In Terminator Genisys (2015), poor Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) says the time travel makes his head hurt. All that retcon (okay retroactive continuity) would make anyone’s head hurt. In the Terminator franchise, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) is considered the gold standard. And not without reason, the sequel also co-written, directed, and produced by James Cameron, (like 1984’s The Terminator) had everything going for it from cutting edge visual effects to humour and thrills. And one cannot blame the bean counters for returning to it every time they announce a reboot, like the latest Terminator Dark Fate , which even has Cameron’s blessings and brings back Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor .
Every sequel to follow has tried to replicate that magic to varying degrees of success. The Terminator , the one that started it all was a simple chase story. In 1984 Los Angeles, Sarah, a young waitress, is the target of a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from the future, 2029. In the future, machines, Skynet has become self aware. It perceives humanity as a threat and wants to wipe us out. It partially succeeds by killing three billion in a nuclear holocaust.
The humans, led by John Connor fight back. Skynet decides to send a terminator into the past, 1984, to kill Sarah, John’s mum so that he will not exist and there will be no resistance and the machines can be happy swimming in oceans of code and applying oil to their shiny joints.
The humans send Reese (Michael Biehn) to protect Sarah and also father John — see what I meant by poor Kyle Reese? The next two films followed the same formula. Judgment Day sees the shape-shifting T1000 (Robert Patrick) attacking a young John (Edward Furlong) while the guardian was played by Schwarzenegger. One of the cool moments in the film is when both the T1000 and Schwarzenegger are facing off and we do not know who is good and who is wicked. Sarah has morphed from damsel in need of protection to warrior mom who can handle a shotgun as well as the next contra. Judgement Day, the day when Skynet becomes self aware is avoided once again with the destruction of Cyberdyne Systems that was developing the technology to create Skynet.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) directed by Jonathan Mostow had a supermodel, Kristanna Loken playing a Terminatrix T-X (cheap thrill alert for when she arrives naked and looks to a Victoria Secret model for style tips) who is sent back in time to kill John (Nick Stahl) and his associates including Kate Brewster (Claire Danes), his future wife. Sarah is no more, but her coffin is filled with all the good stuff including enough guns and ammunition to take out a good size town. Judgement Day is not averted and the movie ends with John and Kate in a bunker as the world goes to hell.
Terminator Salvation (2009) was supposed to be a reboot, maybe a new trilogy or whatever. Called a military science fiction action movie, it is set in 2018, 15 years after judgement day. John (Christian Bale) is struggling to be the leader of resistance — maybe he just wants to listen to music and hang out in the bat cave. Being humanity’s last hope messes with people’s heads, which might explain Bale’s much publicised on-set meltdown. Sam Worthington plays Marcus Wright a stranger in the post-apocalyptic world. Having signed off his body to medical research in Cyberdyne Systems (apparently Sarah and gang did not blow it up properly) he hides a terrible secret. The bikes are lovely and the T-800 with a CGI Schwarzenegger are the only pluses of this gloomy, dun-coloured movie from McG. Anton Yelchin plays the thankless role of Kyle Reese with wide-eyed wonder, marvelling no doubt how he landed in this muddy movie from the shiny bridge of the USS Enterprise.
Then came the retconned Terminator Genisys . Directed by Alan Taylor, the movie features alternate timelines. In 2029 on the brink of victory over Skynet, John (Jason Clarke) sends Reese (Jai Courtney) to 1984 to protect his mum, Sarah (Emilia Clarke) — yes we know of the punks (Bill Paxton in the original) who laugh at the naked T 800. When Reese comes all set to save Sarah, from the Terminator, what does he see but a reprogrammed T 800 (Schwarzenegger) and Sarah calmly disposing off the bad T 800 as well as the shape-shifting T1000 (Lee Byung-hun). Sarah was apparently bought up and trained to fight the terminators by the reprogrammed T 800 from 1973 — who sent him from the future? Skynet is set to go live as Genisys a programme that controls all aspects of our lives (Alexa/Siri anyone?) in October 2017. The intrepid time travellers head to 2017 to stave off judgement day forever or till the next sequel. Having John turn into a Skynet agent was the only way forward for the character.
And now comes Terminator: Dark Fate to theatre near you on November 1. After Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines , the following films have not been numbered as each film optimistically hopes for a new beginning. Dark Fate is supposed to take off immediately after Judgment Day (naturally) and brings back Hamilton’s Sarah, who looks fighting fit and ready to take on an army of terminators all on her own. Schwarzenegger plays Carl an aging T-800 —old but not obsolete as he says in Genisys .
A terminator Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) is sent from the future, now 2042, to kill the leader of resistance, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is soldier from the future protecting Dani. Directed by Tim Miller, with a new AI villain , Legion, Dark Fate could be the start of a new trilogy or not. Whichever way the wind blows, one thing you can be certain of is as long as there is a hunger for chase movies featuring remorseless killing machines, he/she will be back.
Hasta la vista, baby!