"We're still at war, Plissken. We need him alive."

"I don't give a fuck about your war... or your president."

Terminator: Dark Fate

I love THE TERMINATOR, but I love TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. To me it’s one of the all time greats of sequels, summer event movies, action movies, movies in general. It came into the world at the right time to knock me on my ass, and has only grown with me. We’d never seen a movie like it; the technology had not existed for a character to do the things that the liquid metal T-1000 did, and no woman, not even Ripley in James Cameron’s own ALIENS, had returned to the screen as thoroughly transformed into an indelible badass as Sarah Connor.

At the time it seemed like the biggest, loudest, most over-the-top and technologically advanced action spectacle we’d ever seen. Now there’s a certain quaintness and groundedness to it. The then-show-stopping computer effects are only for a little bit of morphing – now we notice the huge amount of real stunts involving a semi-truck, motorcycles, a helicopter and various pyrotechnics that would never be so real in a modern movie. And the story is built on characters and emotions in a way that’s much more resonant to me than most subsequent movies of this type.

That’s especially true of the trilogy of T2 followups, each one a failed attempt to begin a new trilogy. A rotating gallery of rights holders made TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES (well-crafted but obvious, until a pretty surprising ending), TERMINATOR: SALVATION (beautiful and gutsy, but a narrative mess) and TERMINATOR GENISYS (just really fuckin stupid). The new one, TERMINATOR: DARK FATE ignores them all and has the strong selling point of bringing back creator James Cameron (as co-writer and producer who was apparently hands on during pre and post-production). More importantly it has the very obvious thing that has been missing from all of the non-Cameron installments: the fucking lead actress of the TERMINATOR movies, Linda Hamilton. (In 3, Sarah was said to have died, in SALVATION she cameos on a voice recording, in GENISYS she’s played by a sorely miscast Emilia Clarke.)

You know – like LOGAN.

Just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in. If you want the short version, I’ll just say that it’s nothing great and that I liked it. It doesn’t push any envelopes, it just works as these types of movies tend to today: reminding us of things we liked about the old movies, adding some new characters, mixing up the formula. But it’s not creating the formula and – not that this is a fair thing to ask of any movie – it’s not reinventing the way movies are made. It’s kind of like THE FORCE AWAKENS, but it’s less nostalgic, so it doesn’t attempt to mimic the tactile visual world of the old films. Now we’re used to seeing very detailed, very involved digital animations that shift and morph and flip around and are followed by impossible camera moves and yes, we see a whole bunch more of that again, because that’s what movies are now. This is just one of those, but a pretty good one.

As is TERMINATOR tradition, two opposing soldiers from a future war arrive naked in the present, one trying to protect a person from the other trying to kill her. But because Sarah (Hamilton, KING KONG LIVES) stopped the creation of Skynet in T2 it’s a different future war against a different A.I. that’s called Legion and was made by the military but also uses Terminators, Hunter-Killers and time travel assassinations. Fuck. I’m sure this will bum some people out the way ALIEN 3 did, especially since John Connor died as a teenager instead of growing up to fight, so Sarah probly wishes she never saved the world. Now she spends much of her time getting blackout drunk – or so she claims. We only see her holding a few bottles of beer handed to her in social situations.

The protector is Grace (Mackenzie Davis, TULLY), a human soldier cybernetically enhanced for super speed, strength and durability (though she crashes out and needs constant medication). The Terminator is a model Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna, Ghost Rider on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), not functionally much different than the T-1000, though the FX teams always find ways to make him visually interesting, animating his morphs kind of like a hybrid of muscle fibers and rock formations. Forming beautiful shiny black tendrils. And there’s a cool gimmick I’m glad I didn’t pick up on from the trailers (so, SPOILER) that since the liquid part separates from its solid metal structure his skeleton can act as his sidekick, for example driving a truck while he’s on the hood fighting. (I wish this was explored a little more, like if our heroes figured out they had to keep them separate in order to defeat him.)

The present day citizen they’re fighting over is Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes, BIRDS OF PASSAGE) of Mexico City. She’s attacked at the factory where she works and escapes with Grace. After witnessing a bunch of crazy robot violence Dani doesn’t have a hard time believing that yeah, I guess these are time travelers. Much of the movie is a series of chase scenes and fights. Just when they seem cornered, Sarah shows up with a bazooka. They have no idea who she is, but she sees that Dani is kind of in the situation she was in in the first movie, so she wants to help.

From this point on I really need to dig into some SPOILERS. Beware.

We all knew Arnold Schwarzenegger would be in it, but how, exactly? We learn that at the time of T2 there were other Terminators sent besides the T-1000, as backup or something. One T-800 later caught up with John Connor and killed him. The scene is shorter than I’d like, but they very convincingly put young Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong faces onto body doubles. I like that the T-800 is an idealized Arnold, a more chiseled face put on the swollen body of Brett Azar, who also played a young Terminator in GENISYS.

But he was just leftovers, a Terminator acting on orders from an evil computer that no longer exists, fighting a war that’s already lost before it begins. A ronin. And like John Connor’s Terminator pal in T2 he started to learn things from humans. So for years now he’s been passing as a very weird human named “Carl,” living with an adopted family in Laredo, Texas. And he can’t go back in time and change it so that he doesn’t go back in time and kill John Connor, but he can try to work toward some kind of redemption. Though clumsily introduced in dialogue I really like this premise.

And because Grace showed up with the latitude and longitude of Carl’s house tattooed on her belly she goes to him for help, bringing Sarah. So we get the ol’ “grizzled badass lady reluctantly forced to work with the robot drape salesman who murdered her son” routine.

One of the ways Cameron made the T-1000 scary was by putting him in an LAPD uniform, so in 2019 we have one disguised as Border Patrol. Grace and Sarah have to get Dani across the border to Laredo and end up in a detainment center (one that looks much more pleasant than the ones on the news). My friend Matt Lynch pre-emptively made fun of anyone who would think that makes the movie meaningful or relevant. On its own it’s not saying anything, but in the context of 2019 films it certainly is. Just compare it to RAMBO: LAST BLOOD. This year the two biggest action stars of the ‘80s reprised their most popular characters as plaid-shirt wearing cowboys living peacefully with adopted Mexican families in border states until they have to give it up to fight again. But LAST BLOOD (like SICARIO: DAY OF THE SOLDADO, MISS BALA and PEPPERMINT) portrays Mexico as the land of a couple nice people sprinkled in a horde of psychotic cartel members who are coming to get us. It’s a world view that’s convenient for action theatrics and for the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, baby stealing agenda of our current regime of shitheads. I don’t know if that means Hollywood are Trumpists, or think they can make a quick buck off of the people who are, or just have bad timing. But it must be noted that it’s happening.

Therefore DARK FATE makes a statement by solely depicting Mexicans as human beings. There’s not even, like, a little scene where some alley muggers get into a scuffle. There are some young people hanging out under a bridge who might be junkies or something, but they try to help Grace. I guess the one negative cliche is the plot convenience of Dani having an uncle who’s a Coyote.

(Incidentally, I noticed a credit for footage from SIN NOMBRE, Cary Fukinaga’s excellent movie about people trying to get over the border to escape gangs – did they somehow stitch some of the train footage in there? Or was it playing on a TV or something? I didn’t catch it.)

You almost don’t notice that this is a big spectacular sci-fi action movie with three female leads because it seems more revolutionary that it’s handing off the future to a Latina. The heroine being a Mexican woman who has to cross the border illegally to save the human race – that’s not nothing. I always read meaning into T2’s future of humanity being a kid in a Public Enemy t-shirt, I’m damn well gonna read meaning into this.

Dani is like John in that she chooses helping people over a rigorous focus on the mission at all costs. She’s very different from Sarah at any stage. She’s not trained to fight, but she shows a toughness and an aptitude for leadership when she stands up to her boss at work, or even to Grace and Sarah when they’re arguing about how to protect her. She insists on her autonomy from them and from her supposed fate.

In these arguments Sarah is struggling for relevance in a world where she’s no longer hot shit. I love that she spent so many years with the weight of the world on her shoulders as the mother, protector and trainer of the future leader of the human resistance, but by saving the world she made herself into a nobody. There’s something meta about that for a character that’s such an icon to so many of us and maybe means nothing to younger people. And also for older actors in general, especially women (but even Arnold). The people who couldn’t bring enough people into theaters to make enough millions of dollars off this movie. But I still love them.

