4 Reasons Terminators Suck At Their Jobs
Skynet is the evil artificial intelligence behind all of the Terminator movies, and its first priority is to kill all humans. After the program took control of the world's supply of nuclear weapons, it used them to blow up a good portion of the human race. What was left of humanity lived on, only to fight a near-invincible army of merciless robots with whatever used, battered and broken weaponry it could scavenge. And yet, not only did this one-sided war "span over 30 years," instead of the more expected "one really shitty afternoon," but human beings actually won out in the end. Do you know why? Because Terminators were the worst idea in history. Here are all the reasons they suck:
They Have to Pass as Human
There are many varieties of robot in the Terminator universe, but all of the titular Terminator models are vaguely humanoid machines, some of which are coated in flesh so they could pass for people. This was so they could better infiltrate the human resistance camps and kill all combatants once inside. They were given living flesh because rubber skin just didn't look right and sparse personalities so they could make it past the gate guards. And they were made anatomically correct, because they might need to infiltrate the camp showers and possibly bone a few of the resistance fighters to lower morale before the slaughter started.
Wait, how does that lower anything?
But why bother with any of that? Skynet's main problem wasn't that the robots couldn't get past the velvet ropes at all the human clubs because they looked too roboty; it was that Skynet couldn't find where the damn humans were hiding in the first place. If it knew where they were, Skynet could just send over one of those tanks that shoots out motorcycles, or a jet with giant blades, or hell -- maybe just a good old-fashioned bomb, if it's feeling a bit boring that day.
The whole resistance movement revolved around hiding from Skynet, not just locking the doors when Skynet came knocking. Saying you needed human-looking Terminators to kill humans is like saying the reason we haven't killed Bin Laden yet is because our soldiers don't have convincing-enough turbans to get into his cave. Whatever the motive, the one thing we can establish for certain is that, although Skynet is fully capable of making gigantic aircraft and heavily armored tanks like these ...
... it prefers to make robots that look and behave exactly like people instead. So ... they're for intelligence-gathering, right? The Terminators are the espionage models, and all the battlefield robots look like those bitchin' death machines above. Except ...
... they don't. Several times we're shown that the skinless, humanoid Terminators are the main Skynet force on the battlefield. These are the foot soldiers. Skynet's version of infantry.
What's so wrong with that? Well ...
They Have a Pretty Crappy Design
So we've established there's no great reason for the espionage, and that the Terminators -- modeled after humans, remember -- are mostly used in battle as foot soldiers. Humans are at the top of the food chain because of our intelligence, community and opposable thumbs, not the rest of our bodies. We don't exactly have the best design in the animal kingdom. In fact, you know what's better than us?
Those fingernails will fuck your day.
Literally everything: Four-legged mammals run faster and jump higher, winged creatures take to the air, clawed creatures burrow beneath the earth, finned creatures swim -- a warrior robot simply has no need for hands or bipedal locomotion. These things aren't pre-existing; Skynet's designing and building new ones all the time, expressly for the purpose of killing folks. The robots don't need thumbs to grab guns; guns could just be built already on them. Or if you do find humanity's one physical advantage -- our hands -- to be a necessary feature, why copy the rest? Just slap some humanoid arms on a giant land shark! Copying humanity's schematics presents no discernible advantage on the battlefield.
Unless Skynet understands our biggest weakness is boners.
But Skynet stuck with the most accurate human design possible -- no six-armed humans, no humans with jetpacks -- just an ordinary human shape. Which means the Terminators have to walk everywhere they go (and they are shown doing just that in the films) while their supersonic jet robots and tank-treaded death machines hover around, babysitting the poorly designed foot soldiers.
"Guys, wait up! Carl twisted his robot ankle and chipped one of his metal teeth that we have for some reason."
Oh, but it's so easy to be snarky and tear ideas down. It's so much harder to build. Hell, it's not like we've got better human eradication tactics just sitting around.
Wait -- yes we do. We use them all the time. In the goddamn Army.
For example, much like the Terminators, our armed forces use flying drones. But unlike these advanced killer robots from the future, designed and given life by a vast, incomprehensible super-intelligence, we thought to give ours guns: In Terminator Salvation, a drone flies up to young Kyle Reese, identifies him and then transmits that data to the armed flying machines. In the time it takes the weaponized robots to get to that location, they've lost Reese. We could have all been spared another 90 minutes of that movie if the first drone had a machine gun, or a small pistol, or even just a sharp bit off to one side with maybe a little rust on it (if that's not, you know, overkill).
