‘T2’ stars are 25 years… ageless & ready to reunite in action

This was to be only a happy response to Terminator 2‘s re-release and forthcoming reunion, as well as (partly) the Wonder Woman debate that some of James Cameron’s relevant comments inadvertently triggered. But there is a real change in the horizon of our culture at the moment, caused by the Harvey Weinstein debacle. So, what follows had to also become the starting point to a series of articles exploring the already shifting female agency both in film and TV, on and behind the scenes. Buckle up. This is only the beginning.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day celebrated its 25 years anniversary with a digitally remastered, 3D re-release on the big screen. A celebration that was closely and properly followed by the announcement of Linda Hamilton and James Cameron returning to the franchise. The former, of course, in the iconic role of Sarah Connor and the latter as a hands-on producer, in a film that will reunite them both with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Directed by Deadpools audacious Tim Miller this sixth installment in the Terminator saga will be approached as a direct sequel to Terminator 2 and is currently eyeing a release date sometime in 2019. The news was received both with cautious optimism, thoughtful enthusiasm or doubts. I for one, choose to trust Cameron, because of what he did then and what he is saying now.

Then, with Terminator 2, he took his own b-movie about the saviour to be of humanity against the machines and transformed it into a high-tech, ground-breaking blockbuster about an anything but a traditional or sexually objectified warrior mother. Now he had this to say for Sarah in Terminator 6: “There are certainly plenty of 50-, 60-, 70-something guys out there that just keep cranking along doing action movies and killing bad guys left and right. But there isn’t an example of that for women, and I think there should be.”

So, in anticipation of that example at long last becoming a reality let’s see what the stars and the author of Terminator 2 have been up too in all these years.

The (Un)Holly Trinity

Sarah Conor – Linda Hamilton

T2‘s formidable Sarah Connor

Then: A romantic lead and somewhat a damsel in distress in both TV’s Beauty And The Beast and the original Terminator, she took us by storm and completely unawares by becoming the virtually genderless, extraordinary yet deeply relatable Sarah in Judgement Day. She brought the first ever full-blown action hero into the cinematic world and in doing so, made history.

Since then: Prone to typecasting, Hollywood didn’t know what to do with Hamilton after #Terminator2. Her career peaked with Dante’s Peak in 1997 on the big screen, and then resumed on TV with a series of notable appearances in one-off or recurring guest roles in Fraser, Chuck, Defiance, Lost Girl and most recently the short dramedy Shoot Me Nicely. In most if not all of them she played a mother, oscillating between the romantic and action qualities of her acting past, but never really given the opportunity to reach Sarah’s groundbreaking strength and intricacy. Off screen she became a pioneer in breaking the taboo of mental illness, candidly speaking about her chronic battles with bipolar disorder on CNN’s Larry King Live in 2005. Previously reluctant to return to the franchise she was persuaded otherwise by Cameron – her director then, father of her daughter, Josephine, and ex-husband afterwards, long time friend now. She is currently training in preparation for Terminator 6 to much of her fans’ elation.

Linda Hamilton in this year’s Shoot Me Nicely

Words of wisdom: “Yeah, right. How are you supposed to know? Fucking men like you built the hydrogen bomb. Men like you thought it up. You think you’re so creative. You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction…”  Sarah says it all to the future creator of Skynet, Miles Dyson. Her words combined with her actions fully imply that a woman doesn’t have to be a mother or anything else. She can be a mother and everything else. Even someone who is prepared to deal death and destruction in order to protect those she holds dear.

The Terminator –  Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Terminator is back

Then: Reprogrammed by John in the future to be his own protector in the present, Judgement Day’s Terminator was a cold, hard killing machine no more. Instead he became an ever-present surrogate father able and willing to learn the value of human life. Arnie had the chance to further flex his substantial comedic muscles, which he had just discovered in Twins and Kindergarten Cop, thus expanding his range and affirming his status as Hollywood biggest star at the time.

