Monday, January 14, 2008


Terminator Cameron
Way cuter than Ahhhnuld.

There’s a new Terminator in town, and she’s hawt.

Last night, we caught the premiere of Fox’s new take on the Terminator mythos: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. And we were pleasantly surprised.

For the two or three people on Planet Earth who may be unfamiliar with the Terminator opus, the story begins with the 1984 film The Terminator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a relentless cybernetic assassin sent back in time from the year 2029 to kill one Sarah Connor. Said Sarah Connor, it seems, would eventually give birth to a son John, who would grow up to lead a resistance movement against robotic intelligences bent on exterminating all human life. Think of it as a Grandfather Paradox writ large upon the big screen, and with an Austrian accent to boot.

Sarah Connor manages to survive, thanks to the time-traveling intervention of Kyle Reese, sent from the future by her own son – his closest friend - in order to protect her. So well does he protect her, in fact, that he ends up siring John Connor...before dying in the final struggle against the Evil Cyborg.

The Terminator, produced for a shoestring budget (under $7 million), did boffo box office, setting the stage for 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that rarest of rarities: a sequel that exceeds the original.

In Terminator 2, a New and Improved Terminator cyborg (now with Mimetic Polyalloy®!) is sent back from 2029 - but this time to kill young John Connor himself. The direct approach, you could say. Opposing him is the superannuated (but still Majorly Badass) T-101 “Old School” Terminator, played by Arnie, programmed to protect John. (When Sarah Connor first lays eyes on the T-101, she has no idea he’s there to help her - he’s the spittin’ image of the Bad Guy from the last movie, after all - and she just about shits a peach pit.)

The Future Governator is as relentless as ever in T2, but the New Bad Guy is made of this snazzy liquid metal, so shooting holes in him just pisses him off. Somehow, though, Old and Wily defeats New and Snazzy, and John Connor survives to be a character in the next film in the franchise.

The television show wedges itself into the timeframe right after T2, but thanks to that good ol’ Time-Travelin’ Technology, the main characters waste no time getting to 2007. And the “protector terminator” – “Perminator?” – is an attractive young woman. Her name (Cameron) is an obvious homage to James Cameron, who directed the first two Terminator movies. As played by Summer Glau, she captures that Cyborg Consciousness beautifully.  And she looks Damn Good.

Somehow, the show seems to strike that difficult balance between the introspective mother-son touchy-feely stuff, the philosophical (“the future is what you make it”), and a buncha shit getting blown up. You have a mother-and-son team facing a relentless pursuit by an implacable foe, but with the help of a powerful ally. And you have the “Fugitive” angle, with the FBI attempting to hunt down the elusive Sarah Connor. Hey, there’s even the Christian subtext, with someone whose initials are JC saving the world! Something for everyone. I liked it...and even SWMBO managed to sit through it.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ought to succeed for several reasons: It’s well-written; it does not insult the intelligence of the SF-savvy fan; and it dovetails well with the Terminator movie franchise (of which it is the harbinger of new big-screen installments). And if all that were not enough, it’s being plunked down into a writer’s strike-generated desert of reruns and reality shows. As someone who would rather gouge my own eyes out with a Carvel spoon than watch American Gladiators: The Stupid, Useless Remake, I’m perfectly happy to escape into the paranoid world of Sarah and John Connor.

And, even better, there’s a small connection of sorts. If you caught the front end of last night’s episode, you may have seen a building labeled the E. Hadley Public Library. And, while there is an East Hadley, Massachusetts, the storyline takes place far away from there. The building’s name is actually a subtle hat tip to someone whose name does not appear in the credits proper: Hadley Klein, the assistant to Executive Producer Josh Friedman...and our rabbi’s stepson.

We’ll be back.

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