Terminator: Dark Fate Has women In the Forefront

I love the Terminator franchise…I always have. The original one was among my Mom’s modest collection of VHS tapes in the late 80s and I watched it countless times. Back then, the idea of intelligent, indestructible war robots seemed like such a long shot. And yet here we are – a mere decade away from the year that the original Terminator was sent from.

However the original Terminator movie was very much an 80s film (in spite of its timelessness). A young and green Sarah Conner is just living a mundane life as a 20-something waitress when she becomes the target of a relentless killing machine. She was very much the helpless female through most of the film. In fact, one of the scariest moments in the film (in my opinion) is when Kyle Reese was killed…but the Terminator’s torso pops up…still set on killing Sarah. Hopefully everyone who would want to has seen the film already….so I’m not spoiling anything by revealing that Sarah does eventually kill the Terminator (of course). But she simply crushed him in a machine…there was no real physical conquest or anything.

The 90s Brought a New Decade, and a New Woman

When Terminator 2: Judgement Day was released, it really surprised everyone. Arnold Schwarzenegger was now the ‘good guy’ and Sarah was totally different. She was physically tough and feisty — prepared to fight any and all threats. But she was also mentally fragile. She became both an asset and a liability next to the ‘protector’ Terminator. At that time, I do not recall a more interesting and complex dynamic as what you were presented with than the Sarah Conner of the T2 movie.

An iconic image of Sara Conner (played by Linda Hamilton) from Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Women in the String of Lackluster Terminator Films

T3: Rise of the Machines introduced a female terminator; which was interesting. But in all honesty, the entire film was a bit ridiculous. I mean she inflated her boobs in order to attract attention! {facepalm}. Kate, the future wife of John (Conner) was the target now…and while it is alluded to that she is tough in the future; throughout the movie, she is certainly more like Sarah Conner v. 1.

Terminator: Salvation had no real strong female roles of note (unless you count Skynet itself…which was faced by Helena Bonham Carter). Terminator: Genisys presented a young, tough and war-ready version of Sarah Conner….portrayed by Emilia Clarke. However in this film, Sarah is the protegee of T-800 terminator that was sent as a protector for her as a child. This isn’t quite a Sarah Conner who is a product of her own determination and resolve.

How ‘Dark Fate’ Changes The Game

Terminator: Dark Fate was surprising, even refreshing, in several ways. First and foremost, 3 women, Dani, Grace and Sarah (Conner) are the core characters in the film. Arnold isn’t even introduced until an hour into the movie. It was also great to see that Dani, the central character, was Mexican. And the ‘bad terminator’ (the ‘Rev-9’) also had the appearance of being Latino (makes sense – if the target is Mexican and living in Mexico).

While many are trumpeting the return of the Rambo-isque Sarah Conner, I personally believe that her pairing with Grace and Dani is the special seasoning in this film. The woman in this movie are not damsels in distress. They are also not the products of any male mentors or gurus….just their own life circumstances. Even Dani…who is the terminator’s target, is introduced as a much more fiesty and stand-up type of woman than Sarah Conner v. 1 was.

From L-R: Sarah (Conner), Grace & Dani

Dare I say that Arnold was not even really necessary in this film?

It was also nice to see that a 60 year old Sarah Conner could be utilized in this film as a key asset. While she is still a bit out there mentally, she isn’t on the brink of irrationality like she was in T2. She very much is rocking the attitude of doing her own thing, until she is dead in her grave, old lady or not. Speaking about age, I do not think we’ve ever seen this in cinema before. Taking characters from one generation (a la Rocky Balboa), keeping the same actors, and re-utilizing them in a new generation of movies. It really gives creatives a lot to work with.

Now if we could only get rid of all these annoying action sequences that present 60 moves a minutes and we would be good!