Author’s note: This article has spoilers for Aliens and Alien 3!
Now where were we…
Vijay! You son of a bitch! You just pulled an Alien 3!
Ah yes! I just killed two of the most beloved characters in pop culture!
Had I had been writing Terminator 3, then this totally wouldn’t be the way to go. In the same way that Alien 3 pissed over the struggle that took place in Aliens when they killed off Hicks and Newt; killing off Sarah and John in a potential T3 would destroy everything that had been built in T2.
But this isn’t T3. This is T6. And the necessary death of those characters can be boiled down to two reasons.
1) To make room for new characters
We’ve had our fill of Sarah and John. We’ve seen them in the past. We’ve seen them in the future. There’s not really much else to do with these characters.
2) To create mystery
We’re so familiar with the idea that Judgement Day happens and John goes on to lead the human resistance. By killing him there’s an immediate creation of mystery for Terminator fans. Where’s this going? What happens to the future? Does Judgement Day still happen? Who protects humanity?
So once the opening credits are done, we cut to an FBI office. It’s 2019, 24 years after the events of T2.
We’re introduced to two women: Zoe, 31, a newly qualified FBI agent; and Christine, 45, a grumpy and experienced FBI agent.
Zoe exists primarily as our audience surrogate, a person through which the audiences will understand the world of the film. But Christine is our actual protagonist.
In this scene Christine reveals a case she’s been working on for close to two decades. The case of the Phone Book Killer. Recognise the name?
That’s right. The Phone Book killer is what America calls the Terminator. And that’s what this opening scene is for. To introduce audiences, both old and new, to the events of T1 and T2; BUT from the point of view of the authorities.
I’ve explored this idea in a previous article, but long story short, the Terminator murdered 29 people in T1. That’s makes him responsible for the single deadliest shooting in modern US history until the events of Virginia Tech in 2007. Which means, guaranteed, he’s immediately number one on the FBI’s most wanted.
Remember, nobody in 1984 knows that the Terminator is a robot. They think he’s human. So when he turns up in T2, the authorities obviously assume he’s the same mass murdering psycho from 1984. They even directly say that when interviewing Sarah Connor in T2.
Not only would the deaths of T1 be blamed on the Terminator, but all the deaths of T2 as well. Even though those deaths may have been committed by the T-1000, if you watch the film carefully, you’ll notice there are almost no witnesses every time the T-1000 kills someone.
I guarantee all these deaths (such as the Mental Ayslum security guard, John’s foster parents, the bystander in the shopping mall) would be blamed on the Terminator, especially since he always seems to be in the vicinity!
But why have I decided to make Christine the protagonist rather than the Terminator?
Because she has a personal vendetta against him. One of the people that was murdered in T1 was a close relative of hers; and she thirsts for vengeance.
That’s her driving force. That’s her story arc. To find the man that torn her family apart. (Remember, she has no idea he’s a robot, nevertheless a completely different robot from the one that destroyed her family.)
But what has become of of the Terminator?
That’s when we cut to a small restaurant in Northern Canada. There’s the Terminator. Sat at a table. Opposite a woman…
Is he on a date?
Oh, F**k you Vijay!
No! Wait! Don’t go!
Alright, calm down everyone. There is a method in my madness.
Think about what we learned about the Terminator from T2. Obviously he’s trained in hand to hand combat, the usage of a wide range of weaponry and has detailed files on human anatomy. But a small thing we learn is that he possesses a learning computer.
So the longer he stays in the company of humans, the more he learns about them and the easier it becomes to fake being human. And we see from T2 that he learns incredibly quickly, e.g. keys being held in a sun visor, Hasta la vista baby, etc.
T2 takes place in 1995 while this film takes place in 2019. That’s a solid 24 years. The Terminator, by this point, will be almost indistinguishable from a normal human. Far closer to the “normal” performance of T-1000 in the early parts of T2.
But he’s not actually interested in the person he’s on a date with (We’ll call her Dena). After all, he is just a robot. Rather most of the attraction comes from her. I’m thinking of someone a little older, to be more age appropriate for 70 year old Schwarzenegger and maybe Native American. Like Karina Lombard or Sheri Foster.
But the point of this scene is to introduce how the Terminator lives his life. To show how he’s hiding from the authorities that are hunting him.
We soon reach his house and that’s when he becomes more like the Terminator we remember. Now that he’s alone, he’s colder, less emotional. He doesn’t need to pretend because there’s no one around to trick.
And slowly we watch how he’s adapted his machine body to hide more effectively in human society. For example, we watch as he cuts into his stomach area with a knife, and removes a box filled with the food and wine he had consumed at dinner.
But the point of this scene isn’t just to show how he’s adapted, but also how much of a lesser Terminator he is. I mean, you guys saw him at the end of T2, right?
While his skin would heal as there’s no way for him to be infected, it’s impossible to completely repair the mechanical damage by himself.
And since he doesn’t need to sleep, that’s what we see the Terminator doing. Making minor repairs and fixes to try and keep going. In other words…
Now, because I can’t write out an entire screenplay here, the basic ideas that follow this are
- Dena’s daughter discovers the Terminator is a wanted man and informs the FBI
- Christine and Zoe, with FBI and Canadian support, descend on the town.
- Dena sees evidence of the truth surrounding the events of T2 and doesn’t consider Terminator (who she now knows to be a robot) to be a threat.
At this moment the Terminator asks for Dena’s help. Help to do something he could never do himself.
He wants her to kill him.
As I mentioned in Part one, T2 reveals that the Terminator cannot self terminate. But he knows that, even though Judgement Day didn’t take place in 1997, as long as he lives there’s always a possibility. The only way to truly protect humanity is to die.
This is probably the moment where we as an audience start to think a little differently about the Terminator. Maybe he isn’t just a robot. Maybe there is a little humanity within him.
Anyway, it’s soon revealed that the reasons the Terminator chose to live in this town are twofold. The first was obviously the remoteness. But the second is because this town is the closest human habitat to an oil refinery. One of the very few places in the country where temperatures can reach high enough to melt his titanium skeleton.
Though Dena agrees to help him, by this point the house is surrounded by Christine, Zoe and the rest of the authorities.
Long story short, the Terminator has been planning for this for years as he and Dena manage to give the authorities the slip.
This is roughly the half way point of the movie as we move into my favourite part:
“Humans hunting down a Terminator!”
Don’t be mistaken. This isn’t a chase in the vein of the bombastic T2. Rather it’s a stripped back and far more down to earth experience. Sort of like The Fugitive.
And like The Fugitive, the rest of the film is almost a battle between two incredibly strong personalities. On the one side you have Christine, a woman ruthlessly seeking revenge and willing to do almost anything to attain it.
And on the other you have a Terminator, a man/robot stuck in a time he doesn’t belong, hated by everyone, but only wanting to do what’s best for humanity.
While I won’t go into details, the two personalities finally clash one on one in our third act. Both utterly convinced what they’re doing is right, and both refusing to give up. A finale filled with both strength and tragedy in equal measure.
So what do you think? Did I suggest an idea as bad as Genisys? Worse than Genisys? Did I pull a Phantom Menace and rape your childhood? Sound off in the comments!
Next time: If I Could Write… Minions!