Terminator: Dark Fate
Taking place after the events of Terminator 2, the machines send a terminator called a Rev-9 back in time to kill Dani Ramos. She is a factory worker who is connected by fate to Sarah Connor and her son John’s legacies. The human resistance also sends an enhanced soldier named Grace back to protect Dani. Together they must join up with Sarah Connor to stop this new threat and prevent another judgment day from happening.
I loved Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day growing up as a kid. T2 was my first rated R movie that I watched. At least I can remember watching. I didn’t like Terminator 3, Terminator Salvation, and Terminator: Genisys much. Those films did have a lot to live up to following Terminator 2, but they couldn’t seem to cut it. I went into Terminator Dark Fate, hoping this might be a fresh start back for Terminator movie series. James Cameron was back as executive producer, and the story seemed to start from Terminator 2. Not purposely trying to ignore the other timelines, but creating another timeline. This also can be a very risky move that I have noted before in prior blogs.
The movie, as I said in my video, is what Terminator 3 or Terminator: Genisys should have been. It’s not anywhere as good as Terminator or Terminator 2, but this movie picks up a void and is heading in the right direction. Dark Fate seems to have fixed some issues that the prior three films that were released before this one had. Despite the rise of possible timeline inconsistencies and some weakness in the story and characters, the movie’s story was solid and worked for a new Terminator line of films. The action was great, although a few action sequences probably ran longer than they should have. It was great to have Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor. There were some odd decisions of character development and even introducing characters and points to the movie that might have been better if they were left out. Overall, this film was, I felt, a great welcome back in having a good movie series.
The following article contains spoilers from this point on.
It can be hard to figure out which is the main timeline of The Terminator film series. You have Terminator 3 and Salvation in its timeline, Genisys has its own as well, and I didn’t make mention of The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series. But I’m sticking with Terminator, T2, and Dark Fate as the mainline movie series for this post.
While Sarah and John are on the run, a T-800 shows up and kills John Connor within the first five minutes of the movie. It was a strange and shocking way to start the film. To kill off a significant character from Terminator 2, was a bold move, but paid off for Dark Fate. The story does start one year after the supposed Judgment Day in this timeline and works to show the audience that the story and timeline will be going in a new direction after Skynet’s defeat. What was surprising was how easy this T-800 seems to kill him since he spent the better part of the last movie fighting off a far advanced model. I’m guessing it was a moment were Sarah and John just finally had a moment to breathe and let their guard down. It’s explained that Skynet had sent at least another T-800 model terminator to the past to kill John before Skynet’s erasure in the current timeline. Why would Skynet send a downgraded version of a model instead of another T-1000 Terminator to kill John as well? Besides some of those points, it’s a good plot point and makes sense as long as you don’t overthink about that and time travel inconsistencies.
The rest of the movie follows Dani, a factory worker who seems to get thrown into this fate of being the new future leader of the resistance. While it’s not Skynet, a new threat called Legion, sends a Terminator called a Rev-9 after her. I thought her character was ok. She didn’t seem to establish as well as Sarah Connor did in The Terminator. Her exposition felt rushed and did come together during the middle and near end of the film. She even has a forgettable added brother and father who would have been better left out. I much welcomed Sarah Connor’s return. The character served as a bridge from the past story to the present story. She is hardened in this movie more so than the last film. It’s a welcome return that needed to happen since she is a driving force to the story.
I did like the new characters introduced. The Rev-9 was something that looked like a combination of an endoskeleton T-800 and T-1000 shapeshifting ability. I liked the idea of a threat and machine that could act separately together and apart at the same time. I couldn’t understand why this Terminator didn’t function like this independently, but I’m guessing that it’s weaker when it’s separated. This threat was even more believable and felt like the most robot hiding in a human skin threat while pulling off acting human. It could pass any Turing test with social interactions in this film with ease. To counter the threat the machines pose, the human resistance sends Grace, a female cybernetically enhanced female solider, to fight the Rev-9. It’s probably the best idea to go with since one annoyance I had with terminator films past T2 was the overuse of the T-800 as the protector. Having the T-800 trying to be a protector to something that is something far superior to it, is like me saying my Commodore 64 is better than your iPhone. Grace was a good character with a decent backstory. I did like the decision to go back to a human for a protector, and to require a special serum to help keep her going, preventing her to be limited and not to overpower her in battles.
