhead in What He Beheld – but the majority occur after the half-way stage by which point viewers may have switched off. Like the storyline, the show’s future still remains to be decided so only time will tell if its “I’ll be back” or “Hast la vista baby”.Reviewed on: 08 Dec 2008