TERMINATOR: DARK FATE Continues to Provoke Debate. Mostly: WHY was it so hard to crack a ‘third’ Terminator movie?
But what if I told you, they sort of ‘did’ do it? What if there is another way of looking at this, altogether? TRUE LIES = THE REAL TERMINATOR 3? I am talking subtext here; a retrospective meta-textual re-reading of the brand. Come with me if you want to..
True Lies was a Jim Cameron / Arnie Schwarzenegger follow up to T2. By follow up, I do not mean sequel. I mean, repeating /recapturing the elements, the formula that made things successful. And in a realistic time-span while they still owned the zeitgeist; the movies came within a 3 year cycle, typical for sequels in a ‘franchise’ style series. One could accept that the Terminator story was done, whilst enjoying again the aesthetic and moral ingredients that made it all work. Same way one can enjoy classic Spielberg product without them all being in the same series; The Lost World and Minority Report are not Indiana Jones films, yet they share motifs, lighting echoes, tonal fusion etc.
IE: The IP, the USP etc was never ‘Terminator’ but instead Cameron /Schwarzenegger!
Consider the evidence:
- Character Arc: Arnold’s Harry Tasker is a spy who must learn to balance work and life by integrating himself into his family more organically and honestly, rather than continuing to lie. Same way his T800 had to learn human behaviour and adopt the Connors as a kind of family to fulfil his mission.
- The Women! Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor starts as a waitress and becomes a badass warrior. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Helen Tasker has to find excitement and romance away from her role as legal secretary and homemaker. Both characters discover an inner strength and that they can have it all, against the odds, with a little help from some equally strong Schwarzenegger characters.
- The Kids! In T2, Edward Furlong’s John Connor begins as a delinquent and then grows into skills that will one day see him save the world, with a little help from Arnold. In True Lies, Dana Tasker (Eliza Dushku) starts off as a petulantly rebellious teen, yet literally DOES save the world, with a little help, from Arnold.
- Nukes! In both movies, the threat is nuclear war and for all the action adventure thriller fun, the destructive power of the weaponry is shown without holding back.
- Expanding on Source Material: T2 managed to take the preceding movie as a source of a fully developed mythology, with moral motifs, philosophy, closure and a satisfying action blockbuster born from quite independent film roots. True Lies took a French trousers down farce called La Totale! And crafted an epic spy romp to rival a (then, pre GoldenEye) seemingly dormant 007.
- Looking and Sounding Cool via the Mall /Shades etc: Arnie looks uber cool in both movies, putting on shades and walking through a Mall to take on baddies, backed by the tech beats of Brad Fiedel’s atmospheric score.
- Taken Literally: This could be the same universe? Bill Paxton features in both and could be the same character? And remember that Harry Tasker works for an anti-terror unit that seems very hi tech and sophisticated. What if they had been building the ultimate AI..with Arnie’s body as the template for its ultimate robotic / cybernetic ‘look’ in the field..just sayin 😉
We never did get a True Lies sequel. But there was endless talk of more Arnie /Jim collaborations, including, at one point, a Spider-Man film with a Terminator like Doc Ock! Imagine that. In short? The brand we needed to revisit every few years was NOT Terminator. It was the Cameron-Schwarzenegger show! Like a travelling theatre company doing similar but never identical revue skits..but on a blockbusting movie canvas of cinematic and atmospheric innovation, via some repeated beats. Maybe in another timeline, somewhere? Or, Jim..just stick Arnold in an AVATAR film?!