I really like Mackenzie Davis. I find her muscular structure, low voice, and generally boyish flair to be actually quite attractive (this isn’t going where you think it’s going). It isn’t because she reminds of me of a male, but because she does so without losing her femininity (on that same chord, I personally think she would’ve made a great Captain Marvel). The days of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire are long gone, but even in her small supporting role in The Martian, it was difficult to not be captivated by her appeal. Her turn as a young woman confusing another’s playtime for real love in the award-winning “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror helped muster to the surface one of the best tales that the anthology series has ever put out. And according to Tim Miller’s yet-to-be-released Terminator: Dark Fate, it would appear that Davis is slated to potentially be the focus of the newest chapter of James Cameron’s beloved science fiction series, one of the most beloved in the history of Hollywood. Of course, herein lies the danger.
The new trailer, which dropped this morning, revolves around Davis’ new character Grace, revealed to be a next-generation cyborg fighting a next-generation Terminator (because there’s always a next-generation Terminator), and protecting a young woman named Dani, played by Natalia Reyes. Any fan of the series who understands the basic concept of 1984’s The Terminator and has at least seen 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day will instantly be sensitive to the feel Miller is going for: Davis’ Grace is protecting Reyes’ Dani. And you’re forced to remember, and reflect on the majesty of, T2. The trailer also shows two parties coming to Davis’ aid in her fight for survival.
The first is Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, aged and battle-hardened. Seeing her return to the series that made her a household name is a strange cross between seeing a ticket-selling gimmick at play, and seeing the ghost of a loved one from the past. After Hamilton’s character of Sarah Connor, a core character of both T1 and T2, was absent in 2003’s well-meaning Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, she was replaced with Lena Headly in Fox’s well-executed but short-lived 2007 television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. She was later portrayed by Emilia Clarke in the franchise’s poorly-received fifth entry from 2015, Terminator Genysis. These largely forgotten entries, and the fact that both Headly and Clarke are infinitely more well known as their turns as, respectively, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen in the high-fantasy phenomenon Game of Thrones, make it feel as though the character of Sarah Connor has, in fact, been completely absent longer than she really has. The trailer’s emphasis on Hamilton’s return to the role cannot be overlooked.
The second party who appears, presumably to make peace with, and offer aid to, Davis’ Terminator, is the original T-800 Terminator himself, played by the well-aging Arnold Schwarzeneggar. It’s a great moment in the trailer to see his face meet Sarah Connor’s—the real Sarah Connor, if you will—but it’s also the only moment where we see him in the trailer at all. And the beautiful poster for the film only shows a lone Sarah walking down a symbolic road to the dark future (to which T1 and T2 provide context for). That’s right—no Terminator on the poster to a Terminator film. So, what’s most interesting about the marketing for this film is the intense focus on the female stars. They aren’t even trying to have Arnold outshine anyone else. It may or may not be a message to the times stating females have always been able to lead in science fiction, but T2 showed us that way back in 1992, and 1986’s Aliens before that (and most of us haven’t doubted ever since), so it feels both representative of the past, while also providing refreshing hope for the future.
T1 is a classic film, and its sequel T2 is a genuine action masterpiece, and a great study on what makes humans, human. T3 was an unnecessary but otherwise well-done action film, and fit perfectly into the Terminator chronology by showing us how the machines rose, and the how Judgement Day finally came to pass. Terminator Salvation picks up with the post-apocalyptic future T3 ended with, but fell ill to an overly revealing set of trailers, and an odd relationship with a Terminator who thought he was human (Davis seems to reflect this in T6’s trailer). Genisys was a love letter to the first two films, written by someone who can’t write…indeed, I refuse go into how much of a mess T5 was. Ultimately, it looks like Dark Fate, led by series newcomer Davis and series veteran Hamilton, will hopefully end the franchise for good. This series needs to end, and it needs to end with Davis, Hamilton, Reyes, and Schwarzeneggar. Although I’m willing to give this film a shot, I won’t keep my hopes up completely, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t believe in Davis’ ability to carry this film alongside veterans and newcomers alike.
My only real question is…
…where is John Connor?