I have a lot of things in my head right now. I’m teaching books that aren’t easy to leave at the door: Maus, a book about the Holocaust, and The Things They Carried, which if you don’t know is one of the best books ever written about the Vietnam war. Both can be a little bit like cigarette burns on your soul, if you teach them right. There’s also some stuff going on in Washington that seems pretty important.
Sometimes, you just need to escape into the first pod you can find and for me, that was Terminator: Dark Fate. Arnold reprises his role and is as good as he’s ever had to be, but Linda Hamilton is the one I came to see. There is something about her character of Sarah Connor that always fascinated me. Broken and welded back together stronger like a fractured bone. Age has only sharpened her edge.
There isn’t much new in Dark Fate. In fact, in many ways it’s almost an exact clone of Terminator 2. Two people are sent back from the future, one human, one machine, to save someone who will lead the resistance and to assassinate them, respectively. This time though, the target isn’t John Connor. And the machine is from a different future, one not ruled by Skynet. This time, the malevolent AI is called Legion.
At one point in the movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is questioned about his cache of guns. He says something that acknowledges Skynet is almost inevitable, and that he “calculates a 74% chance that humanity will descend into barbarism.”
There’s something prophetic about that phrase. So true it hurts. I often remind my students that their country has been at war since before they were born.
Nazis appear to be a political force the US.
Is an AI less of a threat to humanity than humanity itself?
Throughout the car chases and action sequences, all of this movie felt like something I’d seen before, but that is not only part of its charm, it’s exactly what I wanted. Big explosions and gun battles are downtime to think. Yet somehow, this movie’s premise got jumbled up with the other things in my head. The Holocaust. Vietnam. Impeachment. Skynet. Legion. All on tumble dry, rolling over and over and melding together as Sarah Connor’s iconic words “there’s no fate but what we make” echo through the franchise.
This movie begs the question, are humans good enough to avoid repeating the failures of the past? Is a dark, dystopian future something we truly care to avoid?
There’s hope, of course. The new John Connoresque future leader of the resistance, a character named Dani played by Natalia Ramos, says, “I don’t care about the future. I care about what we do now.”
Climate change. The Holocaust. Impeachment. Endless war, rolling over and over. Playing on repeat.
Despite the action and special effects, this movie asks a serious question and gives you a blueprint for an answer. Sometimes, you have to fight with everything it takes, and over and over, you will lose. Europe fell to the Germans. Nearly 2 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans died in the Vietnam war. The Civil Rights movement had its leaders assassinated.
But the allies triumphed. The protests helped end the war. The movement never stopped.
Like Sarah Connor, broken and beaten and without all she has ever loved, the best of humanity soldiers on, rolling over, and over, and over, always getting up.