Beyond the obvious reasons, you know. Bad directing, bad writing, a lack of clear ideas, those are all problems that can torpedo any movie, and that the Terminator franchise post the first two films have had in spades. But according to Tim Miller, the director of Terminator: Dark Fate, there was one core element missing.
“I knew the answer to that: it didn’t have Linda Hamilton in it,” Miller said. “It is essentially Sarah’s story. And even if they focused on Sarah, it’s not Linda Hamilton. And that’s always gonna feel odd. And that’s nobody’s fault, I’m not taking away from anything in those movies.”
It’s a straightforward but actually kind of revelatory thesis. Terminator, at least in the popular consciousness, isn’t really Sarah Connor’s story—it’s the broader story of a bizarre apocalypse, time travel, and the Terminators themselves. To most people, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a much more vital piece of Terminatordom than Sarah Connor. But the focus Connor, and Linda Hamilton in particular, lends to the franchise is undeniable, and I feel a bit ashamed of myself for not seeing it sooner.
Miller’s idea also explains why the only good Terminator sequel before Dark Fate was The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Like this film, it’s focused on the ongoing saga of Sarah Connor versus her worst enemy—not the Terminators, not Skynet, but a fate which says she’s already screwed. And Sarah Connor is always determined to win, no matter what.
Terminator: Dark Fate is in theatres now.