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Small details you missed in the Terminator: Dark Fate trailer

The trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate has finally arrived, and it's got us pretty pumped. For those of you who aren't in the know (and are wondering why in the heck a new installment in the series would have us so excited after the total mess that was Terminator: Genisys), the new flick is one of those "canon resets" with which you're probably familiar. Dark Fate functions as a direct sequel to 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, ignoring the one with the Terminatrix, the one with Christian Bale, and… you know, that other one. We already name-dropped it once, it's not worthy of a second.

As if that weren't reason enough to be psyched, Dark Fate also features the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, and the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as… well, we're not exactly sure (more on that shortly). James Cameron is also involved for the first time since T2 as a producer, and the film was directed by Tim Miller, who completely won us over with his previous feature (and directorial debut), a fun little lark called Deadpool. The new spot promises plenty of Terminator-on-Terminator action, an intriguing plot, and (we can't stress this enough) Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, somehow looking every bit as badass as she did in her last appearance 28 years ago. The trailer also features a few little details that may not have revealed their significance upon first viewing, so we're here to do a little revealing.

Road to the future

At the conclusion of Terminator 2, Arnold Schwarzenegger's T-800 — after finally dispatching the more advanced "liquid metal" T-1000 (Robert Patrick) by dropping it into a vat of molten metal — chose to terminate itself with Sarah Connor's assistance, so that it couldn't be reverse-engineered and (hopefully) Cyberdyne Systems would never exist. While we were still wiping away the tears over the Terminator's demise (one of the neatest tricks Cameron ever pulled), the film gave us a final shot of a lonely, dark road at night, as Sarah's voiceover let us know that maybe, just maybe, the world had avoided catastrophe. "The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope," she intoned, "because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life… maybe we can too."

That ending was brilliant in its ambiguity, and the trailer for Dark Fate opens with a striking visual callback to that iconic moment. We see a lonely, empty road (albeit in the daytime), with signage letting us know that we're somewhere in Mexico, Sarah's intended destination when last we saw her (remember, after the events of T2, she's still a wanted fugitive, an escapee from a mental facility). As it turns out, she's definitely in the neighborhood — but as the spot reveals our new Terminator and its target, it becomes apparent that the machine's assignment has little — if anything — to do with the Connor family.

The new hunted

That target is a young woman named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), whose narration informs us that "Two days ago, [she] had this nice, simple life… but now, it's a nightmare." She and a male companion are in the company of Grace (Mackenzie Davis), to whom there's decidedly more than meets the eye. Grace forces a one-on-one confrontation with a pursuing Terminator (Gabriel Luna), who appears to be a kind of hybrid between the T-800 and T-1000 models, having a familiar-looking endoskeleton that houses a liquid metal-like goo that can assume human form (and also exist apart from the Terminator's mechanics). In the middle of the fight, who should arrive but Sarah Connor — packing some serious artillery, and in no mood to screw around.

Subsequent portions of the trailer reveal a few interesting points: Grace is apparently some type of cyborg, although she insists (when Sarah tells her she's "never seen one like you before") that she is actually human. A naked fight with some outmatched police also suggests that Grace indeed came from the future, but somehow, she has no idea who Sarah Connor is. Additionally, when Grace asks about Sarah's angle in wanting to protect Dani, Sarah says simply, "I was her." 

This raises an intriguing question: where is John Connor? Has his role as leader of the resistance been altered due to the events of T2? Will Dani become the new "mother of the future" — or will she herself one day lead the fight against the machines?

Arnold Schwarzenegger as...?

These are intriguing questions, but not nearly so much as those raised by the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose character is visited at his woodland cabin by Sarah, Grace, and Dani in the spot. "Wait," you may be asking, "can Terminators age?" Well, it's a moot question, because there's practically no way that Schwarzenegger is actually playing a T-800 in this film.

Remember, at the end of T2, the T-800 which had been sent back in time to protect John Connor was no more. It had enlisted Sarah's help (since it couldn't "self-terminate") to lower it into the same vat of molten metal that the T-1000 had just taken a dunk in. If that was enough to put an end to the liquid metal terror, it was certainly enough to melt down a plain, old-fashioned T-800. Could this be a different T-800, one sent back for some other purpose? It seems unlikely, since Sarah doesn't appear to be the least bit on guard. Furthermore, Schwarzenegger's character doesn't seem at all surprised to see his visitors, and while he is wearing a slightly… well, robotic expression, we're thinking that this may just be a fakeout. 

Our guess: this is the man that the T-800 was modeled after, which would make him an ex-employee of Cyberdyne Systems, someone who could very well have some inside knowledge that would be useful to someone who has been targeted for termination.

A significant cover tune

Throughout the entire trailer, there's a melancholy, haunting tune underpinning the action — one which astute viewers will recognize as a cover of a Bjork song appropriately titled "Hunter." The song's title isn't the only thing that ties it in thematically with the Terminator franchise — much of the lyrics could have been written from the point of view of a killer cyborg intent on bagging its prey. Check 'em out: "If travel is searching/And home what's been found/I'm not stopping… I'm going hunting/I'm the hunter/I'll bring back the goods/But I don't know when." There's even a line about "completing the mission," and a refrain of "you just didn't know me" — because, as you know, those Terminators can be hard to spot.

Strangely, there's one more detail about "The Hunter" that makes it a thoughtful choice for this trailer — and while it might just be a coincidence, we'd like to think otherwise. The album from which the song originated, Homogenic, was released in 1997 — the very year that Judgment Day, the initiation of nuclear war against humans by the machines, was to have taken place.

A familiar injury

One brief moment in the Dark Fate trailer plays as a brilliant homage to the first two films, although viewers could be forgiven for not catching the reference. Late in the spot, we see Grace and Luna's Terminator in an all-out brawl in the middle of a warehouse, with Grace using a fire ax to just straight up level the killer cyborg with a blow to the head. As it gets up, we see that she's succeeded in removing most of the skin from the right side of its face, exposing a glowing red eye which will look very familiar to fans of the original Terminator.

The reference, though, is twofold. You may recall that in Terminator 2, the T-1000 suffered an injury of a similar sort (although it was the result of a shotgun blast rather than an ax to the face), which quickly self-healed. Luna's Terminator apparently has the exact same capability, as its horrific injury proves to be quite temporary. It's an ingenious visual callback to the only two movies that Dark Fate counts as canon, not to mention a strong indication that this new Terminator is going to represent, shall we say, the worst of both worlds — with the wily shape-shifting capability of the T-1000 and a near-indestructible chassis, just like the classic T-800. It's safe to say that, once again, Sarah Connor has her work cut out for her in her bid to preserve the future of humanity — but somehow, we have a feeling she can handle it.