The trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate proudly proclaims James Cameron has returned to the franchise as producer, suggesting we’re getting the real sequel to Terminator 2. While I appreciate the effort to correct course (because it worked so well for Superman Returns and Neill Blomkamp’s failed Alien sequel), there’s already a reliable indicator that a third Terminator film is probably going to suck. It’s called Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
The teaser trailer which was released for T3 over sixteen years ago looked promising. That’s because it didn’t include any footage from the film. Nick Stahl is so miscast as John Connor that the brief flashforward of him leading the future resistance is embarrassingly unconvincing. Later it’s revealed Sarah died of leukemia, which is code for “Linda Hamilton hated the script.” Coffins and cars are bulletproof, the comic relief is eye-rolling, and the father-son dynamic between Schwarzenegger and Furlong has been entirely abandoned. Admittedly, these are all complaints that (probably) won’t crossover to the new film, but there are a couple of problems which seem inherent to any continuation of the saga.
The main reason the previous film was such a strong sequel is the original left the story wide open. T2 had a great what-if? premise: What would happen if someone discovered the future artifacts left in and around the machine press at the end of the first film? It’s unfortunate the characters of T2 arguably prevented any possibility of Skynet by destroying the very objects which led to its creation in the first place (depending on which understanding of the timeline you subscribe to). T3 ignores this inconvenience with a single line about how the robot uprising was merely postponed. I have big problems with an inevitable Skynet. Determinism isn’t a good look on a series which taught us, “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”
The other reason T2 succeeded is its villain. We had never seen anything like Robert Patrick’s T-1000 before. In terms of ingenuity and performance, we never saw anything like it again. The villain in T3, on the other hand, is about as inspired as any decision made in a roomful of studio execs. How could anyone, including James Cameron himself, produce an antagonist even remotely as novel as the T-1000, particularly in a series that ended so definitively back in 1992?
I’m not trying to review a movie I haven’t even seen yet. I’ll probably go see it just because I have always been a sucker for Terminator media and it doesn’t matter what I think of the promotional material. But in the words of Guns N’ Roses: Where do we go now? After seeing Terminator 2 for the first time, I spent many years wondering exactly that.