Terminator: Dark Fate – Untangling the Web of Sequels (Spoiler-Free)

Similar to last year’s Halloween reboot, the Terminator franchise tries to erase the sequels it doesn’t want to deal with.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

It’s 2019 and a Terminator (Gabriel Luna) and a protector named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) are both sent back in the future, each targeting the same woman: Daniella “Dani” Ramos (Natalia Reyes). It turns out that Dani is the key to defeating the machines in the future, because that’s just what happens in these movies. However, in addition to Grace, Dani receives help from expert Terminator-hunter Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and retired T-800 “Carl” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). They have to stop the extremely advanced killing machine and ensure that Dani lives up to her destiny.

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Linda Hamilton could kill you. Sarah Connor can wipe your bloodline from the Earth.

END SUMMARY

So, last year I mentioned that I really liked the new Halloween film. In fact, in it, I mention that Jamie Lee Curtis’s character reminded me of Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, going from victim to badass in order to deal with the responsibility of protecting her offspring against an almost impossibly strong monster. Well, in this movie, we see what happens after that, because Sarah Connor now she just seeks vengeance upon all of the Terminators that come through time hunting John Connor. Rather than being single-minded, she’s almost nihilistic, with her only purpose being killing Terminators. It’s almost like they watched that film and said “okay, but then what?”

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Then she drinks a lot and kills more robots, I guess.

What I also liked about the Halloween film was that, rather than trying to rectify the problems of the sequels that had come and gone over the past few decades, the movie just said “nah, screw that” and set itself as being a sequel only to the films it wanted to. This movie picks that mindset and benefits greatly from it. This film ignores the disappointment of Terminator 3, the relative lack of Arnold that was Terminator Salvation, and the confusing multiple-timeline mess that was Terminator: Genisys. Moreover, it doesn’t undermine Terminator 2 by saying that yes, Sarah and John Connor DID actually avert Judgment Day, but that all of the terminators sent from the future that is now aborted still made it to the past. Basically, there are multiple timelines, but all lines going back converge onto the current one. Admittedly, this does majorly undermine The Terminator, but since T2 already did that, I think the damage is done. 

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I mean, can we admit that Matt Smith as a living AI that travels sideways in time was dumb?

It seems like something of a cop-out that, while the Connors prevented Skynet from taking over, another identical AI ends up becoming a threat anyway, but it actually seems like a fair point that, without movies like The Terminator telling us that it’s a bad idea, humanity will eventually and inevitably create its own destruction. It’s kind of a subtle commentary that the only thing that might convince us not to build the world-ending AI is the fact that pop-culture has so thoroughly permeated with the theme that building an AI is a bad idea that people MIGHT ACTUALLY PAY ATTENTION. If only we could do that with [insert apocalyptic scenario that still seems likely here].

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Same old story, slightly different Terminators.

As to the other characters in the movie, I admit that Arnold’s current T-800, while interesting, still seems kind of random and plot convenient. Both Mackenzie Davis’s Grace and Natalia Reyes’s Dani are pretty badass, which is kind of the only way to justify them being able to survive even a few minutes with the hybrid T-800/T-1000 dubbed the “Rev-9” played by Gabriel Luna. Unlike most of the previous Terminator upgrades since the T-1000, this actually seems like a better terminator. The T-X from Terminator 3 was killed because Skynet somehow thought that having a flamethrower was an upgrade to BEING ABLE TO TURN INTO ANYTHING. Literally, the T-800 only kills her in that film because it can grab her, something he couldn’t do to the T-1000. In Terminator Salvation, Skynet tries cyborgs who can rebel pretty easily, apparently. In Terminator Genisys, which is just a clusterf*ck to begin with, we have the T-3000, who feels pain and can be beaten by magnets. Just a reminder, the T-1000 in Terminator 2 had to be dropped into what was essentially a metal volcano, like a Sci-Fi One Ring. The Rev-9 is essentially a T-1000 that can also dissolve matter that wears a T-800. When it needs to, it can separate and fight as 2 entities. Additionally, its shapeshifting is so fast and advance that it basically kills a mob of people by just creating spike tentacles at will. This makes it feel like the hyper-advanced learning intelligence is actually capable of some level of learning.

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We solved the “only send back one thing at a time” problem.

This isn’t a perfect movie and it’s kind of generic in a lot of ways, but it’s still fun to watch and has some great action sequences. I also love the interplay between Linda Hamilton and everyone else, since she basically has no f*cks to give. This isn’t Terminator 2, but it’s the best one since then, I think. 

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