By: Kevin Jordan
Have you seen this bo- …er, girl?
Every franchise hits that point where it either has to start over, switch to prequels, or ignore much of what came before it in order to keep audiences coming back for more. The Alien franchise did it with Prometheus, choosing to go the prequel route. The Predator franchise has started over at least twice, with Predators and The Predator. The MCU started over before it even began, remaking The Hulk, then ignoring that movie altogether, including the actor (Edward Norton). The X-Men franchise committed suicide early twice (Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine), rebooted itself with First Class, erased Last Stand at the end of Days of Future Past, and now needs another reboot after the very bad Apocalypse and even worse Dark Phoenix.
The Terminator franchise is no different. After the decent, but entirely forgettable T3: Rise of the Machines, audiences really did not like Salvation (I might be the only one who non-sarcastically loved it) and downright loathed Genisys (I only disliked it). Following in the footsteps of other franchises, Terminator went back to James Cameron (original director and writer) to breathe life back into the machines. Cameron promptly decided to ignore everything following T2: Judgement Day (including TV’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles), convinced Linda Hamilton to reprise the role of Sarah Connor, and wrote a major plot decision into the first three minutes of the new film Terminator: Dark Fate to chart a course for the rest of the film and the franchise.
Will you be Sarah Connor again if we give you a bazooka?
(SPOILER ALERT. I promise I will be good.)
The majority of the film takes place twenty-two years after Sarah, her son John, Miles Dyson, and their humane terminator destroyed Skynet. Right up front, you need to know that the entire layout and plot of this film is the same as T1 and T2. A genocidal artificial intelligence called Legion has sent a terminator back in time – a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – to kill a future leader of the human resistance, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). The resistance has sent back a cybernetically-augmented super soldier – Grace (Mackenzie Davis) – to protect Dani. The entirety of the movie is Dani and Grace running from one location to the next, trying to escape the deadly Rev-9. And, like before, they end up in an industrial setting to have the final battle with the Rev-9.
The good news is that the small differences more than make up for the well-worn plot. The first difference is that Dani and Grace get some extra help in the form of a bitter and battle-hardened Sarah Connor showing up at just the right moment to help them escape their first run-in with the Rev-9. If you have seen a trailer for Dark Fate, you have seen this scene (involving a bazooka). They also get help later in the film from a grizzly old T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), going by the name Carl. Yes, this film has a sense of humor, but it is almost entirely provided by our favorite killer cyborg (as dead-pan and hilarious as ever). If you want to know more about old Carl, just know that, like Uncle Bob from T2, this machine has also learned how to be more human. If I tell you any more than that, I will be breaking my earlier promise (just know that his existence is explained in the first scene of the movie).
We might need a little help.
The second difference is Grace herself. She is a mashup of Uncle Bob and Kyle Reese, but much more human than not. What makes her so interesting is that she can go toe-to-toe with the Rev-9, but only for a short amount of time. Her implants require a ton of energy and, once depleted, she turns into a massive liability until she gets a cocktail of chemicals injected into her system. It’s a clever bit of imagination that her strength is also her weakness. Also, she is fucking awesome. Sarah is still a badass in this film, but she rubs Grace the wrong way and Grace assures Sarah that she can rip Sarah’s throat out at her leisure.
The third difference the Rev-9. He is very similar to Grace in that he is a mashup of his film predecessors, the T-800 and T-1000. He is even cooler than Grace to behold because he is a carbon black metal skeleton terminator covered by a black-liquid terminator. He can literally split himself into those two different terminators, which creates a whole different dynamic in the chase/fight scenes. To add to his character, he is even creepily charming like Robert Patrick was, though more so, not just murdering everyone like the original T-800. Also like Grace, he is fucking awesome.
I am aware that I am in the minority of people who liked all of the Terminator films (even Genisys to a point), so me giving a glowing review of Dark Fate deserves a grain of salt. Luckily, the majority of critics are on my side this time, as was the plurality of the screening audience. Dark Fate is a very fun movie with great special effects and cool new characters. Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it manages to feel new while almost being a remake at the same time. It manages to bring back old characters without seeming trite or forced. Most importantly, it manages to reboot a franchise that we all left for dead. Let’s just hope the next film is a lot more Judgement Day than Dark Phoenix.
Rating: Do not ask for any money back, but do ask that James Cameron stay involved for the next film.
By: Kevin Jordan
I feel like we’ve been here before.
