“I’ll be back.”
The now famous line said by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s title character in 1984’s megahit film, The Terminator, once again, turns out to be true to his word. Thirty-five years later, the kill-resistant android assassin returns in Terminator: Dark Fate.
I loved the original 1984 film. Directed and co-written by James Cameron, the groundbreaking sci-fi hit not only starred Schwarzenegger, but it also featured Linda Hamilton, who played the unstoppable assassin’s innocent prey. It was one of the very few action films with a strong, smart woman as its ultimate heroine. And it was constant action from start to finish that had me on the edge of my seat the whole time.
In the original film, we discover that the world of the near future has been taken over by machines. The artificial intelligence Skynet has developed the Terminator, a cyborg assassin with human characteristics. It’s sent back in time to eliminate Sarah, the future mother of John Connor, a resistance warrior who has successfully battled Skynet and blocked the destruction of the human race. If Skynet can prevent John’s birth from ever taking place, it will easily accomplish their ultimate goal.
But with humanity’s fate at stake, John also has a trick up his sleeve. He sends Kyle Reese, a human soldier, back to assist and protect his mother and ensure his existence.
The Terminator was a worldwide hit that spawned five successful sequels and a short-lived television series. Terminator: Dark Fate is the sixth and final movie in this popular franchise.
However, according to IMDB, “James Cameron considers the film as a direct sequel to his own two (2) films, The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). He was not involved in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009), and Terminator Genisys (2015), so Terminator: Dark Fate disregards the events of these films.”
Gizmodo’s entertainment reporter, Germain Lussier, reveals in How Terminator: Dark Fate Is Different From the Other Sequels, According to the Director that Cameron felt “they did not work for him, so he decided to produce a true sequel himself.” Although he was generally supportive of the other films in the series, Cameron considers them “as occurring in alternate timelines.”
Despite the issues with the plot discussed below, I actually liked Terminator: Dark Fate (directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller) for the same reasons I loved the original film. The characters and the nonstop action kept me interested the entire time.
Still, there was one twist in the movie that I found very confusing. In both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Sarah Connor keeps her son John safe for his future role as savior of the human race. But in Terminator: Dark Fate, we quickly learn in the first five minutes that John was killed in 1998, just three years after the sequel. He was murdered by a T-800 named Carl played by none other than Schwarzenegger. I must admit, it was a little hard for me to wrap my head around that. If John was killed as a boy, how did he send the original soldier Reese to save his mother in the first film?
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the film’s director Tim Miller explained that John was killed off after he fulfilled his heroic destiny. Miller “wanted to pave the way clear for someone new to take over as the individual who would command humanity’s resistance against the machines; someone who was not connected to the Connors and didn’t embody the traditional ‘Chosen One’ archetype.”
The problem I had is that I didn’t remember that the old villain Skynet was conquered at the end of Judgment Day and it didn’t help that the new AI threat, Legion, felt virtually identical to the old. I didn’t find it adequately explained within the movie and it took me doing some serious Googling to figure out how this all made sense. So that’s certainly not a good thing. You shouldn’t have to do homework to figure out a movie’s plot.
But I did enjoy the mixture of new and not-so-new faces on the screen, however. Linda Hamilton, who receives top billing over Schwarzenegger this time, returns as Sarah Connor. Since this film disregarded the other three movies mentioned above, Sarah did not die of cancer but was alive although not doing so well. Since her son was killed, she had spent the rest of her life-fighting random Terminators throughout the years. She was tipped off about their exact whereabouts from anonymous messages that mentioned destroying the machines “for John.”
Although Hamilton’s excellent as the embattled, world-weary warrior whose life’s mission of fighting Terminators has hardened her heart and resulted in her drinking herself to sleep at night, I wasn’t exactly sure why all these Terminators were running loose killing people since John Connor was already dead. That also required some homework on my part because I didn’t catch that Skynet had let a bunch of T-800s loose on the present world before their own future was wiped from the timeline at the end of the second movie.
Sarah’s partners in combat are Dani Ramos and Grace (heroically played by Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis). The future resistance has identified Dani as the true savior of humanity and had sent soldier Grace, a hybrid human with cybernetically enhanced parts, to protect her from harm. Icily portrayed by Gabriel Luna, the new Terminator, Rev-9, has been dispatched from the future to kill young Dani. However, this proves to be beyond challenging for the three women and they decide they need back up.
So, making good on his promise–Arnold is back, of course! What would a Terminator film be without Schwarzenegger? (Just ask the folks who made Terminator Salvation, the only movie in the franchise without the big man. He was serving as California’s Governor at the time it was made.) As mentioned above, he’s the new T-800 named Carl that somehow evolved to have human emotion and has settled down with a human woman to have a nice, quiet life.
Despite needing his help, Hamilton, of course, wants to kill Carl since he killed her son but they reach an impasse when she discovers it was Carl sending those anonymous messages because he later regretted killing her.
Lastly, the best twist of the movie was to find out that Dani’s character wasn’t being protected because she would one day give birth to the future hero like they all originally assumed. But in the end, Dani, herself was the future hero. That was the best part of the entire film.
The word is that the Terminator franchise is being terminated. That would be a dark fate, indeed, for a beloved classic! But there are whispers that Terminator: Dark Fate is actually a new beginning for this terrific sci-fi epic. Let’s hope that the “Terminator” returns with a vengeance and that humanity finally triumphs in the end!