The first Terminator: Dark Fate trailer was released about two weeks ago. I am a fan of the series, so I was excited to check it out. This movie should be a big deal with the original Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton, returning along with Arnold. As I watched the trailer though, I felt nothing. When it ended I really wasn’t excited about the movie and then began to wonder if anything could be done to remedy the situation. I like to be optimistic and I’d love to be wrong, but I think there are a few legitimate reasons why this movie and the Terminator franchise just won’t work anymore.
Dark Fate looks like it is a new start with a new important human, Terminator, and protector from the future. My guess is Sarah Connor is stepping in with her knowledge to help this other human important to the future. This may not be the whole story, but it sure looks like it. This story is okay, but it seems like a weak attempt at passing the torch from the original movies to a new generation. A lot of franchises have done or attempted this, but sometimes it hurts more than reinvigorates them. The problem is we’ve already seen this movie and it was fresh. This seems like just a last-ditch effort, rather than an attempt at something new.
A rehash like this is to be expected though because the last couple of Terminator movies have tried to expand upon the original story. The only one that seemed successful since T2 was Terminator: Salvation, though and that wasn’t exactly a home run. The original Terminator was a new compelling story with edgy special effects and violence. It showed ambition and the viewers didn’t know what to expect. Terminator 2 perfected that story and showed us more with bigger action and better special effects. Although Salvation seemed to at least want to achieve the same greatness, the newness and excitement weren’t the same. Dark Fate, unfortunately, looks to be aiming at the level of the failed sequels that we’ve seen since Terminator 2.
The special effects and CGI used in the first two Terminators were cutting edge. They gave moviegoers something to see and be impressed by. The action sequences in Terminator 2 were so well done and looked so good for the time that they could be watched and enjoyed repeatedly. CGI has not made a lot of drastic progress in the last 5 years. It’s easier to do now and more commonly used even in lower budget films, but that’s about it. Moviegoers aren’t going to be blown away by a movie filled with CGI cyborg action, because we’ve seen it before and at that time we were still capable of being visually impressed. To make this movie stand out, there would have to be some cutting edge technology used in filming or to enhance the quality of the 3D. If the image and effects on screen are stunning, people will pay attention and take note even if the story is lacking.
Another problem is the anomaly of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Regardless of the story or special effects in the first two Terminator movies Arnold’s physique and demeanor stole the show. It didn’t matter whether he was the hero or villain because he was big and perfectly emotionless. Many people may not have ever got a good look at him before Terminator and then saw him for the first time next to regular sized actors. Add on to his on-screen size the fact that in the story, underneath he is an unstoppable killing machine, and people couldn’t help but watch to see what he could do. Everyone else since Arnold seems much less intimidating. No matter the effects or acting, Arnold is just bigger and more effective at looking scary. This certainly doesn’t help this current film and their new male Terminator that seems like a hybrid between Robert Patrick’s T-1000 and Arnold’s T-800. He’s just not big and menacing enough. Picking appropriately sized characters and bit actors is a simple screen technique, but sometimes it just works.
Another relevant issue that won’t work the same in this film’s favor is having a strong female lead. When Terminator and T2 came out, Sarah Connor was the strong female character. Especially by T2 when she takes matters into her own hands and decides not to be a victim ever again. There has been a huge push for more strong female characters and there are many more today then there were in 1991. We’ve seen numerous tough and powerful women in action movies. I don’t think the new female protector or even Linda Hamilton herself will stand out as much. Even if they have a decent performance, they will likely just be lumped in with the many others now. I think it was much more shocking to see a Terminator trying to kill a woman in 1984 than it could ever be today. I also think that now we would expect her to stand up and fight back rather than run away, whereas, in 1984, Sarah Connor seemed super brave for staying strong even though she was being pushed beyond her limits. It’s a good thing that there are more strong female characters, but I don’t think it will necessarily aide this franchise.
I want the Terminator franchise to succeed, but at this rate, I’m not sure it can. The filmmakers have to revert to the creative tactics used to make the first two movies stand out. They can’t just redo what has already been done or overuse the same CGI. Terminator is a movie about technology, and the first two movies used technology to their advantage. Perhaps this story will have some surprises and of course, it will be good to see the original Sarah Connor again, but we need something more. People are invested in the Terminator franchise because the first two movies and the concept is great. We want to like the other movies, but there just isn’t anything remarkable about them. There are lots of opportunities for great stories to be told in the Terminator universe, but sadly that doesn’t mean that one will ever be told in a successful movie again