Skynet is Really Stupid

Let's Talk About the T-800

It's been a couple of years since the last TerminatorIs it a series about a future nuclear war and the survivors of the aftermath? Is it a series of chase movies set in the present day? Is it a series about time travel? That fact is that the Terminator series is all of those concepts. The mash-up of genres and ideas shouldn't work, but the films have proven adept at mixing into a heady series unlike any other., Terminator: Dark Fate, came out and the franchise has since seemed pretty dormant. Although NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it). did say back in February 2021 that they would be working on a Terminator anime series, even that one has been quiet for six months now. It feels like the franchise as, essentially, died off, that audiences have no desire to go back to this blasted out world of time travel and evil machines.

There are any number of reasons we could come up with for that but the easiest to point to is that every film after the first two -- The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day -- felt inessential for one reason or another. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines basically said that everything the heroes went through in the first two films was moot because Skynet was inevitable, Terminator: Salvation supposedly was meant to show us the future war but instead barely focused on John Connor at all, while Terminator: Genysis and Terminator: Dark Fate were each just awful films.

Deep down at the core of the franchise, though, we have to admit something: the whole titular concept of the series really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The movie predicates its concept on machines being sent back from the future where, in that future, Earth is a blasted out shell after a nuclear war waged by an omnipresent machine intelligence, Skynet. Humans are on the verge of extinction, but one brave leader, John Connor, rises up, unites the human factions, and turns the tide of the war. Skynet then decides it has to take John Connor out an resorts to time travel to do it. It sends one of its machines, human-looking infiltration cyborgs, into the past to kill Connor before his born (by targetting his mother) and when they fails it then sends an improved robot, the T-1000, into the past to try again (and then again and again if you watch the sequles).

Over time, the more I've thought about it, I've had some serious issues with that whole idea. I'm fine with the time travel as long as we accept the closed-loop mechanics and all that goes with it (I like time travel, it's fine). What I've had a harder and harder time accept is that the robots, the infiltration bots, all end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It worked in the first film because he was supposed to seem alien and otherworldly, a performer that could be a giant killing machine. It even worked in the sequel just because the film was playing on a gut-punch twist opening (spoiled in the trailers, but still). However, the more times Arnold was brought back, the harder the concept was to accept.

The problem I have is that, for their intended purpose, infiltration bots that look like a hulking, six-foot-two, two-sixty pounds Austrian would be the worst at this jobs. For starters, the fact that they all seems to have the same Austrian accent would be a red flag, especially when all the events we see in the films take place in L.A. You don't need dogs to sniff the terminator bots out, just make then say anything and you'll suddenly know if one of the robots is a terminator or not. Sure, later models (the T-1000, the TX, etc.) looked different and ditched the Austrian accent, but the T-800s (and their upgraded T-850s that looked and sounded the same) all had the same specs.

The argument could be made, of course, that the Arnold bots were just one type of T-800 released. Cromartie in The Sarah Connor Chronicles didn't have that accent, but that show also couldn't afford Arnold at the time. In most cases, Arnold was the default version of the bot, with hundreds of him put out into the world (maybe even thousands).

That, too, raises another problem: assume that you have resistance fighters that battle an T-800, the Arnold version, and kill it. Suddenly you have a bunch of guys that know what one of the T-800s looks like and can report back to their bases about it. With more of these same bots coming out, all looking like the star of Total Recall, how easy do you think they're going to be able to pull of their infiltration duties. "That guy, the one that looks like he stepped off the set of Red Heat. yeah, I just blew him to pieces last week. Kill him!" It doesn't work.

Even if they don't all look the same (which, let's admit it, most of them do), there's still also the problem that Skynet created a bunch of infiltration bots and then designed their skin and musculature to be that of a body builder. Remember, humanity is on the brink, food is scarce and disease presumably runs rampant. How likely is it that a robot that looks well fed and like it's had the time (and protein) to bulk up for prime fighting weight, is going to walk unnoticed into a resistance camp? If we accept that the machines could only build one height for their terminators -- six-foot-two -- then at the very least they should have given it different faces, a new one for each new bot. Yes, that doesn't work if you're bringing back the same actor over and over again, but after the first two films Arnold should have stopped coming back.

As I noted in my review of Genysis, this was a big sticking point for me in the casting of Jai Courtney as John Connor. When the character was played by Michael Biehn (and, later, Anton Yelchin), he was a lean and wiry dude that looked like he'd been fighting for every meal he had. Jai Courtney, in comparison, is another six-foot-something hulking guy that looks like he stepped out of a body-building competition. He's not dwarfed by Arnold but, instead, hulks up next to him. And neither of them should pass for resistance fighters in the blasted out future.

None of this, of course, would be an issue if the films hadn't stretched on for so long. I'd argue that the only films we even need to consider were the two made by James Cameron... right up until he came back and produced Dark Fate and got Arnold to come back yet again. Suffice it to say the idea that all (or even just most) T-800s look like the giant Austrian is a set part of the series and, frankly, it's stupid. Skynet, a thinking, intelligent machine, really should have planned its machines out better, designing them to be good at the one thing they were designed for: infiltration.

But then, of course, we could also argue that every machine after the T-1000 is a downgrade from that machine's perfection. Clearly this series really got stupid after the second film.