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So in Terminator’s beginning is his end and in his time-travel action franchise is the ending that brings him back round to another beginning: basically replaying the famous elements from T1 and T2 with some new actors, new twists, newish attitudes to sexual politics, famous lines slightly changed (“Come with me or you’ll be dead in 30 seconds”) and with Arnie himself good-humouredly assuming a wise old-timer attitude, like a cyborg Grandpa Walton.
The Terminator franchise has come clanking robotically into view once again with its sixth film – it absolutely will not stop – not merely repeating itself but somehow repeating the repetitions. Terminator: Dark Fate is co-produced by its original creator, James Cameron, who has also co-written the story. It’s that type of late-period action movie we have seen with Sly Stallone’s Rocky and Rambo properties: a kind of endstopped reboot, which gives the series a new lick of paint, younger cast members, a sprinkling of up-to-the-minute social touches, while also conveying a solemn finality, as if graciously acknowledging its own classic status – though certainly keeping the door open for more films.
So much has happened since Cameron’s sci-fi action classic from 1984 made a mainstream icon and star of Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day – although in my view lacking the steely clarity and force of the original – was dynamically filmed and a huge smash. Then we had a tiresome run of rusty turkeys on a laborious back-to-the-future theme: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009) – without Arnie – and the irritatingly spelt Terminator Genisys (2015). In the course of all this, Schwarzenegger found time for a brief tenure as governor of California and Christian Bale, playing freedom fighter John Connor in Terminator Salvation, became notorious for an on-set rage-filled meltdown, tape-recorded and uploaded to the web.
But now we are in Mexico, close to the Texas border, almost three decades on from the second Terminator, where smart young auto worker Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) finds herself being menaced by a terrifying humanoid-robotic figure who descends naked to Earth in a crackle of lightning in the time-honoured manner: Gabriel Luna has the stern but featureless T2-ish role of the Terminator-Who-Disappointingly-Isn’t-Arnie. But then another figure comes down to Earth stark naked and is apparently on Dani’s side: this is Grace (Mackenzie Davis): a female equivalent of the gallant Kyle Reese from the first film. Then the legendary figure of Sarah Connor herself, played by Linda Hamilton, appears with some heavy weaponry, also intent on saving young Dani, and she is not the only one who is to be on her side. It won’t be long before the great Austrian-American appears, the Terminator ancestor, now living incognito like someone in a witness protection programme, and pretending to be a curtain-fitter called Carl. It’s a pretty droll appearance for the great man.
So you don’t need an MA in terminatorology studies to figure out that this Dani is someone destined to be of enormous importance to the humans’ resistance uprising against their future oppression by the Skynet tyranny. But wait. Wasn’t that supposed to have been forestalled by Sarah Connor’s heroic efforts? Erm, yeah, but then there was a new oppression from some machines called Legion. Oh.
Basically, Arnold is called upon to reprise a character I always thought was fundamentally wrong: the nice Terminator, the Terminator on the side of the angels, although Hamilton’s Sarah Connor has some fierce dialogue scenes with him, unconvinced that he can be anything other than evil. It’s good to see Hamilton getting a robust role, although, sadly, she has to concede badass superiority to Davis. This sixth Terminator surely has to be the last. Yet the very nature of the Terminator story means that going round and round in existential circles comes with the territory.
Source: The Guardian
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