-T1: Brilliant, despite not having aged very well. Had this movie been made in 1990 (and with a larger budget) as opposed to 1984, it very well could have been the best in the series.
-T2: Best in series by a fairly wide margin. It utilized new CGI technology without going overboard. The T-1000 remains the best villain of them all, and turning the T-800 (Arnold) into the hero of the second film was a stroke of genius.
-T3: Pretty much a worthless movie. It negated the theme of T2 (the future could be changed) and it really only added about 5 minutes of plot.
And that brings us to Terminator Salvation…
First of all, let me state that I really enjoyed this sequel/prequel. There were pure strokes of genius throughout such as the utilization of older war machines by the resistance (soviet subs and A-10s). I loved how the movie took place right at the ascendancy of John Connor as the leader of the resistance and how the film reminds us very early on how the fates have chosen him (after the first battle scene Connor requests a pick-up for himself after he is the sole survivor). And Christian Bale was an excellent casting choice.
And now the negatives:
1) Skynet wants to kill Kyle Reese and John Connor. This simply does not jive with the narrative of the story thus far. In T1, when Reese is specifically asked why Skynet didn’t kill Connor in the future, he responded that it would have been too late, thus implying that Skynet didn’t know who John Connor was until too late. He also said that “not much is known about Connor’s father.” It made for compelling cinema, but there’s no way that Skynet would have known that Connor would lead to its demise OR who Connor’s father was. This also brings up questions within the film such as “Why didn’t Skynet kill Kyle Reese when it had the chance?”
2) Why was the T-800 more sophisticated in this timeline than in others? In T-1, T-2, and T-3 the T-800 will at least get knocked back by gunfire (be it from a shotgun, pistol, or assault riffle). In T-4 the Terminator had to be roasted with a grenade launcher, and even 3 grenade rounds and molten steel didn’t do the trick.
3) Eventually, it would be nice to see the hero of the series (i.e. John Connor), you know, actually be the central hero in the plot. In T-1 it was Kyle Reese, T-2 it was Sarah Connor, T-3 the hero was…um…no one. You would figure by the 4th installment we would actually get to see John Connor grow a pair and step up to the plate. Sure, he was “heroic” but even he had to be saved by the newcomer to the series, half-machine Marcus Wright. And, it must be noted, the plot mostly revolved around Mr. Wright.
That said, I hope they still plan on finishing this series because I’m dying to see the way the end of this war will play out on screen.