My Thoughts on Terminator: Dark Fate

I was five when I saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day for the first time. Maybe six. Somewhere around there. My dad rented it on a VHS tape and watched it and let me sit there and watch it too.

My mother was horrified, which is a whole ‘nother story that from my perspective is pretty funny.

Anyway, my point is I saw T2 at a very young age and loved it. I mean, why wouldn’t I have loved it? Robots from a future where machines have risen up against man? And one’s a good robot while the other is a more advanced shapeshifting robot made of liquid metal?

Okay, I don’t need to explain to most of you why T2 is both so iconic and so good. Most of you know. And if you don’t, well, it’s really hard to go in blind, but the less you know past “An AI losing a war against mankind in the future sends back a machine to change the past by killing the kid responsible for the victory of the resistance” the better.

So why tell you this? Because I’m always interested in a new Terminator film when it comes out. I like the premise. I like the action. Drop a trailer for a new Terminator film and I’ll likely go see it. Save 3. 3 was … well, there’s a reason I’m not even bothering to italicize the title.

Actually, in fairness the other Terminator sequels haven’t been that great either. Salvation was at least somewhat novel but ultimately didn’t click for me, despite at least being memorable. Genisys was … How to explain this? Oh, I know. I literally forgot that the movie existed after I saw it. It wasn’t until a youtube algorithm spat me a link to a fight from it that I remembered “Oh yeah, this was a thing!”

Amusingly enough, a friend of mine said almost the exact same thing about it last night, noting that he too completely forgot the film existed after seeing it. Compared to T2, well … ouch.

Note: It does have some cool moments that are worth hitting on Youtube. So there is that.

But with all that, I was still excited for Terminator: Dark Fate. And at long last, I finally got to see it. So now, I’m going to tell you what I think about it.

I liked it. A lot.

No, really. I enjoyed the action. I loved Gabriel Luna’s fantastic portrayal of the REV-9, with plenty of very clear callbacks to the iconic Robert Patrick’s role as the T-1000 (if memory serves, Luna even stated in an interview that he underwent some of the same training to achieve the same effect). I enjoyed seeing Linda Hamilton again, and even if some of her lines were a little over the top I felt it worked as she’s clearly someone who’s still not over the … well, that’s a massive spoiler alert, so heads up, we’re going deep into spoiler territory here. If you want to avoid spoilers, well … stop reading here. And know that I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not T2, but it at least deserves a place on my shelf alongside it.

So, on with those spoilers. Sarah Connor is still deeply shaken by the death of—

SPOILER WARNING BEYOND THIS POINT


 


 


 


—John Connor. Yeah, that’s right, the hero of the resistance? Dies in the opening scene. One year after Judgement day was supposed to happen. Sarah and John changed the future, only for John to die anyway. Why?

Skynet sent back a bunch of T-800s as part of its last ditch efforts, it turns out. Not to keep the future from changing, but just as a final “screw you.” Sarah and John stopped Judgement Day … but the T-800s had already been sent, just to take Connor with them if Skynet could.

And so John Connor dies in a brutal opening scene … and then we skip ahead to 2020, and we learn that in the wake of there no longer being that Judgement Day, a new one arose decades later, led by a different AI that used its own tactics to do basically the same thing and wage war on humanity. Instead of the T-series, we have the REV-series. Instead of chrome-like liquid metal we have a nanocarbon-like liquid metal. Similar, but different.

And you know what? I loved this. In fact, I’m perplexed that so many people were put off by this, even as fans of the original T2 pointed out that the T-800 arm broken off during the final battle of film by the factory gears was never taken care of by the Connors, meaning that there was still a chance that something like Skynet could be created from it.

I loved that we got a new spin on things, showing one Judgement Day was averted, but mankind managed to create another. In fact, some of my favorite non-action moments from the film were the relics of the old timeline, such as the T-800 that killed John Connor, or Sarah Connor, reacting to the realization of how much they’ve changed history … while at the same time producing something very familiar to both of them.

In fact, this theme runs through the movie so often (from the REV-9 being utterly confused by the appearance of a T-800 to Sarah Connor being completely shocked into speechlessness that the future no longer revolves around her and John) that I think they shouldn’t have named it what they did. Dark Fate is kind of a crappy title. You know what fits a lot better?

Terminator: Dark Echoes.

