I will forever lovingly curse paradisecity for making me care about this canon when there's not a very big fandom to support it, and here I am more than 10 years later, still caring too much about this franchise.
All this is to say that I have seen the new movie and I loved it. I loved it so much guys, I can't even.
Sooooo many spoilers coming
This movie had everything I could have asked for. Kick ass women! Carl the Terminator sharing his strong feelings on drapes! Action! It dealt with the fact that the level of tech has changed a hell of a lot since the 80s! It had a young hero growing into a leadership role! It brought forward interesting questions on the personhood of robots! They didn’t try to CGI actors to look like their younger selves for the whole film! I'm in love.
Let's start with Dani, we begin by seeing her as the caregiver and "mom" of the house, even though she appears to be the youngest. She's got a lot of caring in her and leads her family with love but even from the beginning we can see some of the steel under that. When her brother is about to be fired, she puts on a serious face and goes in to fight for his job and we see that she's willing to fight for others.
Once the bullets start flying we get a lot of helpless and confused Dani as she is thrown in the deep end and told her family is dead all at once. But once that first extended fight scene is over, she slowly starts to take charge again. Grace and Sarah know what needs to be done but Dani is the one who arranges how it'll get done by relying on family and contacts to get them over the border. Then later once they're with Carl she is done with being told what she's going to do and starts asserting herself, making her choices heard. We get to see that leader peeking out before getting the flash forward where we see her totally in charge, and in charge in her way.
John was presented in T1 as someone cold and calculating in the future. He knew what was coming and made the hard decisions to ensure they won, with some implication that he was aloof and perhaps cut off from those around him. Dani, on the other hand, leads with her heart. She will go and fight for a child singlehandedly, even though she commands troops who could force the issue. She makes a personal connection with those around her. I am so prepared to read a million words about Dani and her leadership against Legion in the future.
Which brings me to Grace. It was pretty great to see the parallels between Grace and Kyle. They were both members of the future resistance sent back in time to protect a young woman that they had mixed up feelings of hero worship for and saw them as a mother figure. In Kyle’s case it was seeing Sarah as the mother of a leader, with Grace it was a woman who swept in and saved her at a vulnerable time as a child. The parallels were so great but also were so different. So much of the Terminator series has been about parents protecting children, so having Grace flip that and be a child protecting a parental figure was wonderful.
Which brings me to Sarah, OMG Sarah!
The scene on top of the train where Sarah tells Dani that the future doesn’t care about her just her womb; there was so much trauma in those few sentences. Unlike Sarah, I had correctly pegged Dani as the new leader but I think the fact that it went down that way says a lot.
Like, 1984 probably wouldn't as easily bought a kickass woman being the leader and best hope for all of mankind, whereas today it's what I defaulted to when I knew John was out of the picture. But Sarah’s trauma stood in the way of that realization for her and she is identifying hard core with Dani. I doubt that it's that she thinks Dani couldn't be the leader of the future, but she so stuck on Dani being the new her.
The fact that Sarah transformed herself, gave up who she was to be who she needed to be for both her son and all of humanity only for it to be for nothing? For all the things she did and was capable of, she was never the leader of the resistance, even though she's obviously qualified. But no, instead all her hard work and sacrifice is distilled down to her son who didn't even make it, so she did all of this for nothing.
She brought so much of value to the table but in the end she feels she was only ever a womb for the resistance. Their Mother Mary. I hope that Sarah, as she trains Dani for the future to come, realizes that she can still be the Mother of the Revolution without being reduced to just a womb to carry the saviour.
Ok, now let’s talk about Carl: OMG, I love him so much! He has strong opinions about drapes! He is long suffering about being shot bc how will he explain that to his wife!? He got himself a wife bc he was efficient at changing diapers! *swoon*
I think they maintained that balance that Arnold has been great at in these movies of, keeping the Terminator serious and straight faced while also keeping him humourus. I would absolutely read fic that was just Carl not realizing that he's terrorizing his customers with his strong drape opinions.
But on a more serious front, one of the things that has always drawn me to Terminator is the line between what is pure machine, and what is more. T2 dealt with that, seeing John growing close to "Uncle Bob" and mourning his loss. In T3, the terminator actually overcomes his programming to save John! And it's probably the biggest theme of the TV show. So seeing what happened to Carl once he was outside of Skynet's influence and without a mission was wonderful!
It's suuuuuper interesting to me that when left to his own devices, without a mission to fulfill, the connection Carl made was to help a woman in an abusive situation and help raise a child. Skynet's primary objective has always been to take out humanity (with an implication of “before it gets taken out”, since Skynet's origin story as a military based AI meant to control weapons and war then created a war based on its programming). It would have been very in line with Skynet's principles if Carl had gone on more killing sprees, tried to bring about the creation of Skynet more quickly, or taken up a violent position such as muscle for a warlord, gang, or mob. Instead, he saw a human in need and helped her. Then he learned about humans and humanity and became more human through that process, experiencing empathy for Sarah. That's beautiful.
