In 1998, three years after destroying Cyberdyne, Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and John Connor (Edward Furlong in CGI) are vacationing on the beach in Guatemala, when a T-800 Terminator appears and kills John. In Terminator 3, Sarah dies, and John lives. Here, it is the reverse. The Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), an advanced Terminator covered in liquid metal that can separate into two units, appears in Mexico City in 2020 to murder Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), a future Resistance leader. A cybernetically advanced soldier, Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back from 2042 to protect her, and she does. They escape and the twinned Terminator pursues them until Sarah shows up and blows them away, though he only disables them.
Dani, Grace, and Sarah hide in a motel. Sarah says that she has been receiving encrypted messages about Terminator arrivals for years, all ending with, “For John.” Neither John nor Skynet exist in Grace’s future, but there is another AI called Legion which is doing the same thing. The nuclear holocaust was triggered in an effort to destroy it.
Grace traces Sarah’s messages to Laredo, Texas. They go there and discover the same T-800 that killed John (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Having fulfilled its mission, it has been living aimlessly, but learning. It calls itself Carl and has adopted a human family. This is who has been warning Sarah about Terminator incursions because it feels guilty about killing John. Sarah begrudgingly agrees to help it help Dani.
They find a military-grade electromagnetic pulse device from a contact of Sarah’s. The Rev-9 catches up to them and they steal a plane to escape. In the shootout, the EMP is destroyed. The Rev-9 boards the plane and subdues Carl, forcing Sarah, Grace, and Rani to bail out. The good guys make their stand inside a hydro-electric plant. Carl and Grace force the Rev-9 into a spinning turbine, setting off an explosion that damages the Terminators good and bad, and which mortally wounds Grace.
The Rev-9 exoskeleton incapacitates Sarah. Dying Grace tells Dani to use her internal power source against the Rev-9. She is overpowered, but Carl re-activates and restrains the Rev-9 so Dani can stab it with Grace’s power source. Carl drags it over a ledge as the power core explodes, destroying both of them. Dani is free to become the future founding commander of the Resistance. Grace watches as Sarah and Dani drive off.
The film was directed by Tom Miller from a story by James Cameron and others. Cameron produced it with David Ellison. Like most Terminator movies, it is a sequel to T-2 and pretends most of the other movies don’t exist. Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are re-united after 23 years, both of them looking like 12 miles of bad-ass road. Reactions by the fans and critics were generally good, except for the usual trolls who don’t like to see strong women in movies. But there were adverse reactions to the death of John Connor. Maddie Curley was the stunt double for young Sarah Connor and Jessi Fisher for older Sarah Connor. Bret Azar again served as body double for the young Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Like so many films, it was supposed to be part of a trilogy but didn’t make enough money, so the studio lost interest. It was considered a box-office flop. Linda Hamilton was semi-retired and was surprised by the offer to play Sarah Connor again. In fact, without her the movie would not have been made. It took six weeks of long e-mails from ex-husband James Cameron for her to decide. She spent a year in fitness training and military training with Green Berets. She enjoyed the work so much that the director had to tell her not to smile while shooting guns. Cameron liked the idea of a 62-year-old actress starring in an action film. She died her hair gray to look older.
She is top-billed, and Schwarzenegger is second. Carl’s van has a phone number on it. When dialed, one heard Arnold talking about the drapery business. Arnie was 71.The aging T-800 has a dog which snuggles up to be petted, pretty unique among Terminators, I’d say. When he appeared on the screen, despite the rage of Sarah Connor, the audience cheered. As always, he lost an arm and an eye in the movie. Grace, as a human cyborg, is something new in the Terminator world. Her makeup was so well-designed that, despite its complexity, it only took two and a half hours to apply each day. Canadian actress MacKenzie Davis, in Blade Runner 2049 (2017) played Marietta, a cyborg Replicant.