Sarah doesn’t feel as real and nuanced here as she does to me in T2. She’s at a different stage of life where she’s kind of a snarling bad attitude in human form. It’s more of a pose, less of a portrait of raw emotions hiding behind muscles and sunglasses. She knows what we think of her, and she flaunts it. But it’s fun to see her. Arnold and friends get to do these type of “that’s right, I’m still a badass” roles, so it’s enjoyable to see Hamilton get that opportunity, and of course I’m a sucker for the way she and the killer robot move toward fight brotherhood.

I kind of love Carl. I want a t-shirt with “CARL” in cool metal letters. At his home there are some jokes, most of which made me laugh, though at least one (involving sunglasses) was a groaner. But when the shit goes down it’s pretty fuckin cool to see old Arnold in this tenacious underdog fight against yet another more advanced model. It’s kinda like ROCKY BALBOA, he’s slower and stiffer but he’s tenacious and has fists like sledge hammers. (And he’s fighting alongside Grace, who sometimes has an actual sledge hammer.) When the two robots are fighting it’s like the ultimate battle of strong silent types. They don’t show pain or anger. They just keep going.

And I like that at the end Sarah and Dani seem to be pals. Driving around in a Jeep together. Sarah wearing hipper clothes all the sudden. And letting Dani drive. Maybe she’s mellowing out a little now that she has a new future war to help out with.

This is only the second film directed by Tim Miller, who did the first DEADPOOL and dropped out of the second in part to do this. He’s a veteran animation and FX guy – through his Blur Studio he worked on SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD and designed the title sequence for Fincher’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, among other things.

From what I’ve read, the script was by David S. Goyer (BLADE) & Justin Rhodes (CONTRACT KILLERS), heavily rewritten by Billy Ray (CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, OVERLORD) and then cleaned up by Cameron. But story credit also went to Charles H. Eglee (PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING [!], DEADLY EYES) and Josh Friedman (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

This entry was posted on Monday, November 4th, 2019 at 9:16 am and is filed under Action, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

76 Responses to “Terminator: Dark Fate”

  1. The key is to go into this and lock away every single fucking memory of the other post-T2 sequels. Go along with this movie’s request and pretend it’s the legit long-awaited third movie. As someone who felt spiritually broken by Genisys in particular, that was not a difficult thing to do. I engaged with the movie on its terms, and I came out absolutely loving it.

    Not only does this actually have a nice heart to its story (everything with Sarah and Carl is fucking firecrackers), but the action has a real visceral nastiness that this franchise hasn’t seen in a while. Entertaining as hell, and at times features dramatic scenes that live up to its predecessors. I once again cried for a heroic T-800. Thanks Tim Miller, I owe you a drink someday.

  2. I’m team: this movie was swell and I enjoyed it. Probably give the edge to part 3 still though but it’s several leagues ahead of SALVATION and (sorry Fred) GENESYS (which, admittedly is way funnier).

    Considering what we get now out of our big spectacle entertainments, I’m surprised this one is getting as much flack as it is. I guess I should ask more out of a Cameron-produced/penned TERMINATOR sequel but I’m happy with what we got.

    Also, if this were a Marvel or STAR WARS we’d never hear the end of how progressive this one is with having three generations, with the oldest leading!, of women actors in the leads but because it is not, it’s just shrugged off.

    Anyways, I enjoyed this one and the more I think about it, the more I realize how much I liked it.

    T2 > T1 > T3 > T6 > SHOCKING DARK > T5 (funnier than 4) > T4 (much better than 5 but not as entertaining)

  3. Jonathan Rogers: In complete agreement with you. I, too, wonder if it wasn’t for 3-5 would this one be welcomed more? I kinda get why SPIDEY HOMECOMING got the pass this one didn’t but I don’t think either series is too dissimilar (both this and HOMECOMING were coming off of a three-movie streak where the audience mostly disliked them).

    If it means anything, there’s an interview with Cameron out there where he basically says that he wasn’t pleased with how Miller executed the script and he practically admits he locked Miller out of the edit room or makes it seem that way. You should still get him that drink though, probably!

  4. Since we got her back for this, what are the chances Hamilton will come back for a KING KONG LIVES sequel?

  5. Geoffrey: Oof, did not know that. Even then, he directs action super well.

    And a thing that occurred to me, is that part of what made this really refreshing and feel like a proper Terminator film is that it took its characters/story very seriously. The movie allows itself moments to really let its characters connect, to let the drama breath and be present. We get a Terminator hugging his son and it’s treated with sincerity while Genisys played that kind of stuff for cheap laffs.

    But when it does occasionally do humor, it feels true to the morbid taste of T1 and 2. Like, I love how much personality REV-9 had. He’s far and away the best antagonist Terminator since Robert Patrick.

  6. I hate to bring real life into this but how annoying have the woke and the unwoke been about this movie. On one hand you have the “Get Woke, Go Broke” dumbasses who think it bombed because women. The other hand you have the super woke chastising people for not seeing the movie just because women. This movie wasn’t going to do well no matter who was in it so maybe both side shut the fuck up?

  7. I really hated this film. It came out in the UK a week before the US so I’ve had time to think it over. (We also got Doctor Sleep early. It’s terrific). While I like reading about how Vern saw the film and how he explained his view on it I really don’t agree.

    On the Terminator front my favourite is The Terminator, then T2, then Sarah Connor Chronicles. I am old enough to remember when we still didn’t know if there would be a sequel to the original Terminator. The rest I don’t care for. Salvation I have a soft spot for even though its a mess. T3 and Genisys exist but they don’t work.

    The problem with Dark Fate I have is that outside of the first twenty minutes I was bored out of my mind. After that first action scene and getting the drugs from the pharmacy, I was completely disengaged from the film. The new characters were dull and I don’t blame the actors. They had nothing to work with, especially Dani, who seemed to be in the background a lot when the character needed to be pushed. I could see every moment telegraphed well in advance and then done badly by the time the exposition came around. Sarah and the new Terminator I thought got by with the returning actors commitment rather than one-note writing. I spent a lot of the time thinking OK, they killed John Connor. They must have something really clever to make that twist worthwhile. Nope. They just messed up the first two films, if you take this film as cannon. (God I wish this was made by Cannon. It would have been more fun). To me it was a very lazily written film that I was getting madder at the more it went on, as it junked the mythology without doing the work to replace it with something compelling.

    Worse, the film felt like a script was written to get to the next action scene rather than the action being there to give the story propulsion and to enhance character, the way a good action scene should. The crossing of the border and the ICE interrogation seemed perfect for good terminator suspense/bait and switch, some fun political sci-fi swipes but they were so short and unimaginative. They serve little story or character function and are over before they go anywhere interesting, as if to say to the studio we’re not being controversial. Or interesting. This film seemed terrified of doing anything interesting. That final half hour was just dull action beat after dull action beat where its hard to follow or be engaged as the characters are so vague. The kill the Terminator moments is kill terminator T3 ending.

    I have sat through bad Terminator films before but this one I left feeling deflated, having uselessly torn apart the series lore and left a bland landscape in its wake. The Mexican angle I was looking forward to but left the film thinking that it was a cover for a lack of any real ideas. I am glad this series will be dead for a while because it needs the rest.

  8. I thought this was pretty good – definitely much better than the early word had led me to expect. I got a strong FORCE AWAKENS sequel-to-a-classic-movie-that’s-also-sort-of-a-sideways-remake vibe, but my expectations for a new TERMINATOR sequel are so low right now that it’s hard to complain about that (although I’m not sure if it’s stupid or hilarious that they First Ordered Skynet and just gave it a new name and changed the skeletons from chrome to black and called it a day). Honestly, I don’t know what else you could hope for with a franchise like this where it’s debatable whether there’s even any story left to tell. TERMINATOR’s so synonymous with blockbusters now that they’re unfortunately never going to take it back to it’s low-budget sci-fi slasher movie roots.

  9. Vern, I hear you about the sunglasses but I thought it was beautiful – in T1 and T2 they symbolize the terminator losing/gaining his humanity over the course of the movie. Carl is so team human by the time we meet him that he abandons the sunglasses altogether.

    Great review but I think you’re underselling the heart of this just a tad. It opens with Sarah literally losing everything she gained in the first 2 movies but ends with her training the new savior of the future. Beautiful arc.

