It hasn’t been an easy couple of decades for fans of James Cameron’s Terminator franchise, but the just-dropped trailer for Dark Fate looks like the magic might be back.
Released in 1984, writer-director Cameron’s The Terminator didn’t do much at the box office, but the sci-fi action flick became a sensation on pay cable. The low-budget special effects look dated, but still good enough to move the girl-power story along to its necessary conclusion. Then in 1991, Cameron came back with a huge budget, groundbreaking digital special effects, and a true cultural phenomenon with Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
How many lines can you recite from that movie? I think my wife and I mouth the whole script each time we watch it.
Then everything started going to hell.
The franchise went dark for a dozen years before Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines came out in 2003. It wasn’t a bad flick by any means, and even had a nice twist or two, and the action sequences were as creative and well-shot/edited as ever. The downbeat ending I thought was a particularly brave choice. But something was just not completely fulfilling about T3. I’m not sure Nick Stahl was quite right as twentysomething John Connor. Or maybe there was just no good way to cast Connor, who previously had either been a young boy or an unseen near-legend from the future.
That was followed up in 2009 by the dreary mess called Terminator Salvation, in which the Skynet-controlled future had been reimagined as a Transformers movie, only with less wit. Not even Christian Bale, who certainly has the epic-level acting chops to play grownup John Connor, could save the movie.
And if after that you thought the franchise couldn’t get any worse… well, I hope you never saw Terminator Genisys. I certainly wish I hadn’t. First off, the 2015 flick was lazy, with Connor reimagined as the done-to-death Evil White Bad Guy character. Secondly, the plot was a ripoff of Back to the Future II, but with none of that movie’s clever charm. The casting was arguably even worse. Poor Jason Clarke had no idea what to do in the Connor role, probably because the script and director didn’t either. Emilia Clarke (Daenerys from Game of Thrones) was horribly miscast as Sarah. She had one classic line to sell — “Come with me if you want to live!” — and Clarke delivered it with none of Sarah’s grit and charisma. The producers even tried toning down the language and violence — “Hello, do you not know what made Terminator so much fun?” — to get a box-office friendly PG-13 rating. Nevertheless, the movie flopped.
Genisys was supposed to be the first of an all-new trilogy, but Paramount wisely scrapped that plan. Dark Fate is touted as a direct sequel to T2, and will treat the other three films as though they never existed. In other words, someone …or some thing… was sent back in time to stop the production of three Terminator movies before they could be made. Heh.
So Linda Hamilton is back for the first time since 1991, kicking cyborg booty and saving her family. And if the trailer is any indication, Dark Fate might just bring back Terminator’s engaging mix of action, girl power, sex appeal, and a clever plot twist or two. Give the trailer a look and let me know what you think.
The movie comes out in November, but I’ll see it sooner if I can get my time displacement equipment working.