They Have the Worst Tactics
But let's put aside all the doubts we've raised thus far and just accept that Skynet is a "special needs" computer and is doing the best it can with what its got, bless it's heart.
Poor dear can't even remember to pick up its skulls after recess.
Fine: Skynet needs humanoid robots for some reason. Fine: It doesn't arm its most agile flying death machines for that same inexplicable reason. And fine: It needs to trick the humans into letting it in, rather than just exploding them from outside, because -- we don't know -- robo-vampires?
No, no. It's only his acting that's robotic.
There's still one more very basic tactic human beings have been using against one another for millennia, which the all-powerful supercomputer has apparently just completely forgotten about: biological weapons. Skynet has access to all of the military's databases -- that's where it came from, after all. And it has access to laboratories of some kind; it must, in order to do those flesh-cultivating experiments that allow it to graft the all-important cock and balls onto its soldiers. What's the downside to developing a biological weapon to deploy on the humans? Is it somehow beyond Skynet's intelligence? If so, how about using one of the thousands of biological weapons the military already had sitting around before Skynet killed them?
The military guys in The Rock left plenty of extras.
But no, the killer computer went straight to the nuclear option. Despite being robotic and therefore completely immune to biological weapons, Skynet opted to launch an explosive attack -- an attack that caused electro-magnetic pulses (which fry electronics), thus ensuring that its own forces around the strike point were all at least temporarily disabled too. An attack that, unlike with biological weapons, its own forces were also vulnerable to: The blast part of a nuclear bomb has pretty much the same effect on metal as it does on flesh and bone. An attack that (because Skynet's first army was built out of things it stole from the armed forces, and its first targets were military targets), pretty much blew up half of its potential resources right from the start.
So we say again, why not biological weapons? Why not a super-flu? Why not just spread some pre-existing disease around, like smallpox? Medical supplies are in short order, after all; you just blew most of them up. Why not poison the water supply? If there are bothersome ants in your house, you don't blow up your kitchen. You put the food away, leave out some poison or get some fucking bug spray.
A few billion tons of this ought to deal with the surface infestation.
They're Built for Time Travel
But we're neglecting the whole time-travel aspect of the Terminator universe, and that's a central part of the plot: The main reason Terminators have to look and pass for human is so Skynet can send them, one at a time, back to the past, where they try to execute the leader of the resistance as a child, because he's too hard to kill in the present, when Skynet has access to millions of other Terminators, bombs, lasers and flying death machines.
John Connor only has the power of Scruff on his side.
Apparently Occams_Razor.exe failed to load on Skynet's last boot-up.
We'll roll with it, though: Terminators have to look human to blend into the pre-exploded world, and they have to be coated in flesh to travel backward through time, because in their universe time travel only works on living things. No clothes, weapons or artificial material goes back -- just flesh. So rather than just sit back and let the humans alter history, the Terminators found a loophole, coated themselves in skin and followed. That's the reason they can't bring back their crazy future weapons: They're not coated in flesh.
'Cause it's grooooss.
There's nothing exclusive about the human form that causes flesh to grow on it and only it. Animals, fish and birds all have living flesh, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Terminators have to be human-shaped to blend in, sure, but the only thing that lets them step through the machine unharmed and wake up in the past is that vat-grown flesh. So why not coat one of those sweet laser miniguns in a skin suit and bring it back with you? You've already grown flesh over metal in one shape; there's no reason you can't slap it on any shape you damn well please. Sure, it would look like a giant throbbing meat-dong until you split open its flesh and pulled the weapon out, and that's gross and disturbing -- but hey, this is war. It's not a pleasant business.
That thing doesn't fire gumdrops.
Or for that matter, why bother sending Terminators back to hunt John Connor down at all? The movies have established that Skynet doesn't know exactly where the Connors are at any one time. But by going through records, it can always pinpoint the city, county or at least general area. So we've already established that the steel of a Terminator's skeleton, the wiring and circuits of its brain, and its nuclear power source can all travel back in time covered in a thin layer of flesh. You know what else you can make out of those same approximate materials? A nuclear bomb. Why not just grab the biggest one you can find, wrap it in a skin-suit, beam it back to Bumfuck, Arizona, where you know Sarah is hiding out somewhere, and take out the whole damn state with your gargantuan, fleshy, nuclear death-testicle?
Something like this.
Jesus, Skynet. Do we have to do everything ourselves ... including genocide?
Hold on, we're not finished picking apart this franchise yet. Check out 5 Reasons The Terminator Franchise Makes No Goddamn Sense and The Mapped Out Terminator Timeline (Will Melt Your Brain).