Since then: On screen it was in comedy he truly shined, teaming with Cameron again in the epic, unusual romcom True Lies and hilariously connecting with his feminine side in the criminally underrated Junior. He was also the only one of the original creative team that stuck with the Terminator franchise for the first (Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machine) and the last (Terminator Genisys) of its subsequent three (Termination Salvation being the middle one) misadventures of no avail to his faltering cinematic career. Off screen he found his place in the word and to an extend redeemed himself for the ugly scandal of his extra marital affairs that erupted in the public eye during his separation from Maria Shriver. How? By being one of the best, environmentally highly conscious Governors of California for two consecutive terms back in 2013, one of the most progressive, moderate and sane Republican voices in American politics and one of the most persistent and fearless critics of President Trump.

Arnie in the ill-conceived Terminator Genisys

Words of Wisdom: “Hasta la vista, baby”. The Terminator shoots T- 1000 to a million pieces and proves his ability to learn and evolve, astutely mastering the concept of humor.

James Cameron

Jim Cameron shooting T2

Then: He had already changed the game with Aliens’ Ripley and The Abyss’s Lindsey. But with  Terminator 2’s Sarah who appeared (tank top and muscles on display), talked, handled guns and acted like any of her contemporary male action heroes (think Bruce Willis and Die Hard ) he solidified his ability as a feminist, or rather “equalist” mega blockbuster filmmaker.

Since then: He directed the two highest grossing movies of all time. First, in 1997, in his words, “his one million dollar chick-flick”, Titanic. And then, 12 years later, his sci-fi, extra-terrestrial, echo-friendly allegory, Avatar. In between he made record-breaking history by pursuing his other, more scientific interests, including visiting and revisiting the Titanic wreckage, as well as reaching the deepest part of the Marianna Trench in collaboration with National Geographic. He also, unexpectedly, found lasting happiness with Titanic’s Suzy Amis, with whom he’s been married since 2000 and shares 3 children. He is now hard at work directing the first two of the four in all Avatar sequels, while producing both Terminator 6 (or Untitled Terminator Reboot as it’s officially termed) and Robert Rodriguez’s Alita: Battle Angel (which he also co-wrote with Laeta Kalogrides). Last but not least, a devoted ecological activist and a vegan himself, he found the time to collaborate with Arnie in promoting less meat consumption.

Jim in a special screening of T2‘s 3D re-release

Words of wisdom: “Linda looked great (as Sarah in T2). She just wasn’t treated as a sex object. There was nothing sexual about her character. It was about angst, it was about will, it was about determination. She was crazy, she was complicated. … She wasn’t there to be liked or ogled, but she was central, and the audience loved her by the end of the film.” Asked about his recent comments on ‘Wonder Woman’, Cameron shrewdly reiterates his argument on why Sarah was the truly groundbreaking feminist character.

Jim and Linda in an impromptu reunion around her birthday this past September

The Wild Cards

John Connor – Edward Furlong

T2‘s thoughtful John Connor

Then: A fresh, open-faced kid, handsome and yet anything but typically cute, with a deep, steady, often unnerving gaze, he perfectly embodied John Connor as a shrewd delinquent, who however possessed a faultless, inner moral compass.

Since then: 13 years old in Terminator 2 he subsequently delivered a handful of spot-on, mature performances, holding his own next to such acting legends as Jeff Bridges in American Heart, Tim Roth in Little Odessa (his personal favourite), Meryl Streep in Before and After and Edward Norton in American History X (my personal favourite). Off screen he developed his love for playing the piano and the guitar into a successful music career in Japan, his non typical good looks into lucrative modeling spells for Gap and Calvin Klein among others, and his controversial pairing with his 13 years older tutor (and later manager) Jacqueline Louise Domac into a quiet, uneventful life. But then, as he came of age, it became increasingly apparent that he was unable to handle adulthood. He was set to return as John in Terminator 3 but was fired before production even began. Sadly he has no longer been making headlines for his (meager) artistic contributions but for his interminable struggles with his personal demons through addictions, DUI convictions, accusations, arrests and restraining orders. Currently there are no plans for any involvement of his in Terminator 6.