Because that’s exactly what this film is. It’s the time travel of the first two films sending echoes bouncing up and down the timeline, creating similar but different loops. Skynet is gone, but now thirty years past the date it went to war with mankind, Legion does instead. An echo of what Skynet was, trying a similar tactic.

In all honesty, I’m kind of shocked so many took issue with this idea that getting rid of Skynet meant that a Judgement Day still happened. No joke, people online, even reviewers, were furious about this. Which … makes no sense. That’s like being upset at the end of Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows when Sherlock stops World War I from breaking out in 1895 … because it breaks out again anyway in 1914.

Yeah, because as Moriarty himself notes, everyone’s all charged up anyway. He’s just pushing the pieces in his favor.

Legion is the same thing. Just because Sarah Connor stopped Skynet doesn’t mean that AI will never be created and mankind is finally safe. Skynet existed because mankind wanted to make an AI to run NORAD defense systems. Legion existed in this new future because, guess what, people wanted to make an AI to run counter-terrorism cybersecurity measures.

And … this is getting off topic. Suffice it to say I found a lot of the complaints about this movie to be pretty flimsy. Large portions of the film are in Mexico and the characters speak Spanish? Okay, so? The leader of a human resistance faction (yes, a faction, one of the key differences that clues Sarah into realizing how much the future has changed) that’s successfully hitting back against Legion is a woman.

So? It’s not like the actress doesn’t do a good job. The plots are similar?

Well, yeah. Robot from future. Again, here I think a title shift would have been better for that. Something Dark Echoes definitely draws more attention to the idea that runs through the whole core of the film, that messing with time may change it, but not as far as you expect (IE, people are still going to mess with AI, and it’s almost amusing that Sarah Connor thought that something like Skynet would be one and done). But in that context, the film even ends with a promise to change the future yet again, maybe by stopping Legion from ever existing.

So it’s similar? Yeah, I’m still okay with it. I enjoyed it a lot. Dealing with the ramifications of messing with time, stopping one AI only to have someone else create another? In all honesty, you could build a whole series of stories out of that, with events constantly looping back in effort to wipe out the need for a war altogether.

The action? I’ll admit, this action is prime. Good stuff. Not only did I have no idea how they were going to beat this new terminator, but some of the directions the story took in trying to stop it? Unexpected. Legitimately unexpected. Which lead to some great fights, one of which is in freefall inside a crashing plane and … yeah, if you like action, you’re going to love some of the action in this movie. I don’t want to spoil it. Legitimately, just look up some of the clips on Youtube and see for yourself. It’s good.

Especially with some of the clever scenes where the REV-9 splits itself into two independent entities, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. This leads to some wild fights and moments.

Oh, and if you liked the single-mindedness of Robert Patrick, as I said before, you’ll like the REV-9. Again, Luna nails it (and also does a number of different accents over the course of the film in the pursuit of his target, as the REV-9 is a bit more adept at infiltration). Seriously, I want to see him, Natalia Reyes, and Mackenzie Davis in more action films.

And I want to mention I enjoyed Mackenzie Davis’ character Grace a lot as well. An augmented super-soldier from the future, Grace is stubborn and sort of single-minded, as well as heavily dependent on a chemical cocktail she needs after “boosting” or using her augments at full power. She can do it for a few minutes, but if she doesn’t get her body a collection of nutrients, meds, and water right after, she’ll straight up slip into shock and die. Quite a bit of the tension in her scenes is watching her push herself and try to keep her supply on hand, a flaw that’s used well but not overplayed, especially when it matters most.

Look, in the end, I know there was a lot of griping about this film, but honestly? I found most of it baseless after watching the film. Nitpicking in out of a sense of misguided nostalgia defense. Don’t get me wrong, some films attempt to coerce viewers in that way and then fail spectacularly for all the right reasons (cough, Ghostbusters 2016, cough cough) but I didn’t feel that with this film. Dark Fate (I still prefer my title) didn’t warrant any of it, in my opinion. It delivered a fun story, fun action, fun characters, and I’ll straight up admit I said multiple times during the latter half of the film “I don’t know how they’re going to stop [the REV-9].” I was engaged and loving it.

It was solid. I liked it! I personally think that this is a film that a year or two from now people are going to calm down about, look back on, and say “You know, that was actually pretty good.”

Maybe even really good.

Me? I had a blast. And a Blu-Ray of it will sit nicely next to a copy of Terminator 2: Judgement Day on my shelf.

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