28 years after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) prevented Judgement Day, a protector from the future has arrived to protect another young woman from a new breed of Terminator. The same nightmare?
...but mostly the same, yes.
My brother and I watched them, loved them and ran around in the backyard pretending to be robots.
A few years later, I was given T2 on DVD - it was the two disc set with about 1000 special features, breaking down how they made the movie. Watching those special features, and seeing how these movies were put together got me interested in filmmaking in a serious way.
For a couple years, The Terminators were my favourite movies. And then the other sequels happened.
Terminator 3 was disappointingly fine - I don't think I've watched it more than once, but the only things I like about the movie are its fantastically bleak ending and a deleted scene which explains how the T-101 got its human face.
I have a soft spot for Terminator Salvation - it throws away the formula and tries to create a feature-length story set in the future war: sadly said story is so muddled it never amounts to anything dramatically. By the time Genysis I was less attached to the franchise, and did not bother to see it. I was not sure I would go see this movie but I heard some good things, and the return of James Cameron in a proper creative capacity lured me in.
And it was a pretty good time. Dark Fate is not on the level of the first two, but it is pretty good.
While I enjoyed this movie, there is a sense that this is the end of the road - and not just in terms of the diegesis. Ala Halloween 2018, Dark Fate cuts out the non-James Cameron entries, and re-centres the film around original lead character Sarah Connor.
The funny thing about Dark Fate is how much it feels like a reboot of elements and ideas from the last couple movies: Like Terminator 3, it features a villain who blends a metal endoskeleton with a liquid metal covering. It even borrows T3's method of dispatching the villain. Like Salvation, it features a human character who has been augmented with Terminator-style technology. Like Genisys, it is in focus.
Because of the echoes, I was not that intrigued by the new machines - the liquid metal gimmick has been done, but the series cannot seem to move past it. That being said, Gabriel Luna is great in the role - the quiet intensity he brings feels in the same range as the blank menace of Schwarzenegger in the original and Robert Patrick in T2.
I just wish the movie treated him with a little more weight.
While I enjoyed the movie, I was not in love with the aspects of the production - there was an incoherence to the editing of the action sequences, and the filmmakers are far too enamoured of the machines' abilities, deploying the same rubbery physics that are detriment to modern action films.
One of the key elements of Cameron's movies is how they lean into the nightmarish aspect of the premise - part of it is the nature of how action films were made, but one of the best aspects of those movies is how they ground us in Sarah and John's POV - they feel like ordinary people watching and interacting with these otherworldly beings.
In Cameron's hands, the Terminators are terrifying. In Dark Fate, the Rev-9 only feels threatening when it is just Luna walking through unknowing civilians.
While the execution is spotty, the story - while familiar - actually bothers to lean into genuine science fiction, as it comes up with a new look at how time travel has affected the future.
Even Arnold's appearance carries more weight than I expected - post-Salvation, it feels like an obligation to have Arnie show up, but this movie manages to use his appearance and age to its advantage to answer the question of what happens after a Terminator completes its mission.
What is great is that the filmmakers lean into the fact that this particular model is a different character from the previous ones: 'Carl' has remade himself as a banal family man, working an incredibly boring job selling drapes. Schwarzenegger is gifted with the lion share of the comedic beats but, unlike Terminator 3, these moments are peppered through the movie with enough tact that they do not detract from the drama.
The new cast are really good - Mackenzie Davis makes for a solid addition to the Cameron Action woman archetype and Natalia Reyes is good as the young woman she has to protect. They are so good, I almost wish there was a version of the movie without the old guard.
My big takeaway from the movie is that I wish it did just a little more to stand out on its own. But do not take this review as a slam - this is a good movie, anchored by strong performances and builds on what has gone before in interesting ways. It is just after three previous entries, Dark Fate feels like a respectable finale rather than the beginning of something new.
Check it out.
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