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Television: 'Terminator' lives again in well-tooled remake

Published January 11, 2008 12:00 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Terminator promised he would "be back," and he is.

Or should I say "she" is back in a new television series based on the blockbuster James Cameron films. I must say, this new and petite android, who replaces the cigar-chomping Arnie as the main terminator, packs as much of a wallop as our California governor.

In Fox's "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," the story picks up where the second "Terminator" movie left off. Mother Sarah Connor (Lena Headey replacing Linda Hamilton) and her 15-year-old son, John (Thomas Dekker replacing Edward Furlong), are still on the run from police after blowing up the Cyberdyne labs in the second movie.

John, as in the movies, is the messiah who will become the leader of the resistance against a race of machines that take over the world. In the second "Terminator" movie, Sarah destroyed the computer chip that is the center of this war of humans vs. computers. But that apparently didn't stop the rise of the machines.

After the sabotage of the lab, FBI agents aren't the only ones looking for mother and son. Terminator killing machines like the steely-eyed T-1000 (Robert Patrick) from "T2" also are hunting down the Connors and can pop up just about anytime and anywhere.

In the premiere, which airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on KSTU Channel 13 with the second episode on Monday, Sarah and John have just settled in a new town when a "bad" terminator finds them and begins shooting up John's classroom (an eerie scene, especially after the Virginia Tech shooting last year).

But another terminator emerges, this one a bodyguard for the Connors who looks more like a high-school teen bent on winning the cheerleader competition than a manly, muscle-bound robot.

But don't let her doe-eyed, button-nosed look fool you. This new defensive android (played by Summer Glau) could hold up well in a nasty battle royale with Gov. Schwarzenegger.

There are several rousing fight scenes in the first couple of episodes that show off what she's capable of. The new terminator model has a way of looking innocent while ripping another terminator's chest open. (By the way, this series seems a bit violent for a 7 p.m. time slot.)

"Terminator," based on one of Cameron's most popular and exciting movies, holds up well in its transition to television. The action and production values are slick and pulse-pounding, and there are some intriguing twists in the time-traveling science-fiction plot that crop up unexpectedly.

And all of this tense action is grounded by a trio of fine performances. Headey is believable as the tough-as-nails Sarah, who will risk her life to save her son's. And Dekker is more likable and less bratty than Furlong's portrayal of John Connor in "Terminator 2." Best of all is Grau, who despite her Hello Kitty demeanor can look lethal with her deadpan stares and the help of special effects and stunt actors.

Yes, the terminator is back, and thankfully she's as deadly as ever.

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* VINCE HORIUCHI'S column appears Mondays and Fridays. He can be reached at vince@sltrib.com or 801-257-8607. For more television insights, visit Horiuchi's blog, "The Village Vidiot," at blogs.sltrib.com/tv/. Send comments about this column to livingeditor@sltrib.com.