Lee has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.
I'm gonna go ahead and state what everyone has known since Terminator 3 dropped in 2003: we did not need all those "Terminator" sequels. The story was just fine and pretty much a done deal by the end of the second movie. Skynet had been stopped and Sarah Conner and her son were finally free to live their lives. The end.
What's more, James Cameron didn't work on the sequels, and it's really obvious. The story just plummets after the second film because it was so completely unnecessary to continue. But continue Hollywood did. Because Hollywood wants those coins.
As a writer myself, I recently realized that not everything needs to be a series and not every story needs a sequel. I have always been something of a long-winded sequel-holic in the past. Now I focus on writing tight, concise stories and resist the temptation to write sequels unless they are absolutely necessary.
I wish Hollywood would do the same thing and stop messing up perfectly good stories for the sake of cash. Earth to Hollywood: you can make money without selling out!
In fact, I found the sequels to be so awful, I can't even remember them, and yet, Terminator 2: Judgement Day was one of my favorite movies when I was a child, and still is.
Here is why.
Sarah Connor Kicked Ass
If Terminator 2 had been released today, there would have been a million think pieces exploding across the internet, complaining that Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) was an overpowered and unrealistic Mary Sue solely created to appeal to radical feminists.
Instead, Sarah was allowed to be depicted as a human being. She wasn't sexed-up. There was no emphasis or focus on her appearance and how it somehow related to her worth.
She wasn't helpless. As one of the protagonists, she had a hand in driving the plot and her choices shaped the story in meaningful ways. She did not stand around in the background like an object, waiting to be rescued or to serve the male characters, as if her life revolved around them.
She was allowed to be human, angry, and flawed without the narrative framing her as weak or a "bitch." In fact, those scenes where she has the nightmares really make you empathize with her desperation to stop what's coming (if you aren't made of stone).
She handled a gun well and fought her way through droves of men while escaping the institution, and no one sputtered that it was unrealistic or impossible because "women so inferior." No one -- that I recall -- decided to ignore all the real, live women soldiers who were kicking ass in the same way while protecting this country.
Sarah also wasn't the typical female character who lets a man sexually assault her and then falls in love with him. Oh no. When Sarah, while helpless and strapped to her bed, is licked on the face by a pervert working in the institution, she beats his ass to the floor not five minutes later with a broom handle and breaks his nose. And it is awesome.
Sarah Connor was pretty much a Strong Female Character before Strong Female Characters became an ugly archetype used by misogynists to fill their I'm-not-sexist-see? quota.
As a child watching this film, it was inspiring to see a woman given so much respect as a character when other films usually regulated women to plot devices, sex objects, and stereotypes. As much as I resent James Cameron for Avatar, I'll always be glad for the existence of Sarah Connor.
It pains me that I'm giving a film director a cookie for doing what he's supposed to do by not being sexist, but this is the mad world we live in.
John and the T-800 Were So Cute
When the T-800 ( Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back in time to protect John Connor (Edward Furlong) from the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) that is coming to kill him, the two develop a very cute friendship. I always felt it was miles better than seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger playing an evil, murderous robot like he did in the first film. Especially with his more heartwarming films like Kindergarten Cop having been released just the year before.
Schwarzenegger was still cutting his teeth as an actor, so his awkwardness in this film made him endearing and badass at the same time. He basically embodied a trope in a way that a female character would never get away with.
He doesn't understand what tears are or human emotion or why it's wrong to kill people. He only knows what he's been programmed to do, and it's through Connor that he learns what it means to be human and alive. He starts caring about Connor as a person and not as an objective.
Once the T-800 understands what love is, he sacrifices himself to protect the ones he loves and to prevent Skynet from happening.
Kinda annoying that all the sequels handwaved this.
The T-1000 Was Scary as Hell
Robert Patrick was menacing as the T-1000. He was scary and yet somehow awesome at the same time. Because he was made of this cool, glittery liquid metal, he could change his hands into blades and went around stabbing people in their faces before taking their appearance.
He could even take-on someone's voice, and the way he always ran in that hard, precise robot's way was as great as it was terrifying. If I ever had to meet this man in real life, I'd shake his hand for such an awesome performance and then I'd piss myself.
Miles Dyson Presented An Important Question
Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) was the man responsible for the eventual uprising of Skynet, the super AI computer that takes over in the future. His work on Skynet, and the way in which he admits to having invented Skynet, sort of poses a time paradox that the film never really attempts to explain (unless I missed something).
Dyson explains to Sarah Connor that he and his people salvaged pieces from the original terminator that tried to kill her, and it was from this technology that they started building Skynet.
Can you see the problem here?
Skynet basically gave birth to itself by sending a terminator back in time. We could also say the same thing about the existence of John Connor. John Connor sent a man back in time to protect his mother from the terminator sent to kill her. This man eventually became John's father. So in a sense, John created himself as a reaction to Skynet creating itself.
This is a paradox. It makes no sense. It's impossible. Skynet can't be responsible for its own creation -- and thus the creation of John -- in that way. Unless Skynet is some kind of AI god for whom the laws of quantum mechanics present no limitations, it's just not possible.
Hell, maybe Skynet is a Time Lord. Who knows?
I could be missing something huge here, as I haven't bothered looking at the other "Terminator" films in years. But I felt that this time paradox was something that should have been addressed within the film that proposed it. Instead, Dyson brings it up once and no one even realizes what he has said.
All in all, this film will always be one of the great classic science fiction action adventure films to me. It didn't need any sequels.
I hope Hollywood changes its prequel-sequel--side-story-crazy behavior in the future, but I won't hold my breath.
© 2018 Lee