Terminator: Dark Fate killed the child character from James Cameron’s previous installment in its opening scene. After all of Sarah Connor’s sacrifices to stay alive, give birth to the future savior of mankind, and protect him at all costs in the first two Terminator films, this newest film makes it clear that it was all for naught. Another Terminator came and finished the job the first two failed to do. John Connor is dead.
This reminds me of Alien3. In the opening scene of that film, the child character from James Cameron’s Aliens is killed unceremoniously. After all of Ripley’s efforts to stay alive, rescue Newt, and protect her at all costs in the first two films, Alien3 makes it clear that it was all for naught. Ripley’s triumph at the end of the last film turned into devastation at the start of the next film. Newt is dead.
This may not seem like a totally fair comparison. Terminator: Dark Fate is the sixth film in the series. John Connor continued to live and lead the human resistance against the machines in the third and fourth films. In Terminator: Genisys, he was taken over by Skynet and ironically turned into a Terminator. But I think it’s perfectly fair to compare what happened to John Connor in this film to what happened to Newt because Terminator: Dark Fate ignores the last three films and acts as a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
There were many scripts written in the years between 1986 and 1992 to try to make a satisfying follow-up to Aliens. I read one of them by William Gibson entitled Alien III, and I believe it had Newt live happily ever after with her extended family. She wasn’t involved in the story after that, but at least she didn’t suffer a violent death. I think of those unused Alien3 scripts as basically the same as the many attempts to follow the events of the first two Terminator films. The only difference is that the Terminator sequels and spinoff actually got made.
John and Newt
Why is it that no one knows what to do with James Cameron’s child characters? As far as I can tell, Newt was never a pivotal part of any of the unused scripts. And John Connor never grew much as a character. He just continued on the same trajectory in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and showed some of his leadership skills in Terminator Salvation. His role in Terminator: Genisys felt like an ironic “what if” scenario more than a natural evolution of the character.
For whatever reason, John Connor’s leadership role always seemed like it was more interesting as a future event. The way Kyle Reese described him in The Terminator with love and admiration speaks volumes about what kind of man John would be and the mother who would mold him. We get to see some of his leadership qualities shine through his childishness in Terminator 2, and we could believe that he would one day be a great commander. The whole point of those movies was to give him a chance at life so that eventually he could either avert the war with the machines or triumph over them. Now that point seems moot.
Newt represents Ripley’s dead daughter and her lost innocence. Ripley was psychologically scarred after the horrific events of Alien, and the opening of Aliens serves to tear her down even more by denying her the opportunity to keep raising her daughter or even to say goodbye to her before she died of old age. Meeting Newt and bonding with her gives Ripley a chance to redeem herself by being there for this surrogate daughter who has lost her whole family and everyone else in her life. Newt is traumatized by the horrors she’s witnessed, and only Ripley is able to relate to her and comfort her.
At the end of Aliens when the day is won, Newt embraces her and calls her “Mommy.” It’s the perfect catharsis for both characters. Ripley has destroyed all of the monsters from her nightmares, saved Newt from being impregnated by them, and reclaimed the daughter she lost. If only they could have fought side by side or been allowed to ride off into the sunset, safe in the knowledge that no other alien threat could hurt them. But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
I can think of a few reasons why no one came up with a satisfying use for these child characters:
- The scripts took too long to produce, and the child actors grew up before filming could begin.
- No one listened to James Cameron’s input on the sequels.
- The characters’ stories were completed perfectly at the end of the previous film.
- Shock value.
- The filmmakers wanted to go in a radically new direction, but couldn’t with the supposed dead weight of carryover characters.
It’s rarely a good idea to toss aside an important character from a previous film. At least I can take consolation in the fact that Dana Tasker was never ruined by another filmmaker attempting to make True Lies 2.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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