Eddie in 2013’s Assault On Wall Street

Words of wisdom: “The future’s not set. There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.” John tries to follow his own advice, given by his future self to his father, Kyle, as a message to be passed on to his mother, Sarah.

Terminator T-1000 – Robert Patrick

T-1000 catches a glimpse in the “mirror”

Then: Cold, silent, lean, sleek, sharp and relentless as a blade Robert totally had us as an exterminating machine made of liquid, mimetic metal.

Since then: Another victim of typecasting he did leave an impression in Walk The Line as Johnny Cash’s father, but it was on TV where he was given the opportunity to explore the range of his talent. He won awards and respect for his decent and dependable non- believer agent Doggett in The X-Files. He exposed a more soft, fragile side in both True Blood as Alcide’s troubled werewolf father and From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series as a broken priest and parent. He is now staring as another decent and dependable government agent, Gabe Gallo, in CBS’s hit show Scorpion. Off screen he has been living a simple, tranquil, anti-Hollywood life with his wife of 27 years, Barbara, their daughter Austin and son Samuel. So far there are no plans for him to return to the Terminator franchise either.

Robert in Scorpion

Words of wisdom: No words. Just a menacing forbidding movement of the finger.

The Simple Facts

Watching Terminator 2 again on the big screen now the choice of the 3D conversion may seem questionable as it didn’t really add anything significant to it. Apart from that however its re-release made perfect sense as it proved its agelessness and enduring progressive qualities. At the same time, it faultlessly illuminated how little Hollywood invested in or boldly furthered Sarah’s legacy.

It is disheartening to realise how few, if any of our cinematic female action heroes have been so complex, tackling even motherhood while being total, unapologetic bad-asses and in no way sexually objectified. Indeed Mad Max: Fury Road‘s Imperator Furiosa is the only one that readily comes to mind, and she dropped our jaws only a couple of years ago. So it is most definitely about time for Sarah (and Jim) to return and remind us how it’s done.

A bloody alien ‘Alien’

Five years after the visually stunning but otherwise pretentious and ultimately hollow, Prometheus, comes Alien: Covenant. With it Ridley Scott resumes his campaign to reclaim as his own a legendary cinematic franchise that never really belonged to him.

Each film of the original Alien Quadrilogy (Alien, Aliens, Alien3, Alien: Resurrection) was blessed with a distinctly visionary director: Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, respectively. Each director bringing something new to it against all odds, enhancing it as a masterful genre-hybrid; as a latent yet substantial philosophical meditation on the dysfunctional – superbly prolific or unimaginably destructive – relation between creator and creation; and as a sophisticated, satisfying mainstream entertainment.

Above all, each one of them anchored his piece of the saga’s puzzle to Ripley. Specifically Ripley as incarnated by Sigourney Weaver – an always commanding, unmistakably (and inescapably) human character, whose evolution was traced boldly, but seamlessly, genuinely. She was the rational, playing strictly by the rules officer, who grew into a fierce, androgynous warrior mother (and the archetypical female action hero), a defiant, genderless, self-sacrificing… Medea, and a motherless unknowable and at once painfully familiar alien. Because of her the original Alien Quadrilogy became, in addition to anything else, a proclamation of an all-powerful, both nourishing and lethal, nonconforming, mercurial femaleness. Or, in other words, the much maligned Other. Thus, if this saga ever belonged to only one author, this should be Weaver.

Newt & Ripley are the last women standing in ‘Aliens’

Despite its shortcomings Prometheus honoured at least that fact by putting at its helm not one, but two charismatic actresses (Noomi Rapace and Charlise Theron) more or less as the two sides of the same coin (although Theron had very little of a tangible character to sink her teeth in). Alas, in addition to its other, often glaring inefficiencies* Alien: Covenant fails even in that respect. Not only due to Katherine Waterston’s lack of charisma. Don’t get me wrong. She is a good actress. And as the Covenant ‘s second in command she is enough. But she is short of that glint in the eye, that innate inner strength that suggests the existence of something deeper – an inviting ambiguous complexity that all of her predecessors, and particularly Weaver possessed.

