I mean. What a film.
I love T2, and I really enjoyed Genisys, but this… this is another league.
Mostly, I love Sarah. I really, really love Sarah, and what she represents:
- I love that she’s so competent.
- I love her determination.
- I am saddened by her bitterness, but everything about her subsequent actions makes sense.
- I love that SHE gets some of the great lines to call back to the first movies.
And I really, really love that basically Sarah is living out the unreconstructed second-wave feminism attitude at its worst – the assumption that it’s about Dani’s child, the grumpiness about being Mother Mary and wombs, etc. And then Dani and Grace are there as third-wave feminism: this is the first time a protagonist hasn’t been white! And a modern-day Terminator not set in middle class white American burbs! It’s race and class and women being both tough and vulnerable, which Sarah has never been allowed to be simultaneously – she’s one or the other. I love how Sarah comes to realise the truth, and the fact that she accepts it and keeps going (looking at you, TERFs).
And I also love Karl. Like, seriously.
- Karl, the draper.
- The ‘give a little girl butterflies on her curtains’ terminator.
- (And the fact that apparently this aspect arose out of Arnie’s actual interest in home decor.) His whole deadpan explanation about why his relationship with his wife works – HELLO HEALTHY MASCULINITY.
- And of course, this is the logical conclusion of the exploration of terminator / humanity boundaries. The machine who knows what he is and consciously – even logically – becomes more human.
- Plus, he has a great sense of humour.
None of this is to detract from Grace and Dani, either.
- Grace: another logical conclusion for the franchise – an augmented human – and her augmentation comes, of course, with frailty, because human bodies aren’t built for the sort of output of a terminator. I am always amused by her less than gracious arrival into the past. I love her.
- Dani: somewhat bewildered and hapless, like an early Sarah, but definitely catches on faster – which makes sense given that she’s clearly had a tougher life than pre-terminator Sarah, and she’s been managing her family. She also gets a ruder awakening, arguably, since her “father” (she doesn’t know it’s a terminator) is killed in front of her and then her brother dies too. She seems to know her limits and yet still push against them. She’s determined and angry and she’s really, really great.
I love this film.
I was thinking that I should review Salvation, Genisys and Dark Fate together, because then it’s two trilogies, in a sense… but then, no. Because Dark Fate definitely gets its own post.
Therefore, a few thoughts on Terminator: Salvation:
And then Terminator: Genisys.
- This is only the second time I’ve seen this film, too, and now I am surprised at myself. The DVD has a quote from someone calling it the best Terminator film since Judgement Day, and they’re not wrong.
- I was suuuuuper dubious about someone else being Sarah, and when I saw that they had re-done That Photo to make it Emilia Clarke I was very angry; like Hayden Christensen at the end of Jedi angry. However, Clarke made it work… and this Sarah is a very different Sarah, after all.
- Timeline? WHAT TIMELINE? Nah man, now we’re into the multiverse, and everything you thought you knew has gone out the window. (Theoretically.) And this is why there was no ‘watching in internal chronology’.
- Once again Kyle Reese is very much the focus, except this time he’s an adult… and rather than getting to be the hero as T1 Reese did, now he’s thrown into a very unexpected situation and he struggles to keep up. To his credit, though, he eventually does; and he usually pulls his weight along the way. I think Courtney was fine in the role.
- I really, really enjoyed the way that this film played with so much of T1, and even bits of T2. Everything from “on your feet, soldier”, to the molten metal… the arrival of the Model 101 (with a body double for Arnie, I’m told), and the punks, was beautifully screwed with. And Reese’s flight from a cop who turns out to be a T1000 – that was magic.
- I’ve decided the T1000 is my favourite Terminator. Way more interesting than the 101, and not as distressingly overpowered as the TX.
- I think, and I hope, that Arnie enjoyed playing this version of the Terminator. From “old, but not obsolete” to “Nice to meet you” [insert terrifying grin] – it’s such a glorious evolution for an actor, not to mention the character.
- Sarah was very interesting! She’s not quite as hard as T2-Sarah, but she’s pretty close; probably saved from absolute paranoia by not having been institutionalised. In fact she’s remarkably well socialised for someone largely brought up by a machine (and if you didn’t laugh when Arnie said “Sarah Connor, seat belt” as they are literally trying to escape an inferno, you were not paying enough attention). I love the gradual revelation that she deeply resents having known a lot about how her life will pan out; and I love her unreserved and defiant affection for Pops.