  10. The evil Border Patrol Terminator himself being Hispanic sounds like the movie walking back its own political message to be as inoffensive as possible.

  11. So just as I was finally gonna sit down with DOLEMITE IS MY NAME. My buddy who suffered through TERMINATOR SALVATION with me hits me up telling me he’s gonna scoop me up to go see TERMINATOR: DIMLY LIT DESTINY. I said fuck it and put off a movie I had waited a week to see to yet another week after I had already expected to had watched it. There truly is no fate but what we make it.

    The intro scene was weird. Like the concept is ballsy but really though on a sunny beach people would really let Duke Nuke’Em just walk away like that after blasting a teenage boy to oblivion? Bogus man. Great CGI though outside of Duke Nuke’Em they really felt straight out of T2. But his triceps when he was walking away into retirement after accomplishing his mission are definite fitness goals. I cannot lie.

    I’ll say this for it with the exception of Dani the new players really worked for me. The character maliciously dubbed ” T Juan Thousand” by “those guys” is possibly the most charismatic evil Terminator ever put on film. He was a GREAT infiltrator IMO cause he could pull off humane swag and was very quick on his toes. The bit where he was like “metal hip, served 2 tours in Afghanistan” put a genuine smile on my face. Never seen this actor in anything else but he sold me and now I’m paying attention to his career.

    My only real issue was WTF happened to his liquid metal nanobot half at the end there? was the implication that he had a symbiotic relationship with the endoskeleton? So when the endoskeleton caught wreck he also “died”? It wasn’t clear and if that’s not the case then he is still fucking out there and will never stop. EVER!

    Mackenzie Davis as Grace was also really good. I loved her backstory. How she and Dani in the future have a John and Kyle Reese dynamic and so she feels completely indebted to the cause. That lil UniSol twist was also cool. I appreciated the attempt at showcasing vulnerability with her so early on. However I did feel it should have been more consistent. Plenty of instances where she should’ve burned out and taking some shots and drank a jug of water but they never touch on that subplot again until it’s convenient in the 3rd act. Ball was dropped there. Still enjoyed her overall and her sacrifice resonated with me pretty much.

    Seeing Linda as Sarah again just felt RIGHT alot of people say she came across as useless. Uh no. If anything it reinforces how much T3 (which I still enjoyed) and part NOT SEGA MASTER SYSTEM could’ve really benefited from her presence. I appreciated a lot of her input though I did feel that “you ain’t shit it’s all about your womb” outburst to be pretty cruel.

    However like Patrick N said earlier in the thread the fact that she is still overall the main training grounds for the leader of the future resistance despite the original timeline being obsolete was dope as fuck. Great closure to her arc and if this is indeed the last one since its really underperforming I’m glad we at least got that. She went out not just on a great note but back in a jeep riding off into the future. Full circle and poetic. George Lucas style.

    The MVP is hands down Carl though. Quite possibly my favorite T-800 of them all. The fact that he kept beers and served them with lime gave him cool uncle points. The fact that the dog doesn’t go crazy in his presence reinforces his humanity. The way he passionately speaks about drapes for a kids room shows how his new purpose is just as vital to him as the one he was programmed for. It was just great seeing A.I. develop this type of consciousness and flipping the Terminator theme by allowing a goddamn Terminator to make a whole new fate.

    And yes he was right. He is very funny and in a Leslie Nielsen type away where no delivery is broad. That was brilliant. I genuinely felt for him by the end there and my friend and I concluded that we will end every text correspondence going forward with either “For John” or the number 4 followed by a toilet emoji in his honor. This is the character that Pops from the last one wishes he was. Though Pops is still one of the highlights from that one for me. It’s Arnold!

    Now Dani I had issue with. She is the catalyst of the entire story and feels like a non-character for most of it. That was disappointing cause just when I started to finally get a spark for her the movie was almost over. Character felt more like plot dressing than an actual character for most of the movie but I’d still like to follow her story if they ever dared to continue it cause again by the end she finally won my approval there.

    The action? Well this movie has one of the greatest first acts in the series. Yes it’s essentially the T2 and T3 structure but everything from the future dwellers arriving up until the pharmacy scene had me hooked. That entire sequence from the car factory to the speedway was just very well crafted. Great ACR. The sequence on the cargo plane though? Not so much. That one also got pretty exhausting rather quickly.

    Legion seems kinda incompetent though. Tentaclenators aside their future war arsenal felt like SALVATION outtakes. Nothing as awesome as the Skynet laser rifles. Also its time machine system is ass. The coordinates are always way off and the time travel subjects go through some awkward off point teleporting cause of it. At least the Rev-9 lands on his feet though despite popping up in the middle of the air. It was also pretty hilarious that everytime he reformed it was also in the same lunge position he arrived in. What a narcissistic piece of hardware.

    Overall you could do much worse than seeing this one. Hell you’d probably feel a sense of closure if you actually do. Considering all the turns the franchise has taken since T2 I was kinda pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it and I appreciate that.

  12. Damn… I think Broddie just convinced me that I FATE is better than 3 and that I like FATE more…

  13. To me they’re actually about even geoffrey. I find T-850 in his cold matter of fact demeanor as compelling as Carl. Also I do feel the action is overall better in T3 because the action in DARK FATE’S 3rd act did it a disservice IMO. But I will say this the whole “Terminator accomplishes mission and gets a lottery ticket to a family life full of human experiences as a reward” aspect to be both hilarious and interesting. One of the most interesting things I’ve seen in the franchise yet. I actually kept wondering if Rev-9 had accomplished his goal would each half go there separate ways and find a family to plug themselves into? Like would the endoskeleton part ride off into the sunset with an ASIMO?

  14. I mean, I’m not happy that a Terminator movie bombed. I didn’t like this one but I feel like the ship sailed on this franchise a while ago so it’s kinda remarkable we got a few more. The only real tragedy is that the tv series got cancelled.

    Carl really did not work for me and was anyone actually surprised when they revealed who Dani was? I feel like they skipped a good hour of character development to service a surprise that was no surprise at all.

  15. I thought it was common knowledge that Tim Miller ‘dropped out’ of Deadpool 2 due to the dreaded ‘creative differences’ probably with Ryan Reynolds.

  16. Patrick N. gets it. Cheers to you mate.

  17. I watched this a week ago and have already forgotten 90% of it, time for another reboot. If Jim Cameron actually supervised the editing he’s apparently forgotten how action scenes work, that’s bad news for his upcoming Avatar pictures.

  18. Fred it was really funny how they really thought they were pulling a fast one when it was beyond obvious that Dani was the new John Connor halfway through. The biggest giveaway? When they never showed the “commander” in one of the future war callbacks.

    The cancellation of the TV series was heartbreaking. I had written it off initially as worthless. When I gave it a shot though I realized it’s probably the most legit continuation of T2 of them all. When it kicked into high gear it felt like it was really gonna go places and then just like that they snuffed it out. Like a malevolent machine would a future leader of an anti-machine resistance.

  19. What a monumental waste of time this film was.

    SPOILERS

    The opening scene dropped my jaw. That was probably the best use of “de-aging” technology to date. Totally bought we were watching young Ed Furlong, Arnold and Linda Hamilton. That carried over into the first big fight and introduction to the terminators. Lots of fun.

    But basically the movie is just a rehash of every terminator we have already scene. Heroes on the run. Fight. Heroes on the run. Chase. Fight. Big end fight where everyone gets a chance to shine. The End. Only real difference was an extra friendly terminator is in the mix. Why the hell is it so hard to come up with an original idea for a Terminator movie? Adding additional Terminators and Terminators with some extra features isn’t really doing anything new. The whole ‘its not Skynet, its Douchetech (I cant remember the name)’, but they basically are making the same Terminators and have the same time travel plan is so lame.

    I also hate to say it, but I thought Natalia Reyes was poorly cast. First, she is so little, there were times I really wasn’t sure if she is 15 years old. Second, I didn’t buy the pivot where she all of a sudden is this bad ass who can command respect and order people around, and hold her own in a fight. It just didn’t ring true.

    I found myself wanting more of Grace. And I don’t think they did a very good job with her character. She was basically raised feral in this apocalyptic world. The first thing I thought when they were hiding in the hotel is “My god, take a shower.” Could you imagine if you hadn’t taken a shower in 20 years how great that would be? Every time she ate even the junkiest of food, I felt like she should be licking the wrappers.