As it is she is unable to hold her own against Michael Fassbender in the dual role of androids Walter (of Covenant) and David (of Prometheus). And as Scott gradually shifts the anchor of his film to the latter… every self-respecting Alien fan can’t help but feel betrayed. Not because Fassbender is in any way inadequate or lacking. On the contrary. He is imposing, composed and ingenious in expressing a lot by affecting only the tiniest of changes on his facial features, mannerisms and body language. But neither as Walter nor as David is he given anything complex or particularly intriguing to do. As Walter he is nothing but an echo of Bishop – the good android, as David of Ash – the bad android. There is no conflict, no dilemma, no internal struggle for their man-made, artificial nature emanating from either of them. Hence there is no fulfilling explanation, no motive, no comprehension for each one’s behaviour. David’s blind, vengeful furry is particularly problematic (especially in light of Dr. Elisabeth Saw’s apparent kindness) even though Fassbender does his best to reign in the insufferable pompousness of his dialogues and monologues, infusing him with at least a flicker of vulnerability (when facing his “brother” or his “child”).

Elizabeth Shaw is the last woman -barely-standing in ‘Prometheus’

No. It’s the blatant, crude and pointless ripping down of the saga’s identity as a subversive feminist manifesto that is and should be maddening. It is the regression to the traditional, patriarchal idea of an almighty, unforgiving, designated/socially constituted as male creator. Still, some leniency could be afforded to Scott (and his writers) if he chose (or was able) to do so in a shrewder, sharper way. After all he had a recent, brilliantly fearless paradigm to follow and draw inspiration from: George Miller’s massively entertaining, yet astutely (and anything but patronising or overstating) political Mad Max: Fury Road where a whole saga is shifting/progressing from patriarchy to matriarchy, with Theron’s magnificent Furiosa in the driver’s sit, but without taking an inch away of the myth of the iconic character of Max.


*Where to begin? From the once again inexplicable and over-stylised opening scene? From the fact that instead of watching a genre hybrid you are left with the awkward impression of at least four different in tone and style movies:

a/ a sci-fi horror up until the explosion of the landing ship, which is the only effective, suspenseful and interesting part of the film,

b/ a no longer latent or substantial, but rather affected and over-explaining philosophical study of the creator-creation tableau, whereupon android Dave sheds tears as he quotes Byron, gives flute lessons and creatively manifests his hatred for all flesh & bones – “shall we say meat?” – beings,

c/ a full-blown, noisy action adventure reminiscent not only, obviously, of Cameron’s Aliens but also such better or worse movies of… mass destruction as Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Transformers: Dark Of The Moon, when Daniels duels with the creature on top of the rescue ship, and

d/ a gory, teenage oriented b-movie as the xenomorhp hilariously interrupts two of the youngest and most attractive members of the crew’s lovemaking in the shower?

David is the last -synthetic- man standing in ‘Alien: Covenant’

From the fact that this proves to be another of Scott’s utterly and eerily humourless endeavours, taking itself too seriously, emphatically demanding from your senses to recognise it as art, while simultaneously lacking his distinctive, visual voice more than any other of his films? From the sheer, laughable predictability of the plot that for example renders the true identity of the android that boards the Covenant absolutely evident to anyone (off the screen) but the Covenant’s crew? From the total absence of novelty? Or from Scott’s uncharacteristic decision to constantly resort to referencing not only his films but those of his fellow Alien directors as well? In the case of Cameron he even takes a cue from The Terminator and The Abyss, offering us all of sudden, during the film’s final moments, a series of alien POVs! For no apparent or meaningful reason, much like all of his other easy and anything but intricate or organically embedded in the film references (with the sole exception of Jed Kurzel soundtrack, perhaps, which fruitfully incorporates familiar notes from all the earlier films into efficiently atmospheric melodies).