- And then there’s John Connor. This Connor (when he’s Connor-proper) is slightly more interesting than the Bale Connor, I think; and then to completely flip the tables and throw them across the floor by making Connor a Terminator… honestly, that’s just genius. Connor v Model 101 but now you’re on the side of the 101! Such a logical place to go, I guess, if you’re messing with the Terminator franchise; and I love it.
- So… Genisys is the unholy lovechild of Apple and Google, right? Synching across all of your devices and everything you know about yourself? Cool cool cool.
Salvation gave us a machine built from a man, who doesn’t know he’s a machine and doesn’t want to be and ends up working for the humans. Genisys gave us a man turned into a man/machine hybrid who knows exactly what he is, and works for the machines. And Dark Fate… well, I guess it’s the final, logical conclusion: to have a machine who knows he’s a machine become wonderfully human.
I don’t remember how but we got started talking about the Terminator movies. One thing led to another, and suddenly we own all of them on DVD (trust me, it didn’t cost much), and we’re watching them all.
Ah, but in what order? Like our Marvel watch last year, I really wanted to do it in internal chronological order… but HAHAHA no. That’s all a bit too hard. So production order it is.
Some reflections on the first three films, therefore…
- I’m not sure, but I think T2 might have been my first Arnie movie. Looking at the dates of his films, I don’t think I would have seen any of the others in the cinema. I didn’t see T2 in the cinema either; I distinctly remember the sleepover birthday party where I saw it (on VHS, children). And when he gets into those black clothes, and puts on the sunglasses… that really is my image of him; my expectation of what he looks like. Apparently that imprinted on me more deeply than I had realised.
- And so, the opening moments: those energy bubbles. The progression of technology in terms of what the bubbles look like is fascinating! I really like the fact that each of these movies keeps that as the opening, recreates the crouched figure, and so on. My reaction to Arnie in T1 was that he looked truly inhuman, with the ludicrously defined muscles. He’s still impossibly buff in the next two movies, but looks slightly less… sculpted?
- Which brings me to technology – within the film, imagined for the future, and used in the making. Within the film, of course, each is a microcosm of its day. Landlines and eventually mobiles (although Kate Brewster’s phone still looks super old fashioned). The cars! The TVs! By T3, the internet and how it could be connected and infected.
- The terminators themselves are a spectacular example of how future tech is imagined. Model 101 is a robot with human skin, and while he has no pain and copes with infinitely more damage than a human, that’s about it. A bit faster, perhaps. But then the T1000 suddenly has the ability to shapeshift, and can resume shape after being a liquid, and is just generally more impressive. And then TX… a shift up again. Far more resistant to damage, able to create complex machines as part of her anatomy rather than just blades – and able to talk to modems – she’s magnificent. I love this idea that in order to defeat humans, the machines must evolve. There’s something to explore in that.
- And what the terminators are like also reflects what SFX were able to do. I hadn’t realised before but when the 101 is just the robot, at the end of T1, it’s actually stop-motion – and it’s really obvious to me now. The T1000’s beautifully liquid reassembly is still a joy to watch. And while it’s utterly cheesy and made me roll my eyes, the TX being able to morph so that she is basically able to use her body like rope is another change in the technology available for such effects.
- I love Sarah Connor. I quite like her in T1, although she’s not all that much more than a damsel in distress. But then what Cameron does with her in T2 is spectacular; I do wonder how much that was inspired by Ellen Ripley. Making her a Cassandra is a great narrative choice, for all it’s hideous to watch her in the asylum, and seeing the evolution of her attitude towards the Model 101 is fascinating. Also, filling her coffin with weapons for later? Most badass request ever put in a will.
- Not gonna lie: had posters of Edward Furlong on my wall as a teen. I think he still stacks up as a teen actor. Nick Stahl, unfortunately, is just not that great in T3. He’s probably the most disappointing part of the film.
- The films as objects are also interesting. T1 is definitely of its time – it feels so slow, and some of the chase scenes get pretty boring. Also Kyle Reese is a boor in much of his interaction with Sarah (I do really like Michael Biehn in the role), and I find it quite hard to watch these days. T2 is by far the best of the trilogy, although that might also reflect my childhood viewing of it. The pace, Sarah, the explosions, getting Dyson on side… it’s just a well-constructed narrative overall. T3 isn’t a disaster but it’s also not a masterpiece. What I do love about it, though, is that there’s so little hope, in comparison with the other two. And I guess that’s the point. For all that they’ve done, for all their attempts at circumventing Armageddon, the suggestion is that humans just will create their own destruction. Can’t say I necessarily disagree.
Do not regret re-watching these films at all. May regret either Salvation or Genesis… stay tuned.