    Anyway, a little of this was great, most of it was average, and all of it was forgettable. No more Terminator movies unless someone figures out a way to do something different.

  20. It’s good to see Linda Hamilton again.

    But it‘s also sad that we lost Sarah Connor in the same way as John McClane. She died as a character (sometime after Terminator 2), but she came back as a shell of her former self – no longer a relatable human being, just a „badass old action hero“ that speaks in catchphrases.

    The movie itself was not terrible, for me it was just one of many lesser sequels to two movies that I love.

    I got angry about his one for one reason: It presents itself as the first „true sequel“ to T2. Says we should ignore all the bad ones, because now we get a legitimate new part.

    (SPOILERS)

    But then it kills off one of the two surviving protagonists I was really connected to in the opening scene – without one line of dialogue or any emotional depth. Don’t understand me wrong, I’m all for visual storytelling. But this scene felt very awkward. John stood so far away from his mother, no moment between them before the T-800 appeared. The way it was shot it felt more like a flashback that was intended to appear during a dialogue scene later in the movie.

    And in a way it’s worse than the death of Newt in Alien 3 – because there is no payoff for this death in terms of story or character development. I got the feeling that John Connors death is just the reason Sarah hunts Terminators and is sad. And drinks alot. (She says. Who knows. Like many things in this movie this is only told, not seen.) All the potential of Sarah Connors story is wasted in this movie. In the next scenes the protagonists of a new story are established.

    This is not my only complaint. There is no connection to the look, feel, style or themes of T2.

    Instead it’s a remake of the superficial elements that you have to have in a Terminator movie. Good Terminator (nonliquid). Bad Terminator (liquid). Evil metal skeleton with red eyes. All that stuff.

    I will watch every stupid sequel because I like these superficial elements – but this one says it isn’t one of the stupid ones. It claims to be legitimate.

    And it isn’t. You can’t take yourself so serious and throw the dumbest shit at us in the next scene.

    So Skynet never existed, but there is Legion, a complete new KI. And this new KI also developed a time machine. And liquid Terminators. And metal skeletons with red eyes. And also send one back in time. (Not the efficient and unstoppable killing machines we see in the battle scenes in the future, a more basic one that looks and acts exactly like the T-1000 that was erased from the timeline.) To kill the one future leader. Because there’s always only one in a human rebellion. And the good ones in this future also have a time machine. Send a soldier back to protect the leader. And the two foes arrive naked in a glowing orb. Because all the time machines that all the possible KIs of the future would develop look and work exactly the same. The relatives of the future leader are killed. Then basically one long chase ensues. With some breaks for sad dialogue.

    It’s the same stuff as always, just even less entertaining after so many repeats.

    How many times can a killing machine be the good one? How many times will they sacrifice their life in the end?

    And if you really think that Sarah Connor is a broken, complex character that hates Terminators and just lives to kill them – maybe don’t introduce her with the „funny“ T-800 catchphrase „I’ll be back.«

    In the end I don’t think it’s better than 3 or Salvation or even Genisys.

    Maybe the action is – while not good – better than in Genisys. But that movie was at least entertaining in a crazy way. This one’s mostly boring.

    But hey, I’ve seen Dark Fate twice. During the first time I didn’t get a very bright projection. Many scenes are so dimly lit in this movie that I couldn’t see much. The second time I’ve seen in IMAX. And was surprised how dark this thing still was.

    I still laughed when Schwarzenegger had his comic relief moments, loved to see a great actress like Mackenzie Davis getting a role in a blockbuster, enjoyed some dynamic moments during the first and final robot battle and the musical variations of the Terminator theme during the end credits.

  21. Andreas,

    Its funny, I started to laugh as I read your review, as it was my reaction immediately following the movie.

    That was kind of enjoyable, I dug it I guess.

    But wait, then this happened.

    But wait, then this happened.

    Oh yeah, I forgot about that. That was stupid.

    About a half hour later I realized “shit, maybe you really didn’t like it after all.”

    I certainly didn’t hate the movie, but the more I thought about it, I got irritated. Why the hell is it so hard to make a good Terminator movie? Why can’t someone come up with a spin that makes this series and this world fresh? I ask the same question every time I walk out of a new Alien movie. I so badly want someone to take these franchises and do something that compares to the first two. I feel positive it will never happen.

    And BTW, Terminator 3 is not bad.

  22. I just watched The Terminator again and it made me realise that if they really want to keep this franchise going, they should totally bring back Michael Biehn!

    Even though you see them slowly zipping up a bodybag, it’s never confirmed that Reese is dead!?

    We know they took bits of the Terminator away to do experiments. What if they took Reese too and drilled him for info on the future?

    Hey, they’ve tried crazier shit to keep milking this cash cow!

  23. Yeah, I’m not sure about this one. I just saw it last night, so I’m still processing. I definitely didn’t like it as much as I was hoping. I really liked Mackenzie Davis. I haven’t seen anything else from her, but was really impressed with her ability to have both vulnerability in her eyes and total physical badassness. They really missed the mark with Dani. I didn’t see anything to make me think she was going to end up a charismatic leader. Linda and Arnold were enjoyable, but didn’t fill me with excitement. I do disagree with Vern about the sunglasses moment. I don’t think that was played as a joke, but was supposed to be a meaningful moment of man vs machine in his soul, like Patrick said. It was the only Arnold moment that made me feel a little swell of emotion. I’m not sure if I’m sad they didn’t replay the “come with me if you want to live” line or not. The new terminator was pretty good, too.

    I liked the action and most of the characters. I think it was the story that let me down. It was all rehash, nonsensical or boring. Maybe there’s nothing left to mine in the terminator story. Totally agree with everyone that dead people knew where they were going with the whole Dani being the future hero bit. And it didn’t resonate like it should. It should’ve been much more powerful that she was the hero and not just the womb. Maybe the fact that they were trying to pull it off with a “You didn’t see that coming, did you?! Didn’t we blow your mind?!” attitude was what ruined it. Or maybe the total lack of pizazz in this supposed hero. I dunno. It just felt kind of pandering. And this is coming from someone who still tears up when all the women come together in ENDGAME. In that case I don’t care if it’s pandering; it makes me feel, whereas this one fell flat.

    I did like most of the action, but felt it was a lot of the same notes. The fights aren’t very exciting to me when it’s one indestructible thing pounding away on another indestructible thing, be they robots or superheros. Someone mentioned the fluid part of the terminator and wondered why it was just gone at the end. I think what happened was when they shoved it into the spinning thing it super heated it and burned it up. When it came out of that there were hardened bits of it on the metal skeleton and it broke apart, turning to dust when it started moving around.

    I’m also torn about John’s death. I don’t like it because of what it did to Sarah and feels like negating the triumph of T2 and I don’t like it because of John’s potential. I am okay with it because I actually didn’t like John in T2, so I’m fine with losing that character. I don’t love T2 as much as Vern. I like it a lot, but I can’t love it because I think John is an annoying little shit. I understand that he’s had a fucked up life and all. I still don’t like him. I liked him the Sarah Connor Chronicles and am still sad about it getting canceled, so I know they could’ve done something with the character that I would’ve enjoyed.

  24. *SPOILERS* Man I guess I liked this more than anyone else here! Sure it’s got a lot of caveats/things that might be dealbreakers to alot of people (John’s death, the plot being yet another rehash of the first one, the CGI-ishness of the visual effects), but I don’t know – maybe I was in a good mood but I found the action exciting, the drama moving, and really liked our four main heroes and didn’t want them to die. I was so soured on the trailers because I kept thinking, “wait, the gimmick is the evil terminator is liquid AND a skeleton? That’s it?” that I didn’t realize the bad guy’s gimmick is frosting on the cake/besides the point – the real gimmick is “This big loud action movie is about 3 generations of strong women whooping ass”. It’s like a super expensive version of Fast Color or a bizarro version of that movie with Lindsay Lohan, Felicity Huffman and Jane Fonda. It’s a dynamic we’re used to in wacky comedies and tear jerkers but I’ve rarely seen in action blockbusters, and I kinda love it for that.

