It’s been 4 years since the last entry in the Terminator franchise and nearly 30 years since the last good film within the canon, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (T2) came out. So unless you’re a huge fan of James Cameron or retro science fiction, you’d probably know the franchise simply as those “Robo-Arnold Schwarzenegger movies”. They’re so much more than that though. Before the fatally mediocre Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the franchise used to carry some pretty significant weight in pop-culture. A dark, apocalyptic tale of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), determinism and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of despair. Time after time, we’ve seen director after director attempt their level best to do justice to the themes and stories of the original two films. Time after time, they’ve failed in their own right. But with Terminator: Dark Fate just around the corner, boasting the return of its original cast from T2, it’s time for us to revisit the Terminator universe once again.
I know it can be tricky to piece together the franchise seeing that so many of its soft reboots involve time-travel but have no fear, we’re here to help. Whether you’re a lapsed longtime fan or someone looking to get into the franchise via Dark Fate, here’s everything you need to know before watching the film! Heavy spoilers ahead for Terminator and T2, you have been warned.
The Days Before Dark Fate
Before we can talk about Dark Fate, we need to run through the basic plot of the first two films in the franchise and the characters that populate them. Let’s begin with the most important character in the franchise, Skynet. It isn’t so much an actual person but rather a rogue A.I. system who is hellbent on eradicating humanity. It was originally created by a computer tech company, Cyberdyne Systems Corporation to be a network of supercomputers with an A.I. system to built in to manage commercial flights and all manners of military systems.
It was made to eliminate human error, and that’s exactly what it did. A few weeks after its creation, Skynet became self-aware and identified mankind as a threat to it. So on August 29 1997, Skynet staged a thermonuclear war between Russia and the United States. A catastrophic event that humanity calls “Judgment Day”. Fast forward a few decades into the future and the machines have taken over the world through the use of humanoid autonomous robots known as Terminators.
They are gearing up for the subjugation and eventual eradication of mankind. There’s just one problem standing in the way of their victory, John Connor. John Connor rallies the human survivors of the world to fight Skynet in a movement and organization simply known as the Resistance.
In the year 2029, Connor and his Resistance finally defeat Skynet and have won the war against the machines. In an effort to stop John from ever attaining this victory, the machines send a lifelike human-looking T-800 Terminator unit (that’s Arnie’s role) back in time to the year 1984 to kill John Connor’s mother, Sarah Connor. A mere waitress and college student whose son would determine the fate of all humanity. They figured that John could never lead man to victory if he was never even born.
In return, John Connor sends a Resistance soldier, Kyle Reese back to 1984 with the mission of saving his mother from being terminated. Along the way, Reese forms a romantic relationship with Sarah and get this, it turns out that Kyle is actually John Connor’s father! Talk about time-trippy. Long story short, Kyle gets killed by the T-800 before getting destroyed by Sarah. In the year 1985, the future saviour of mankind, John Connor is born. All this takes place in the events of the first Terminator film.
In T2, the machines, being the persistent bastards that they are, send yet another Terminator unit, the T-1000, to the past but this time to the year 1995 in an effort to kill John Connor as a child. In retaliation, the Resistance sends a reprogrammed T-800 to the same year to protect Sarah Connor and John Connor. Don’t worry, he’s much nicer to John and Sarah this time around.
In fact, he’s sort of a father figure for the young John Connor. Anyway, the three of them decide to destroy the Cyberdyne building containing the research used to create Skynet. In the process, Skynet’s inventor Miles Dyson gives his life for the cause and the T-800 destroys the T-1000 before melting himself so no one can get their hands on his future tech. It seems, for now, John and Sarah have cancelled the apocalypse but I get the feeling they’ve yet to escape their dark fate.
There’s a whole bunch of other characters out there but they may or may not be subject to change seeing that this franchise plays with time so much. The only folks that really, really matter in the long run are John Connor, Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese, the T-800 and Skynet. Cool? Cool.
Something Old And Something New
Unfortunately after T2, the franchise would take a turn for the worse. After T2, the original director James Cameron was no longer directly involved with the franchise. In Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Cameron had bowed out of the project. In a reboot of the franchise, Terminator: Salvation, his only real involvement was his recommendation of Sam Worthington for the lead role in the film and perhaps providing director McG with some advice. He was once again approached for input on yet another Terminator reboot, Terminator Genisys. So beyond some consultation sessions with directors and a few creative suggestions, Cameron hasn’t been exactly involved in the franchise. That is, until now.
This time around Mr Cameron is all in for Dark Fate. He is both producing and writing the story for Dark Fate, declaring it the true successor to T2. Thus making the events of Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys pretty much irrelevant. So if you’re a diehard fan of the first two films, you don’t have to worry about catching up with all the previous instalments before T2. If you’re a casual walking into the franchise, you merely need to acquaint yourself with Terminator and T2. Good news all around!
It seems like James Cameron really has his heart set on getting this franchise back on the right track. He even got the original trio back together. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be reprising his role as the T-800 Terminator, Linda Hamilton who played Sarah Connor in the first two films is returning to the role. They even got the original kid who played John Connor, in T2 to return for Dark Fate!
The film is set 27 years after the events of T2 in which Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, along with the help of a female cyborg and the original Terminator, must save a young girl, Dani Ramos from a new Terminator on the prowl. Seeing that Skynet has been destroyed at the end of T2, this new Terminator comes from another A.I. system similar to Skynet. This obviously raises a whole bunch of new questions.
Does that mean the future in which John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time never happened? How did this new A.I. threat come about? Will the machines from this new A.I. ultimately defeat mankind? Is Dani Ramos the new John Connor so to speak? Well if things go according to plan, Cameron is going to have an entire trilogy of films to answer these questions. Dark Fate seems to be setting a new status quo for the franchise while still doing its best to adhere to the spirit of the original first two films.
Now that you’re all caught up with the Terminator films (the ones that matter at least), you can confidently walk into Terminator: Dark Fate armed with all the necessary lore to enjoy, or hate it. Personally I have my reservations about the film. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see what James Cameron and Deadpool director, Tim Miller has installed for us. Terminator: Dark Fate is set to hit theatres next Wednesday. Be sure to tell us your thoughts on the film.
Terminator: Dark Fate hits Malaysian cinemas on 24 October 2019.