Terminator Salvation is in theaters, and all your friends are rushing to see it. But you won't be ready to face this robot-oppressed future, unless you know all about the Terminator franchise first. Here's all the best io9 Terminator coverage.
So in case you've been living in a bunker, waiting for the nuclear bombardment to begin, the Terminator franchise is about a super-computer named Skynet, which decides to eliminate the threat of humanity with yummy, cleansing nuclear fire. But a few humans survive, and they fight back against Skynet's robotic rule over the planet. The humans' leader is John Connor, a badass resistance fighter. Skynet discovers time travel and sends robots back in time to kill John Connor's mother, Sarah, before he can be born, and later to kill the young John Connor. But Skynet's time-traveling robots always fail, and John Connor lives to fight the robots in the future. Okay? Okay. Also, the person who gets sent back in time to protect the young Sarah Connor is Kyle Reese, who becomes John Connor's father.
To get ramped up for Terminator Salvation, you can read all about the making of the film. You can look at some fantastic concept art here and here and here. And you can read about the construction of the Hydrobots, the underwater Terminators. You can watch some clips. You can even read a synopsis.
But if you really want to go deeper into the whys — and more importantly, the whens — of the Terminator universe, you can read our obsessive-compulsive effort to catalog every timeline in the movies and the television show. Every time someone travels through time, you get a different version of reality. (And the future in Terminator Salvation is the product of many, many trips through time, as John Connor says in the trailers: "This isn't the future my mother warned me about." Too bad that scene doesn't appear in the movie.) If our own timeline catalog wasn't OCD enough, you can also admire one fan's all-consuming whiteboard.
You can also read my essay about why this is the best year to be a Terminator fanatic, back when Terminator: The Sarah connor Chronicles was still on the air and I was still pumped for Terminator Salvation. Ah, those giddy, innocent days back in April.
And then you can read our review of Terminator Salvation, which talks about how it all goes south.
So after you see Terminator Salvation, you may wonder what the heck happened to make this movie such a mess. Our past coverage provides some clues: for one thing, Christian Bale explains that John Connor only had a small role in the film, until he put his foot down — and you can see in the film how Connor's storyline doesn't really warrant quite so much screen time. Moon Bloodgood talks about a key scene between herself and star Sam Worthington, which had to be hacked up because she showed her breasts in it. (You can tell — it's raining, and then suddenly, it's not.) The whole film leads up to a dark, super-weird ending, which McG explains here — and which had to be scrapped after it was leaked online.
And then, once you're fully briefed on Terminator Salvation, you can look back and read up on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, the show that brought a level of psychological intensity and thought-provoking storytelling to the franchise that we'll probably never see again. Here's our complete primer on the show, written before the final episode but still pretty helpful. Want to know more about the philosophy behind the show? We interviewed creator Josh Friedman twice, here and here. And here's our chat with Shirley Manson and Summer Glau about playing killer robots, from Wondercon.