    I also love this movie’s blatant left-wing politics (even the kinda clunky “get the hell out of my womb” hospital sequence). Sure, they could have done more with the border patrol thing, and it might be more thematically solid if the evil Terminator was a white guy (then again Luna is great so I’m happy he got the role). Yeah, you can see the “twist” with Dani coming a mile away but I didn’t even think it was a twist – I thought it was just a powerful statement that even Sarah Connor, the walking embodiment of female badassness, can’t believe a woman is the savior – even she’s been indoctrinated by society into thinking the savior must be a man! Also powerful: I love that they crash-land in a factory for the final fight yet AGAIN (this is the sixth out of six industrial finales for the series and the third time this shit’s happened to this version of Sarah!) and instead of a protracted 20-minute game of hide-and-seek like the other movies, the heroes are all like “Fuck this” and fight the Rev-9 at the entrance! I mean, yeah it’s still a rehash but I actually got goosebumps during the climax.

    By the way, was anyone else thinking they were going to go full Kyle Reese with Grace and reveal that her and Dani were future-lovers? Granted the times and dates are kinda muddled (you have no idea how old Dani is now or when Judgment Day 2 happens, right?) but I totally felt that they were leaning that way and they could have pulled it off without being creepy -I THINK Young Grace was ~10, Dani was ~20, and Grace was ~30 – even though Davis and Reyes are shockingly the same age (32).

  25. I really enjoyed this one. Especially the angle of humans will just create another malicious A.I. even if you prevent ‘Skynet’ from being born.

    Most of all, I’m sad there won’t be a follow up because the writers obviously planned to do something interesting with characters like Grace (augmented humans). And yes, I agree that “the forced to work with the robot drape salesman who murdered her son” routine is overused in movies but I never get tired of it.

  26. neal2zod- I probably liked it about as much as you, although it’s now been two weeks since I saw it and I must admit my feelings aren’t quite as strong as they were then. There’s a fair case to be made that you should FURY ROAD this or go home, and this doesn’t FURY ROAD it, but I still really enjoyed it, and not just in a “well it’s better than the last three way”. In particular, contrived or not, Carl really worked for me.

    One thing I’ve realised since I saw this is that, being the kind of movie fan that I am, and I suspect a lot of you are in the same boat, I’ve read a lot over the years about this or that draft or treatment for a sequel which never got made. Much of this, especially Carl, felt like seeing one of those drafts filmed. As much as a lot of this is kind of a retread, there’s a slightly out of the box quality to the ideas that I enjoyed seeing coming to life.

  27. “FURY ROAD it or go home” should be put on a billboard outside of every major studio production office.

    Serious question though: Has anything FURY ROADed it since FURY ROAD FURY ROADed it harder than anything has ever FURY ROADed it before? I’m having trouble thinking of any examples.

  28. I am not sure really of many movies that have FURY ROADed it even before Fury Road. Maybe the John Wick movies? But even those aren’t as batshit crazy as Fury Road. Raid 2?

  29. Majestyk – I think MI: Fallout and John Wick 3 were definitely Fury Road-ing it when it comes to big, eye-popping “this is why you go to the movies/let’s put on a show!” spectacle. I know some people didn’t care for their stories (I didn’t particularly like JW3’s) but they all feel like big blockbusters that are also labors of love from their creators and strive for excellence.

    Dark Fate is no Fury Road but i did think the action sequences were excellent and were allowed to breathe and go on much longer than the typical Hollywood action movie. (Making Grace a Universal Soldier instead of another Terminator was such a simple change that added real stakes while still giving us an excuse to have wild super-hero action.) Plus I like that in both Dark Fate and Fury Road, the “grizzled old white guy hero” from the previous films ends up winning the day not by killing the bad guy but by supporting and being a good ally to the women warriors, while still being a complete and total badass.

  30. I am taking “FURY ROAD it” to mean “making a long-delayed sequel/reboot/remake that does not attempt to ‘honor’ the original like some kind of bootlicking toadie but instead, through sheer excellence and not-fucking-around-ness, attempts to fucking crush it and hear the lamentations of its women.” By that definition, none of the JOHN WICKs or RAIDs qualify. I think they are fine examples of basic striving for excellence in the sequelizing arts, but they are each part of a contemporary ongoing series and thus except from the special requirements of dormant franchise recombobulation that I believe are what makes FURY ROADing such a difficult thing to achieve.

    I would say that RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 4: JOHN RAMBO was an early (though less ambitious) example of FURY ROADing, while THE LAST BLOOD is an illustrative example of, you know, going another way.

    In DTV Land, obviously the two John Hyams UNIVERSAL SOLDIER movies are FURY ROADed like a motherfucker. Probably the new KICKBOXERS. Possibly this is a thing that can only be accomplished on a low budget with the assistance of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who over the years has FURY ROADed himself into a much more effective and interesting actor.

    In terms of big-budget studio franchises, though, I really cannot think of any other examples of successful FURY ROADings. Of the various TERMINATOR revivals, I think SALVATION was the only earnest attempt at it but it failed miserably. A case could be made for the PLANET OF THE APES reboot but the first movie is so awful and stupid that I think it disqualifies the rest of the trilogy. People seem to really admire the BLADE RUNNER sequel but I don’t think anybody is making the case that it surpasses the original in terms of elbow grease or impact. The Nolan Batmans aren’t my favorite but I admit that they are legitimately not even kind of trying to coast on past accomplishments, so I’d say they qualify but they feel like a hundred years ago at this point. Most other franchise rekajiggerings, even successful ones, go for homage, not innovation, so they don’t count. And obviously the Disney STAR WARSes have never even seen FURY ROAD or are aware of it other than as a moderate box office disappointment that they should not emulate for any reason so they cannot even be allowed into the discussion. I thank you for your cooperation on this matter (no, not even LAST JEDI).

    Personally, I would rather creators take that FURY ROAD energy and apply it to new projects, but if we insist on living in a culture where the same 17 properties live and die and live again, we need more FURY ROADs and fewer everything elses. Who are the brave FURY ROADers who will return our treasures to us and carry us through the gates of Valhalla, where we will ride eternal, shiny and chrome?

  31. neal: I was responding to Jeff, not you, but I also don’t think the M:I films are eligible for the FURY ROADing process as they are part of a series that never truly went dormant. They are excellent examples of just regular-ass sequelizing in which the ante must be upped every time out, without the special challenges inherent in reviving a beloved classic.

    A special dispensation could perhaps be made for the first one but I am hesitant to set a precedent for film adaptations of TV shows as I feel that that is too low a bar to clear.

  32. Majestyk – I gotcha. I think I remember you don’t like the Creed movies, and even though I do, I admit they’re both “whoa these are really really good!” movies, not “these definitely exceed and surpass the original series” movies the way Fury Road did. I do think Cobra Kai (I just finished and commented about Season 2) absolutely is an expansion and improvement on the original Karate Kid franchise, if you want to count TV shows. The new characters are instantly iconic additions to the canon like Immortan Joe and Furiosa, and the action in the finale (no spoilers) is a total escalation and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the franchise before. It’s totally the Fury Road of the Karate Kid-verse.

  33. I loved CREED and enjoyed but promptly forgot CREED II. A case could be made for the first one, though I think it coasts a little too readily on nostalgia for it to really qualify.

    In my opinion, the movie-to-TV and vice versa transition is a separate thing. Because of the switch between mediums, I don’t think it faces the same challenges as following up a classic within the same format.

    Also fuck TV in my opinion so maybe take what I just said with a grain of salt.

  34. So much of the writing about movies these days blows. Check out this article on Collider: “How Terminator: Dark Fate: Damages the Legacy of T2”

    https://collider.com/terminator-dark-fate-prologue-t2-problem

    There’s a part where this guy Matt Goldberg writes “Dark Fate desperately needs a scene where Sarah reckons with what she’s lost, and she never gets it. The filmmakers don’t want to include a scene where a mother talks about what it means to lose a son, and remains content to let Sarah be a grizzled ‘badass’ without understanding that what makes T2 work so well are the emotional stakes.”

    …except Dark Fate DOES have a scene like that: after Dani, Grace and Sarah meet “Carl”, Sarah storms out to this little forest clearing and slumps down. Dani comes to comfort her and she has this shattering monologue where she regrets never taking any pictures of John before he was killed, and now her memories and relevance are fading, and she has nothing left of him. It’s a great continuation of a similar thread in T2, where Sarah is so focused on the soldierly aspects of protecting John’s life but has a hard time expressing love/being vulnerable.