We did get to the return of a T-800, a role that in both ways made Arnold Schwarzenegger famous, and Schwarzenegger made famous. In what I thought was a blatant reveal, Sarah Connor, halfway through the film, mentions getting an anonymous text with coordinates where a Terminator is going to land and each message ends with “For John.” This unknown person provides accurate coordinates of a Terminator drop and how Sarah found Dani and Grace. These were coming from the T-800, who is now purposeless since killing John. He met another introduced, but again forgettable characters, who became his wife and son. Through them, it learned, love, consequences for his actions, and humility. The machine also started to call himself Carl, raise this family, and text Sarah Connor anonymously. Carl was doing this to give Sarah Connor purpose. While this is weird, I can get this, since another T-800 from Terminator 2 was able to learn to be human from John Connor in the past movie. It also could have just been a way to introduce and add him to the team.
Since Skynet’s defeat in Terminator 2, I understand that you need to have another threat of an antagonist. Called Legion, which sounds like a generic or maybe, overused villain name, it’s a computer program designed for Cyberwarfare in this timeline. Currently I am ok with this, despite the name. I would have to say the reasoning was Skynet, wasn’t mentioned in the first Terminator film, and focused on trying to keep Sarah Connor alive. Besides Legion creating a new Judgement Day in 2040, I didn’t feel I got much setup for this new threat. There is a set up for a sequel, so maybe we will get an idea of how or what Legion’s history and how it may become self-aware, which is what is needed.
While I did catch some Terminator references, I did feel that there were some parallels to Deadpool, another Tim Miller directed the film as well. I think that he was the right choice for the movie. The film does start with an action sequence reasonably early in the film like Deadpool had. The fight on the highway overpass felt eerily familiar to Deadpool fighting on the bridge. A lot of middle felt like a lot of exposition with one additional action scene that happened. The end had a crucial action sequence like Deadpool, but Dark Fate did at least have someone remember the guns. The final fight did tend to drag, but it at least held my interest and provided some tense action moments.
The film’s story is straight forward and easily predictable if you follow it. There are moments when you think that the film was going to have Dani parallel Sarah’s fate, but she doesn’t. It is a welcome change since you don’t want to have the heroine keep following the same path of her predecessor. Some cues had happened that reference and followed Terminator’s story, like flashbacks, or maybe flash forward to Grace’s future and the resistance fighting Legion. Instead of Dani being the mother of the leader of the opposition, she is the leader of the resistance. There also flashbacks, or maybe flash-forwards to Grace’s future. Like Terminator, you have Grace sacrifice herself to stop the Rev-9 from killing Dani, as Kyle Reese did for Sarah. But they didn’t leave her alone as she drives off with Sarah to prepare for the next possible attack sent from the machines.
If there is one theme and message that I can’t ever seem to pin down, it’s the message of the Terminator movies and fate. These movies made the quote, “The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” It’s a hard message to get because it seems like the story wants us to believe that we can control fate. But at the same time, we can’t control the outcome. Sarah stopped Skynet, protected her son, and saved three billion people for death and gruesome fate. Then, she still would wind up losing her son as he yet was killed by a Terminator by destiny. I am even going from Terminator 2 to Terminator 3. They stopped Judgement day, only to have Judgment day occur at the end of the Third film. If I could get anything from these movies, I would get that fate is a controlled inevitably. You could tell me I’ll get shot tomorrow if I go to a specific place at a particular time, for example. I won’t show up, but maybe later on, I’ll get hit by a car and get killed. It’s the best interpretation that I can give myself about the message of the movie.
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