Apparently, I’m one of the eight people who liked Terminator: Salvation and is willing to say it out loud. So, when I say that Genisys is on par with Salvation, that’s not a knock against Genisys. Of course, I also enjoyed Terminator 3 and I’m pretty sure I’m going to Movie Jail for that. But, I want to be clear on this – while I enjoyed all three of those movies, the only one that was better than your average summer popcorn flick was Salvation because it was the only one that didn’t just retread the same worn-out plot of sending a terminator back in time to kill a Connor. Ridicule me all you want, but Salvation is the only one of the (now five) Terminator movies that was interested in filling in the story between Judgment Day and Time-Travel Day, and I really liked that.
(Note: Salvation was supposed to be the first in a trilogy, but the production company that owned the rights to the franchise went bankrupt and had to sell. That doesn’t really explain why the new owners didn’t continue Salvation’s story, but I’m guessing they weren’t fans.)
The reason I liked Genisys as much Salvation has less to do with the plot and more to do with Genisys just being a fun movie to watch. Of the three major retreads we’ve seen this summer (Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road being the other two), Genisys is getting the worst reviews by far, even though it does exactly the same thing as the other two flicks – reboots a flailing franchise while providing a good thrill ride. The difference for me is that Genisys at least made an attempt at a plot while those other two movies consisted of a two-hour-long car chase and a dinosaur eating surprisingly few humans. What’s more is that many other critics lauded the feminism of Fury Road and Jurassic World, yet are completely ignoring it in Genisys, even though Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is easily as strong a woman as from those other flicks. But enough of that, let’s talk about Genisys alone.
In a nutshell, Genisys is basically a mash-up of the first two Terminator movies. It begins in the future, with John Connor (Jason Clarke) and crew launching two assaults that will deal the final blows to Skynet and end the war. John is part of the assault that is going to capture the time machine from Skynet and send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor. As Kyle is about to transport, he sees something grab John, but disappears before seeing anything more. As he is travelling, he sees new memories of a different timeline, including himself as a child reciting a warning, then drops into recreated scenes from the original Terminator. Seriously, the next five minutes of scenes are painstakingly detailed in order to create exact replicas of what we saw thirty-one years ago, including a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. It doesn’t last long however, as an old Arnold and Sarah Connor take out the young Arnold and a T-1000 (the liquid metal terminator) attacks Reese moments after he appears.
At this point, you should have lots of questions because there are too many terminators and everything we know just got erased with the death of the original terminator. We soon learn that old Arnold was sent back to 1973 to protect nine-year old Sarah and that they built a time machine to go to 1997 to stop Skynet from going online. Still with me? Good – you’re doing better than many critics who thought this movie was confusing but had no issues with the silliness happening on Isla Nublar.
Kyle informs them that 1997 is no longer Skynet’s birth year; that it’s now 2017 and calls itself Genisys (ta-da!!). So, Kyle and Sarah jump to 2017 where they meet up with the now-twenty-years older Arnold (complete with gray hair, which makes no sense because in T2, Arnold’s skin heals itself in sunlight so why would his skin and hair age at all?) to stop Skynet/Genisys from going online. Didn’t I tell you it was a mash-up? Also, how is any of that confusing? Some critics are really dumb.
There is one little surprise that I won’t ruin, but I will tell you that a T-3000 is the new adversary terminator in this flick. I’ll also tell you that the casting left a little to be desired. I understand why Arnold was in this movie (and he was exactly as good as he needed to be) and casting the Mother of Dragons as Sarah Connor is a no-brainer. I even get Jason Clarke considering the run he’s on (Zero Dark Thirty, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Great Gatsby), though I had a really tough time buying him as John Connor. But who the hell still thinks Jai Courtney can act? Did they not see It’s a Good Day to Die Hard? Or Divergent? Between him and Channing Tatum, I’m not sure who’s worse, but at least Tatum’s facial expressions change once in a while. And to top it off, why cast J.K. Simmons and only give him four minutes of screen time? Just, wow.
My biggest complaint about Genisys is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The franchise stopped being scary after T2, we don’t get any new characters, and the story ends at the same point as T2 except now it’s just twenty years later. What’s worse is that no time is spent on character development or relationships because the writers just rely on stuff that was done in past movies, even though an alternate timeline allows them to do whatever they want. So, when Sarah gets emotional over Arnold, you simply don’t care or don’t believe because the only thing differentiating that relationship from John and Arnold’s in T2 is that, in this one, Sarah calls Arnold “Pops”.
Bet you’re missing Christian Bale now, aren’t you?
Rating: Ask for four dollars back because you kind of already saw this one.