    I guess Goldberg was taking a piss when this scene happened? Think pieces like that are so useless…half-remembered, half-assed analysis. He doesn’t have a good grasp on the movie at all but it’s important for him to let us know that Dark Fate is a rebuke to T2.

  35. Could you make the case that HANNIBAL is FURY ROADING? It’s a ten-years-later sequel that definitely tries to one-up the original and doesn’t do a lot of cheap nostalgia whoring. Of course, it’s terrible, but not for lack of ambition.

  36. Hannibal is totally Fury Roading if we count TV shows. (I thought it was kinda terrible too but it obviously means alot to alot of people). Which isn’t too high praise since yes, the Hannibal Franchise rivals Star Wars in stagnation and cannibalizing (heh heh) itself – One original story (Manhunter), one gender-swapped Legacy Sequel (Silence of the Lambs), another sequel nobody liked (Hannibal), one remake/prequel to the Legacy Sequel (Red Dragon), then a prequel to THAT (Hannibal Rising). Can’t wait for the Rogue One of the Hannibal Franchise where we find out how exactly he made it from the Caribbean at the end of Silence to Italy at the beginning of Hannibal.

    Speaking of things that mean alot to people that I didn’t like, I posted something here earlier that disappeared about Halloween ’18 being the Fury Road of the series. I personally thought the ending completely dropped the ball but I can’t deny that it had a big-time event feel and production value the early sequels would have killed for, and it updated the original with a feminist/timely slant reminiscent of Fury Road. Again, I didn’t like it but it was definitely an ambitious reboot of the series and a huge crowd-pleaser (it even grossed more than Fury Road which is insane)

  37. I think it’s hysterical that we had different ideas about what FURY ROADing meant. I thought it meant batshit crazy action pieces, not sequels that came ages after the original. Saw Doctor Sleep last night, I guess that FURY ROADed like crazy coming 39 years later.

  38. So in theory Michael Myers still shouldn’t care about Laurie but if he’s out for revenge in Halloween Kills, aren’t we just getting Halloween 2 over again and just doing what they claim they weren’t doing with the ’18 Halloween?

  39. I thought Dark Fate was fantastic. Enormous fun. As someone who doesn’t have the nostalgic affection for Terminator 2 that apparently everyone else has (and I saw it five times in the theatre in 1991), this new film now sits comfortably as the second-best in the series, after the inviolable perfect masterpiece that is The Terminator. There’s no moment in Dark Fate as cringeworthy as “Cool, my own Terminator” or “I need a vacation.” I just can’t see past lines like that. They don’t make the movie more fun. They make it stupid and puerile. Some of the emotional moments in Dark Fate easily surpass those in T2. T-800/Carl’s sacrifice actually felt sincere this time, with no goddamn thumbs up. Forgive me if I find Dani Ramos a vastly more empathetic figure than supremely punchable dipshit John Connor. I never gave a shit about John Connor. He’s a MacGuffin. Someone who doesn’t really matter and I’m glad Dark Fate dispensed with him the way it did to move onto characters I give a damn about.

    Dark Fate also understands that being a chase movie with minimal exposition is the way to go. I get that T2 was revolutionary and astonishing and people really hadn’t seen anything like it before. I remember the gasps of amazement from audiences at the T-1000 FX. I just don’t care about it the way I instantly cared about this movie. Ya gotta go with what works, with what hits you in the gut. Sure, Dark Fate benefited from low expectations, so as I watched it the pleasurable realisation that it was actually good elevated it perhaps more than if I was going in expecting solid gold brilliance. To go to the theatre and not walk out wondering why the fuck I bothered walking in is sadly a mark of distinction these days. When this film struggles and is dismissed as a bomb and goddamn putrid vile filth like Joker is a billion dollar megahit, I almost wish I could travel back in time and prevent cinema from being invented.

  40. Was Blues Brothers 2000 FURY ROADing it before FURY ROADiIng it was cool?

  41. Stacy, I think it is a lot easier to appreciate these Sequels if the originals aren’t Sacred Cows for you. I can’t accept average Terminator, Predator or Alien movies because those originals mean so much to me. If they didn’t I would probably have liked this movie more. It is a really well made action movie no doubt

  42. after being burned by t3 and salvation and skipping genesis and not being intrigued at all by the lackluster marketing for this, i wasnt even planning to see it in theaters, but i’m glad i did. definitely my 3rd fave terminator, and i was 100% on board with the politics on display. a mexican woman saves the future by ignoring borders? yes please. watching the ICE agents get slaughtered was as cathartic as the police station from T1.

    if the movie has a mission statement its made explicit in the scene where the ICE-uniformed terminator is like “give me that [mexican woman]” and the heroes are like “no, because we’re not machines” and that is the kind of thing i can get behind in a big action movie.

  43. I really enjoyed this. The story is solid, the characters are cool and likeable, and the action is really well done.

    The greatest flaw of the film is that it’s part 6 of an ongoing series, and the overall story of the series is just a complete mess at this point. I don’t really know how this film could have fixed that, it’s all beyond fixing at this point. But taken simply on its own terms, Dark Fate is a really well done actioner, on all levels.

    For me the first film is still easily the best of the series, and the others are in one way or another remakes or reboots of that film. Even Salvation is too much of a slave to the plot of the first film. So you have to take them for what they are. Personally, I have liked EVERY film in this much maligned series. I even liked Genisys, which is the most forgettable entry so far.

    This film has 4 cool heroes, one really cool villain, some heart, two touching self-sacrifices, some striking visuals, and several excellent action set-pieces. It has better writing, directing and acting than what we usually get from these kinds of films. So thumbs up from me.

  44. I’ve gone back and forth about whether to waste any time on this one, but then I watched the final action sequence as a youtube clip, and it just looks so weightless and forgettable — with Arnold cartoonishly throwing things and being thrown like a Looney Tunes character. Just can’t bring myself to give this thing any money or time. I think T3 is better than it gets credit for, but it is not great. This is one series that really needs to be left to die.

  45. It’s probably the best of the post-T2 sequels while still possessing every single one of the problems that made those movies so unsatisfying. It has some things going for it but unfortunately a viable reason to exist is not one of them. It does what you expect it to do and nothing more, and the spectacle isn’t grand or immersive (or even convincing) enough to make you get over the fact that you’ve seen every last thing it’s selling many times before. You’re not really missing anything by skipping it.

  46. Yeah, there’s just only so many times I can give a shit about something-something-something one or more of the Connors, Arnold as a warm good guy also-ran Terminator, and a bland person-of-the-week aping Robert Patrick in the a battle for the fate of humanity to stop some bullshit cyber thing from happening (that will still happen anyway in a never ending masturbatory loop). T2 is a genius film and genius assured destruction/failure for any sequel with similar aspirations of telling some uber-apocalyptic, epic, fate-of-all-humanity story. I could start to argue to myself that this franchise might work better if they focused on telling smaller-scale stories inside the Terminator universe (a la MANDALORIAN), but does anyone really give a shit about an Arnold-less, Connor-less Terminator universe? I certainly don’t, so, they’re damned either way.

  47. SPOILERS: And I realize there isn’t really a viable way to continue this story (I use that term loosely) in 2019 with John as a major character/plot point. I get that he needs to be taken off the playing field. But the way they do it is just foul. If you ever at any point gave a shit about Eddie Furlong’s John, you can’t help but feel like they did him dirty. Poor kid gets iced like ten minutes after saving the world. They 100% ALIEN3ed his ass. As far as I can tell, the only reason the choice was made to play it that way was so the filmmakers could show off their trendy de-aging technology. The movie never really recovers from that self-inflicted blow. If they had the same shit happen but we got an actual Furlong cameo, implying that he managed to have a life before destiny caught up with him, it might not have seemed so callous and tawdry. My idea was that he got killed by non-Terminator misadventure as a young man; the irony of him surviving to be the savior of the world in the dystopian timeline only to be snuffed out before his time by pure happenstance in the world he helped save would be more dramatically satisfying than the cheap pathos they went for with his gimmicky death in the film.

  48. Yeah, that all makes sense. But most fundamentally, I think just about anything that walks back the T2 ending is destined to fail, pretty much right out of the gate. And as much as I hate all the douchey talk about “brand” and stuff, I do think the TERMINATOR brand is pretty much trash at this point. I think it’s a different beast from a Freddy or a Jason or even a Rocky, because we are comfortable treating those films as episodic, local in scope, and varying in quality. In contrast, there’s an inherently ponderous, apocalyptic, “big ideas” ambition to the TERMINATOR lore that other franchises manage to avoid.

