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SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate. If you have not yet seen the film, read on at your own risk!
Tim Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate is built in many ways to echo the story of the original film from 1984, with two time travelers – one good, and one evil – going to the past to try and respectively save and kill the future savior of humanity. Within that, though, there are two major ways that the new movie differs, and they are in the roles played by Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 a.k.a. Carl.
Through events that occur in the plot, the two characters interestingly switch mindsets: Sarah has basically become a single-minded Terminator of Terminators, and Carl is essentially as human as a T-800 can become. It’s one of the most fascinating aspects of Terminator: Dark Fate, so I felt compelled to bring it up when I sat down with Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger late last month during the film’s Los Angeles press day:
The big personality switch in the movie stems from a flashback featured in the early minutes of Terminator: Dark Fate, which notably features the death of Edward Furlong’s John Connor at the hands of an original T-800 sent back in time by Skynet before Sarah Connor was able to change the future. This action effectively robbed both Sarah and the T-800 of their purposes on Earth, with the former dedicated to protecting her child, and the latter having completed his single mission.
That T-800 became “Carl,” dedicated family man and curtain salesman, and Sarah dedicated her life to destroying Terminators (unknowingly getting Carl’s help to do so). It presents new lights for both of the character’s within the legacy of the franchise, and as I learned from Linda Hamilton, that was something that particularly excited her about Terminator: Dark Fate. Said the actor,
That's what intrigues me about these movies, and the ones that I've been in anyway, is that the characters, you're never quite know what version of Sarah Connor or the T-800 you're gonna find. Is he the protector? Is he the killer? Is she unhinged? She's more unhinged than ever, and sort of a woman without a mission in this film, and she's lost, and has kind of lost her sense of humanity as well. So that's fun to get to play with! And then the audience will get to see the characters take a journey. And that I think is what makes that story and the character is what makes the film work.
When reflecting on who Sarah Connor was when we first met her in the original Terminator, it is pretty crazy to see how much she’s changed. Fans will remember that she was introduced as an innocent, fun-loving iguana owner back in the mid-1980s, and then was re-introduced as a warrior against the apocalypse deemed psychotic by society in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. What’s featured in Terminator: Dark Fate is yet another evolution.
Speaking of evolution, that was the exact terminology used by Arnold Schwarzenegger when discussing this new take on the T-800. As the interview took place prior to the release of the new film, he was hesitant to get too in-depth about spoilers, but he explained how it was a development in the new movie he definitely appreciated:
Well, you know, I cannot give the story away so I can't really get into it. I'll just tell you that I was very happy that the character evolved, and it has a certain kind of a decision making power even though he is a programmed machine to kill. And I think they've created enough of a conflict to make it very interesting to act out.