Has it been a while since you watched the pre-Governator Arnold taking Bill Paxton’s bike and jacket? Do you have fond memories of Robert Patrick morphing around as liquid metal? Do you have a soft place in your heart for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines? If you answered “yes” to at least two out of three, the new Best Buy exclusive Terminator Anthology could be just what you need in your Blu-ray collection.
The Terminator franchise is a modern sci-fi classic with a history fraught with fandom passion and persecution. James Cameron’s original The Terminator came to theaters in 1984 with all the trappings of a bigger budget B movie. The science fiction time travel setting provides an engaging background for what is essentially a monster slasher movie in which the monster is a killer android. The Terminator came early in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, after he had starred in a couple of Conan films but before he moved on to bigger and more action packed fare like Twins and Kindergarten Cop. His comedic ventures aside, this really was the dawn of the age of Arnold as the go-to action hero of the 1980s. His roles in Predator, The Running Man, Commando, and Total Recall all feel like they owe a debt of gratitude to his turn as a futuristic robot.
The Terminator also stars Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, a role that eventually would become an icon of strong females in fiction and of strong sci-fi heroes in general. Here she’s just an ordinary girl plucked out of her everyday life by insane and terrifying circumstances that don’t make sense to her until the final quarter of the movie. This first film has aged pretty well, especially when compared to other similar early ‘80s flicks. The clothes and hair have moved on, but the scary tale of a robotic assassin still packs just as much punch. In the age before computer generated effects, The Terminator delivers some practical effects that still play fantastically in the 2010s. In fact, the robot puppet’s jerkiness and imperfections lend some additional creepiness to the story.
After The Terminator’s success, it only made sense that Terminator 2 would be made, even if it released a full seven years after the original. Subtitled Judgment Day, Terminator 2 is the point at which the franchise made the leap from popular action movie to bona fide science fiction blockbuster. While The Terminator’s box office results weren’t shabby, Terminator 2 improved upon those numbers by more than four hundred percent. Even better, this second installment backed up its success with an outstanding story that expands and deepens the universe and lore established by the first film. This time the villainous Terminator returns as a good guy to protect young John Connor (Edward Furlong) from an even more powerful Terminator from the future (Robert Patrick). Terminator 2 has no shortage of memorable action scenes or one liners and arguably remains many fans’ favorite movie in the series.
James Cameron bowed out of the series after Terminator 2, but that didn’t stop the momentum, with Jonathan Mostow directing 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Nick Stahl plays the now older John Connor, and Claire Danes co-stars alongside Schwarzenegger, who returns for a third outing. The villain this time is the female modeled T-X, played by Kristanna Loken, who comes back from the future once again to try and eradicate the resistance work put into motion by the Connors. While Terminator 3 was another box office success, it didn’t quite meet the standards set by the previous movie, and many fans of the series didn’t connect with the newest installment. A level of general discontent in the fandom remained until 2008, when the spinoff TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles premiered. TSCC, an excellent adaptation and expansion in its own right, uses the franchise’s time travel mechanics to rewrite some of the established history, effectively jettisoning Terminator 3 into an alternate and likely non-canon timeline.
The series took another time leap the following year, with McG at the helm of 2009’s Terminator Salvation, a film widely panned by both critics and fans. This time Christian Bale takes up the mantle of John Connor, in between his turns as Batman in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. Terminator Salvation’s story alternates its focus between Connor and a new character, Marcus Wright, played by Sam Worthington. Marcus’s story intertwines with that of a young Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) and is the most interesting element of the fourth film. John Connor’s involvement usually feels superfluous, and there has been much rumor and speculation about behind the scenes politicking leading to the Connor role being increased once Bale came on board. For whatever reason, Salvation failed to capture the fans’ adoration in the same way the first two (or even the third) Terminator film did, but it still presents an exciting and intriguing addition to the Terminator mythos.
All four films have seen previous Blu-ray releases, but this new Anthology pack is the first time they’ve been assembled in a collector’s set. The box itself is an awesome addition to any Terminator fan’s collection. It’s encased in a slipcover with a “T” cut into the front to reveal the menacing visage of a Terminator Endoskeleton. That robotic face graces the front of the actual Blu-ray packaging, which folds out to reveal all four movies, along with a Salvation bonus disc. The high definition transfers for the movies included in this set are the same versions we’ve seen in the previous releases. All of them look and sound great on Blu-ray, but the increase in HD quality is visible when going from ‘84’s The Terminator up through ‘09’s Salvation. Each of the four movies packs in all the bonus features and extras from their previous releases, and both Terminator 2 and Terminator Salvation include extended and theatrical cuts.
All of this rounds out to a fantastically complete and stylish ready-made collection of all the Terminator films. Pick this up alongside the two seasons of The Sarah Connor Chronicles and a ride on Terminator 2: 3D at Universal Studios, and you’ll have everything you need to repel those pesky future robots. The Terminator Anthology really is a great all-in-one set and deserves a spot on your sci-fi shelf right next to your Alien Anthology. The Terminator Anthology released exclusively at Best Buy on August 28 and is in stores now.