Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles (2008)

© 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.
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Air Date:  Sunday, January 13, 2008  
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Genre: Television, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is rated TV-PGThis program contains material that parents may find unsuitable for younger children.


Synopsis

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles © 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

At the end of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," Sarah vanquished the Terminator sent from the future to kill her teenage son, John. Sarah and John now find themselves alone in a very dangerous, complicated world. Fugitives from the law, they are confronted with the reality that still more enemies from the future, and the present, could attack at any moment.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES reveals what happens when SARAH (Lena Headey) stops running and goes on the offensive against an ever-evolving technological enemy bent on destroying her life, and perhaps the world. Her son, 15-year-old JOHN CONNOR (Thomas Dekker), knows that he may be the future savior of mankind, but is not yet ready to take on the mantle of leadership that he's told is his destiny. John finds himself inextricably drawn to CAMERON (Summer Glau), an enigmatic and otherworldly student at his high school, who soon proves to be much more than his confidante - she assumes the role of Sarah and John's fearless protector. On their trail are not only threats from the future, but an intelligent and tough FBI agent, JAMES ELLISON (Richard T.Jones), who soon becomes a powerful ally.

TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES represents an exciting reinvention of the "Terminator" franchise, in which the strong and intrepid Sarah discovers that protecting her son and stopping the rise of the machines is more difficult than she had ever imagined.

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Theatrical Review


Back in 1984 I heard Roger Ebert say on TV that an upcoming movie was about a "Cyborg assassin from the future." He advised viewers to "put your brain on hold for this one." The words "cyborg assassin" weren't very common in the early 80's (now they hand out candy covered cyborg assassins at baby showers) and it got my attention. When a friend wanted to see it I was shocked to discover that the one thing I absolutely didn't have to do was "put my brain on hold."

It was smart--and well it should've been, it was allegedly ripping off Harlan Ellison! But regardless, the Terminator franchise is one of the premier science fiction properties in film (even 3, while not great avoided being a complete embarrassment). Making this into a TV show, especially a Fox TV show, seems like a risky gambit: the odds of the show's producers "getting it" seem fairly remote ... and with Fox, if it is too good, it'll be canceled.

I am pleased to report: it's the canceled one. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is, in fact, good enough that it's probably doomed in Fox's hands. In fact, a splinter fan-group from the future has already sent back one of their own to create an online petition to protest its eventual cancellation (note: in our time-stream the show has not yet been canceled. The petition was started before the show even aired ... like the fan was born and trained for this eventual conflict!).

The show provides us with Sarah, her son John (played by Heroes' Thomas Dekker who was Claire-boyfriend Zack) and Summer Glau who is now typecast from Firefly as a combat machine. In TTSCC she's a literal combat machine being a back-from-the-future cyborg guardian. The casting took 16 weeks (mainly to get Sarah and John right) and it's paid off. While John lacks some "screen presence" it's mainly, I think, because the female leads are so strong.

And they are strong: Sarah, played by Lena Headey, comes off as smart, as fiercely protective as a mother bear, and tough as nails--tougher, perhaps than the actually indestructible Glau. For her part, Glau isn't as robotic as her cyber-brethren (she describes herself as "different" with a very human faint smile) and this is probably a good thing for a show that means to sustain itself for more than 127 minutes. The survivalist ethic and the non-stop chase vibe from the first movies is carried through at least the first two episodes.

As a piece of the Terminator franchise TTSCC shines. While it may lack something in the potential grandeur of the movies (giant car-crash set pieces, future battle-zones) it works well enough in its element. The filming, score, and language are all on-point. The F/x hit where they have to and hard enough to make the story work (the Terminator makeup works well enough on TV). The writing is pretty sharp: some of it is expository but it knows when to shut up too (there is a 9/11 scene done with hand gestures and a voice-over that works wonderfully).

They don't answer all of my questions about time-wars (why not kill Sarah when she's 12?) but I guess that's a pretty tall order. I like how Sarah shoots for the eyes of a terminator unit. I like how the camera pans over construction machinery the same way those machines were the focus in the original movie. I even like the various cyborg one-liners as they try to figure out what's appropriate to say.

I like how Sarah is strong--but also damaged (and not a bitch). I like how John is pissed off about living on the run--but not whiny. I like how the River-nator's first name is "Cameron" (will there be a couples joke where someone calls her John Cameron? I hope not). I like the way that the cyborg doesn't tell the truth all the time. I like the way there is a whole "time war" going on and it isn't just one terminator and one victim.

They've made a lot of good decisions with The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Let's hope they're around long enough to see them through.

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Read More Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Reviews

  • Marco Chacon  (A)  (DVD Review)
  • Marco Chacon  (A)  (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Season Two Blu-ray Review)

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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles images © 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.