    Even the MARVEL UNIVERSE does a better job on this score, because their bread and butter has been smaller, stand-alone tales or mid-sized storylines, with the AVENGERS films being distinguishable as the special case of MCU films that have those loftier ambitions. So, they can turn the epic up to 11 when they need to, but they can work on smaller, local stories just as well. And even when MCU does go for that big apocalyptic thing, they are not all-in on one villain and associated mythology and iconography the way TERMINATOR is.

  49. Another problem is that TERMINATOR is a great 80s horror/sci-fi/action flick that just happened to get followed up with T2, one of the absolute all-time no-holds-barred best sequels ever made. It evolved all the characters and action in completely logical, interesting, dramatically worthwhile ways and completely justifies its existence as a follow-up to T1 in every way. Any attempt to follow on that has to live up to the standard of T2, which means almost certainly doomed to fail in comparison even if it’s an ok movie on its own, like whichever that one with Christian Bale was, I kinda liked that one, it was a little weird and different.

  50. Absolutely. T2 is a triumph of raising and exceeding expectations and delivering closure. Even a competent TERMINATOR sequel can only feel underwhelming and self-defeating. How many times can we reschedule the apocalypse before the apocalypse becomes underwhelming? CREED 3 or PREDATOR 9 or FREDDY VS. SPONGEBOB all fly a little further from the sun.

  51. I dunno Skani, the final fight, which is good, is probably only my 5th favorite action scene in the film. It’s a really good action movie.

    There is some CGI enhanced stunts in this scene, but I think it’s a genuinely dope action scene, and the film is full of this stuff:

    Terminator: Dark Fate / Grace vs Rev-9 Factory Fight Scene

    Grace vs Rev-9 Factory Fight. Scene From Movie: "Terminator: Dark Fate" (2019). Like & Subscribe! • Original title: "Terminator: Dark Fate" • Release date: O...

  52. We must be coming in with different expectations and sensibilities, because in both T1 and T2, it’s the mythology and the haunting and innovative iconography that makes those films what they are. “Solid action film” is not enough for this franchise. But even if it were, what is the one technical idea in this scene you’ve shared that is actually innovative and derivative. It is competent at best: Rock-em-sock-em robots weightlessly flying through the air. The most exciting visual ideas were innovated 30 years ago in T2 itself: it’s literally still a melty guy who can use his hands as stabbing weapons. WTF? Other than a repetitive loop of pointless Jackie Chan fight choreography, what is supposed to be raising my heart rate here?

  53. Things like staging, choreography, performances, camerawork and editing?

    But we probably value different things.

  54. I think the ALIEN series has a similar problem – there is no way to top or reinvent ALIENS, you can’t add a Queen to the life cycle again, you can’t have soldiers fighting a bunch of xenomorphs for the first time again, but also you disappoint people if you take those things away. However, by going the route of hiring auteurs to completely reinvent each time they at least made it a more interesting series, for my tastes. I suppose TERMINATOR takes a few swings, but with too much worry about appealing to what they think fans want.

    Still, I am a fan of Carl.

  55. Tuukka, I won’t deny that you can see everything that happens clearly in the frame or that a lot balletic blows are traded. I can enjoy hand-to-hand action combat when it is well-done and has some emotional stakes or when the hand-to-hand combat is the main point and ambition of the film (your BLOODSPORTS or LIONHEARTS). But this just doesn’t do much for me. To each one’s own.

    Vern, I’ve seen ALIENS a number of times over the years, most recently when COVENANT came out, and I’m in that weird group that doesn’t love the film. I like it, but I’m a much bigger fan of the original. I enjoyed COVENANT more than ALIENS (contrarian blasphemy!), though I won’t claim it’s the better film.

    Either way, the virtue with the most revered among the ALIEN films (1 and 2) is that they are far less funny and heartwarming and narratively ambitious than T2 is. And with ALIENS, you can still imagine the door being open to interesting stories, with or without Sigourney Weaver (and indeed, I think COVENANT is an interesting if flawed story with Xenomorphs and without Sigourney Weaver). RESURRECTION is fairly terrible, but it has its amusements and redeeming qualities — it goes all in on weird. ALIEN 3 was one I really enjoyed when it came out but didn’t age so well. A great and very different Sigourney Weaver as Ripley performance and set up and some inspired ideas. Ultimately not too bad. Prometheus is maybe somewhere in between them. A better watch than Alien 3 but a little muddled and too far up its own ass.

  56. The only thing these Terminator movies do is come up with a new concept for a Terminator…oh, here’s its new gimmick! Then for the story they just have one single Term go back to kill someone in the past. It’s the same old horseshit over and over. These movies suck even if you can see the fighting, which looks mostly CG anyway. Half of it is fake bodies doing something even when it’s two people.

  57. Agreed. You’ve hit on something else that bothers me, which is that comprehensible action is an arguably necessary but not sufficient condition for good action. These newer (i.e., last 12 years) action films start to lose me once the characters start throwing themselves or any other time the CGI becomes easily detectable. A somewhat unconvincing morph, a person bouncing against or moving across a good but still obviously CGI screen. The movement and kinetics take on an uncanny valley, herky-jerky bounce to them that for me is just a little off. Other film series, like Marvel, DCEU, and the LotR/Hobbit are a bit more forgiving, because they originate and root themselves in an intrinsically more cartoony or whimsical aesthetic. Gollum and goofy trolls and all of that work within a particular world and color palette. T1 is a decidedly analog and mostly this-worldly backdrop, where we have strong this-worldy expectations about the kinetics and color tones. That’s part of what makes T-1000 such a triumph, which is the quality and care with which he is integrated and made to some realistic in an early 90s Los Angeles.

    Fortunately for the scene Tuukka shared, there’s more close quarters hand-to-hand action than there is wacky bouncing and throwing. But then even this hot terminator-on-terminator action type of action has a few things it’s working against. By design and definition, it’s a bit more mechanical and robotic, a bit less gooey, and the stakes are less clear, because no one is fully human. These guys are too good. It’s like robot ballet. Again, the contrasting genius of T2 is to invent a new type of terminator that make the Arnie terminator seem more human and frail by comparison but in a truly creative way (vs. just finding a still-bigger dude). The first time Arnold’s more-human-every-day and completely outmatched Terminator must do battle with the younger, faster, better Robert Patrick series, there’s real stakes, because we really care about Arnie as a character and what is at stake, and we really believe he’s dangerously outmatched. How are we going to figure a way out of this shit? But there’s only so many times we can see that same basic idea (hint: the answer is one. one times.) before it loses its freshness. An incrementally better technical fight ain’t gonna do it. I’m not saying it’s fair, blame James Cameron and whatever voodoo pulled T2 together and made it what it is relative to T1 and all preceding and subsequent film history.

  58. Grace in the film is human, but with an exo-skeleton. Mackenzie has both strong dramatic chops, and is a formidable physical force. The hammer-swinging moment in particular shows how good she is with action, and I can definitely feel every blow.

    Interestingly enough, T2 was a big disappointment to me when I saw it in theaters. I was 14. I loved T1, it was dark, gritty, smart and scary. In comparison T2 felt like a lightweight, cheesy, family-friendly Disney film, that is essentially a remake of the first one. Those were the words how I described it back then. I’ve learnt to appreciate it more over the years, but I don’t see it as a pinnacle on anything. The action and VFX are great, but I don’t find it scary or even particularly exciting. And at 2:17, I find it 20 minutes too long, considering how little story there is. T1 is 30 minutes shorter, and gets a lot more done.

    T1, Aliens, Abyss and Avatar are all better James Cameron movies to me.

    All terminator sequels fail to compare to the first one. So I don’t watch a movie like Dark Fate and try compare it to T2, because T2 isn’t that great to me in the first place.

  59. Apropos of nothing else and you’re certainly welcome to your opinion on T2, Tuukka, but it did make me laugh to think of how on-brand it would be for the 14 year olds I knew to watch a movie that features both an on-screen knife-through-the-face stabbing which pins a corpse to a wall as well as one of the most graphic mainstream film depictions of a nuclear blast ravaging a playground full of children and feel that movie is too “family-friendly Disney”.

  60. Well, it’s obviously in comparison to the first film. T1 is MUCH darker than T2. And at 14 years old you are prone to hyperbole, when it comes to a sequel to a movie you love.

  61. (Which I understand is exactly what you meant)

  62. BTW, I just remembered why T2 was a very important film for me. As it was big disappointment for me after T1, I remember watching it on VHS 6 months later, and thinking that it’s actually very good. My first expectations made the film seem much lesser for me. T2 had probably been my most anticipated film of all time for me, at that point.

    So on the aftermath of T2 I decided that I would always go see a film with no set of expectations. I would simply let the film unravel in front of my eyes, not expecting anything.

    It has served me very well.

  63. Um…yeah, okay. T2 is definitely more action-adventure than it is horror. Funny, because I think the reason you like T1 better is related to the reason I like ALIEN better than ALIENS. ALIENS is a bit more T1 in its more-or-less unflinching grimness. Mid-80s Cameron is the original grimdark! ALIENS is so unrelentingly dark, both in tone and look, that it’s a bit of an endurance contest of a sit for me.

    Anyway, no denying that T2 substitutes adventure for horror and experiments aggressively with humor. A huge gamble and a huge pay-off imho, but if you have no tolerance for that sissy shit, then you’re going to be a T1 purist. I respect it!

  64. Skani, they did smaller scale stories without Arnold on The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It was great.

  65. Good counterexample, Fred. What is good about those? For real, I heard the show had a good cult following, but what did you enjoy or appreciate about them, and how (effectively) do you feel that they dealt with all the time paradoxes in terms of “no fate but what we make” (T2) “vs. no, actually, we’re fucked” (T3, T4). I think it started to go bad for me at T3 (though still some sparks there), and after that, I was just too bummed at the combination the depressing message of T3 (in stark contrast/undercutting of T2) and the unimaginative, shuffling-deck-chairs-on-the-titanic sequels. Even with this show, I’m at a point where if it does need to exist, it just means we’re getting ready for the future war. That is interesting, I guess, but when T2 gave such a hopeful and satisfying resolution that implied the erasure of the future war timeline, I’m just not sure I want to trade that timeline and resolution for more stories about the coming (T3, T5, T6, CHRONICLES) or present (T4) apocalypse.

  66. Skani – I don’t want to speak for Fred, but I think T:TSCC did everything a good TV show adaptation should do – i.e. it tells a smaller-scale, fan-fictiony story full of interesting “what ifs?” that are cool to explore on TV but maybe not necessarily stuff you’d want to see in a big budget summer movie. Stuff like (minor spoilers): What if Cyberdyne Systems was a shadowy evil company kinda like the corporation from Lost? What if a bunch of kids modding computers in their garage end up creating a proto-version of Skynet? What if the Terminator sent back to protect teenage John this time looked like a really hot girl? Would we have a Twilight-y love story in between fighting Terminators of the Week? How will Sarah deal with the cancer we already know will eventually kill her in T3? Especially since she may or may not have developed it from being around the radioactive cores of so many Terminators? What would happen if Kyle Reese had an equally hot brother who was also sent back in time and may or may not romance Sarah? What if there were traitorous humans who cut a deal with the machines? What if there was actually infighting between the machines, and the T-1000 from T2 was actually not part of the same faction who sent back the T-800 from the first one?

    It’s been years since I saw the show so I may be mis-remembering how good it was, but I definitely remember it had an early version of the Game of Thrones-style “Whoa did they just kill that major character just now?!?” moments and the series finale is incredibly satisfying while still somehow keeping the door open for more, if that makes any sense.

  67. That sounds decent. Earlier, when I said stand-alone stories in the TERMINATOR universe, I specifically said stories that don’t include Arnold or the Connors (or Roseanne, either). Just for the record. So, CHRONICLES is exempt from that. Still, my point here is that I don’t want to keep ripping the time paradox scab open. I want to imagine that it’s just been sealed up tight. I’ll be the first to encourage new stories in a universe that lends itself to them, but I think the beauty of its greatest narrative and technical achievement to date was in bringing closure–in cancelling the apocalypse with incredible gusto and poignancy when T1 didn’t even give us reason to hope that this could be a thing. Not denying your right to enjoy, just saying there’s not much upside for me, and I don’t want that kind of fan fic. Freddy or Jason fan fic. Sure. A ROCKY origin story? Maybe. PREDATOR 20, why not? More TERMINATOR. Just can’t get there.

  68. Sadly, I think they squandered the only story worth telling, and that’s the story of John actually being the great leader he was always rumored to be. I always thought it would be cool if John found out that Skynet had learned that Reese was his father and had sent a terminator to kill him as a teenager running around the wastelands. So John has to be his own Arnold and save his dad, who he ends up treating like a son. Then you’d get the basic chase movie setup that every Terminator movie needs but without anymore time travel shenanigans gumming up the works. I suppose it’s still possible but I think SALVATION pretty much killed any hope for a sequel set during the future war.

  69. You know, now that I think about it didn’t they actually do something similar in SALVATION, except it was a minor subplot that barely registered because that movie was so packed with extraneous plot garbage that I defy anyone to tell me what the actual premise of the movie is? The movie I’m imagining would have no other story besides John and Reese and maybe some lovable but disposable future soldiers bombing around the wastelands, fighting both random killbots and a specific terminator whose mission is to kill Reese before he can go back in time and father John. I’d like to see Sarah’s survival training in action in a slightly more dynamic way than just watching Christian Bale yell at some guys on a submarine. I think maybe they missed an opportunity there.

  70. Mr. M- yeah SALVATION is probably my favorite of the post T2 sequels because it’s trying to do something a little different. I’m pretty sure it’s the only flick in the franchise where one of the main characters isn’t a time traveller, and that alone is kinda interesting. Of course it wound up being kind of a mess, but I respect that it’s not just hitting all the same good time traveler/bad time traveler beats as the other ones. A big part of the problem for me is that the future war we see in T1 and 2 is *so* visually and aurally distinctive and bleak, but the future war in SALVATION just feels like any REIGN OF FIRE, RESIDENT EVIL, etc, bland apocalypse-scape. It’s disappointing.

  71. Good hook, Majestyk.

    Kurgan – Yeah, the flash forwards in T1 and T2 are more THE ROAD (on heavy a mix of heavy depressants and hallucinogens) than FURY ROAD.

  72. I’d say the creation of Derek Reese was one of my favorite parts of the Sarah Connor Chronicles, as was living with Sarah day to day, not just when she’s fighting terminators. I do like the John and Sarah characters so spending more than two hours with them is interesting. When they did action it was really good, but more intimate.

  73. Interesting. I can see the appeal, and from everything I’ve read, it’s a well-crafted and effective show. I ain’t mad at it.

  74. I liked Salvation a lot when I saw it in theatres. In fact I think it’s very well directed by McG and has lot of terrific set pieces, looks kinda amazing, and Worthington is pretty great in it.

    But the story is a real mess. So pointless that 2nd viewing doesn’t really do it much favors. You are just waiting for the next set-piece to happen.

    It’s so obvious that the story should have continued from T3. After the nuclear holocaust and a couple of years, John and his girl leave the vault, find a world under Skynet rule, and start building a resistance. You could easily build a satisfying trilogy from that premise, with the first film ending with the first major victory, and it’s exactly what everyone wanted to see.

    But Salvation… What? That’s what they came up with?

  75. McG was still doing his MTV thing for SALVATION, where every shot is a little mini epic in itself but none of them hold together into a sequence of events. That worked for the CHARLIE’S ANGELes because those movies are little more than skeletal Christmas trees on which McG can hang his many shiny ornaments. A tighter plot or more affecting drama would not improve those movies in the slightest. That approach does not work for a Terminator film, where the direction is supposed to build tension and excitement through the unfolding of the storyline and the accumulation of danger and suspense. Having a plot that just flopped around in different directions to support contradictory ideas and isolated action sequences without a clear story spine or particularly well defined stakes turned McG’s Christmas tree ornaments into a pile of shattered glass on the floor. Each individual fragment is pretty but without anything holding them together, what good are they?

  76. I remember watching the first episode of the Terminator tv show out of curiosity, not expecting it to be good…and man, I was right. Maybe it got better, I don’t know. But I remember the really crap fight scene between the two Terminators that looks like some semi-talented teens shot it, and then Sarah hides behind a chair which somehow manages to save her from the bullets being pumped into it from four feet away…and I was like I’m out.

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