What could Skynet and/or Legion become had it not had violence programmed into it from the beginning? What would individual Terminators do if parted from the hivemind?
OK, there are some other meta things I’d like to discuss, but first I want to share my feels on John Connor. Since I got into Terminator mostly through The Sarah Connor Chronicles a lot of my feels are tied up in John Connor. I have a thing for the reluctant hero trope and John really goes through that arc in the show. He goes from a kid who always does what his mom says and will run and hide leaving others to deal with the danger, to the realization that, shit, he's going to have to be calling the shots someday and trying to take on that mantle. He has a similar realization at the end of T3 when listening to the panic over the radio and knowing someone has to take charge and that someone is him.
With all my John Connor feels I was pretty shocked at his immediate murder in the movie. But I made myself forget about it at the time, and now that I've seen the whole movie, I'm actually ok with it. Dani was a great replacement and I still got to see that reluctant hero arc but in complete contrast to what we’ve been told about John.
Because we’re getting Dani as an adult she doesn’t have to grow up with her future looming over her like John did and we see that she priorities people and connecting to people through their shared humanity, this is what makes her a great leader. She doesn’t have the aloofness that Kyle implied in T1, she certainly doesn’t have the, hmm, arrogance? self-importance? that John had in T4.
John and Kate Connor are the only humans we, canonically, know can reprogram terminators. Between T2-T4, and the TV show I’ve always had the head canon that part of the reason why John is the saviour is because, through his foreknowledge and past interactions, he’s able to understand terminators more than anyone else. He’s able to look beyond their kill programming and see at least their usefulness underneath. He’s able to understand machines on their level, understands their logic and that makes fighting them easier.
This movie throws the whole “chosen one” theory completely for a loop.
Not only is John not the only one able to lead the resistance but, with so few conversations about what the future is like from Grace, it’s pretty open ended how much future knowledge gets passed on to Dani. Sure she’ll have all of Sarah’s knowledge and experience but Grace made the point more than once that Legion isn’t Skynet and their futures are different.
I heard that the plan was to make a trilogy of films with these characters and with this one being the first. If that does happen (which is debatable considering the not-so-stellar opening weekend), I bet they’ll retcon in more knowledge of the future otherwise it kind of makes the premise of the movies… redundant? If when one saviour falls another can step in to take their place, sending assassins back in time to take them out only changes who the saviour is. But if part of what makes a saviour a saviour is their advanced knowledge of what’s to come, then the time travel is necessary.
Dani’s future also has a different reaction to technology. If T4 showed us anything it’s that John’s future would have been pretty uncomfortable with augments. Dani’s future not only has augments but augments trusted soldiers and gives them important tasks to undertake.
Actually, let me talk about the progression of terminators and tech in the Terminator ‘verse. I appreciate the evolutions of Terminators we’ve seen. T1 had the standard metal framed machine with a skin covering. T2 brought us liquid terminators. T3 gave us a terminator with a metal frame but liquid exterior. This one had a terminator with a metal frame and liquid exterior like T3, but the two parts could work independently. We ended up with a 2 for 1 deal where a single terminator can have 2 bodies
The terminator innovation in T4 was mostly Marcus who was a human heart and brain in a metal body who didn’t know he was a terminator; which completely backfired on Skynet, who didn’t understand why Marcus would reject it while Marcus clung to his humanity. In a lot of ways, T4 was a precursor to Grace as both showed that who you are matters more than what you are.
I honestly don’t remember much of T5? The terminator innovation was that Doctor Who was Skynet and he managed to turn John Connor into Skynet too? IDK guys, I liked the movie, it was fun to watch and had lots of call backs and homages to make fans happy but I don’t really feel like it added much to the overall mythos of the series, at least not the parts that I like best.
OK, I’m winding down, so two more quick points:
1) From a purely meta point of view, it was somewhat nice to see that, if fridging is going to happen, it was a guys dying to give the woman pain. And that, while her papi’s death was straight off-screen fridging, when it was Diego’s turn it was actually a ~moment~. Like it’s implied he spent a lot of his life leaning on Dani but in the end he was the one to take a hit for her.
2) The petty thing in this movie that disappointed me was that they changed the name of Skynet to Legion. *hands* Legion is so... forgettable. Bleh.
But if I only have one petty complaint about the whole movie, I think that’s a pretty good sign.
In conclusion, you should go see this movie and then share your feelings with me.