For the first time ever, soon the Terminator will be competing... with the Terminator. It's likely that Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles will still be on the air, telling its own version of the robo-pocalypse/time-travel story, when Terminator Salvation hits theaters next May. Both versions will have their strengths and weaknesses, but which will be cooler? Here's our early Terminator scorecard, including a bit of spoilery speculation. (Also, the full version of the new T4 poster is below as well.)
Maybe the Terminator universe is big enough now that we can have conflicting narratives in the movies and the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show. (Warner Bros. is gambling millions of dollars that you feel this way.) But it's almost impossible to avoid comparing the competing visions of a battle against the near-future robo-pocalypse. With Comic-Con information overload fresh in our minds, we're sharing our thoughts on which version will be better: Terminator 4, or Sarah Connor season 2.
Terminator 4: Christian Bale, the biggest superhero actor in the world.
Sarah Connor: Thomas Dekker, who was Claire-Bear's sidekick on Heroes.
The win: Terminator 4.
Terminator 4: Some body-builder dude.
Sarah Connor: Garret Dillahunt from The 4400 and No Country For Old Men. He does a great bit where he says he's never smoked weed, and then crushes a school principal like a grape.
The win: Sarah Connor.
Terminator 4: Well, it's rumored that Sam Worthington's character Marcus is a friendly Terminator, and it sure looked that way from the trailer at Comic-Con. Worthington is a great actor.
Sarah Connor: Summer Glau (Firefly), doing creepy and sexy.
The win: It's a draw, assuming we're right about Worthington.
Reese family member:
Terminator 4: Anton "Chekhov" Yelchin, a Hollywood "it" actor playing Kyle Reese.
Sarah Connor: Brian Austin Green, the guy from 90210 playing Kyle's brother Derek.
The win: I actually think it would be hard to beat BAG's toothbrush-stealing creepy uncle. Even though Kyle Reese has the whole "my dad is younger than I am" paradox going on, I still think the win goes to SCC.
Visions of the robo-pocalypse:
Terminator 4: Takes place entirely after Judgment Day, has enormous budget to show different types of robo-killers including motorcycle Terminators, Harvesters, and Hydrobots. Plus early set pics have shown a trashed-looking landscape.
Sarah Connor: Only had one episode featuring much post-Judgment Day stuff, and probably won't feature much in season two. Post-apocalyptic worlds are expensive.
The win: Terminator 4, no contest.
Terminator 4: I actually think McG gets a bum rap. The first Charlie's Angels was a fun ride with some great moments, and the second just suffered from sequel-itis. I bet Terminator: Salvation will be a nice-looking action movie.
Sarah Connor: This is where Sarah Connor shines. The Johnny Cash "When The Man Comes Around" Terminator massacre will be burned into my mind forever. Don't take my word for it. Watch this:
Plus the videos from the POV of a Terminator married to a slightly needy woman were chilling and awesome. And the weird scary piano-playing-in-the-Skynet-basement thing. It's all very David Lynch-y.
The win: Sarah Connor.
Adding to the Terminator mythos:
Terminator 4: Will show in graphic detail how Skynet subjugated the survivors of humanity. Includes John Connor becoming a resistance leader. And the vague plot synopses we've gotten so far suggest that Connor travels to the heart of Skynet and uncovers some great secret.
Sarah Connor: Shows us, in great detail, how Skynet was built. (Although the "chess computer" thing still seems a bit random.) Shows John preparing to become the leader of the human resistance, and gives us a lot of insights into how Terminators think. It's extended the whole time-travel theme by having multiple groups of human freedom fighters travel back to the present to work against Skynet. It's added a lot of depth to the character of Sarah Connor, and given Kyle Reese a brother.
The win: This is where the difference between a TV show and a movie comes into play. The TV show can delve more deeply into some of the tricky undercurrents of the Terminator storyline. But it can't resolve any of them too quickly, or the show's over. A movie, meanwhile, can deliver a definitive statement and take some bold leaps forward - and then end. For now, until we know more about the plot of T4, we'll call it a draw.
Most likely to please purists:
Terminator 4: Can claim to be continuing the story from the first three movies. Plus it actually takes us past Judgment Day and shows what everything has been leading up to.
Sarah Connor: Includes numerous links to Terminator 2, including the character of the shrink who kept Sarah locked up in a mental institution. Also sticks pretty close to the format of T2, with John and Sarah protected by a Terminator from the future, while trying to stop Skynet.
The win: Well, neither version features Lynda Hamilton and Edward Furlong. If you're an ultra-purist, you probably think only the first two Terminator movies are canonical, and everything else is heresy. Heterodoxy, even. But including the character of Sarah Connor is a major plus for the TV show. So is the movie's idea of moving the story forward, beyond Judgment Day, and showing John Connor actually stepping up and leading the resistance. Both versions keep at least some element of time travel and alternate timelines. I would say it's a tie.
The bottom line:
It's close, but the overall win probably goes to Sarah Connor Chronicles based on points alone. Which you're more excited about probably depends on what you're more into: a rollicking summer popcorn movie with lots of explosions and a crazy plot, or a serialized drama with surreal touches and some long-term character development and simmering mysteries.
And now here's the full Salvation poster, just released by Warner Bros.: