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What Might Have Saved TERMINATOR: DARK FATE - We Are Movie Geeks

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What Might Have Saved TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

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Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton star in Skydance Productions and Paramount Pictures’ “TERMINATOR: DARK FATE.”

By Marc Butterfield

What might have been an extraordinary movie died a dud. Terminator: Dark Fate collapsed under it’s own weight, after months of hype, and millions of dollars. Probably more than one career ended with this movie. I’m not being dramatic, that bomb had some stink on it.

Official Synopsis: More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator – a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.

Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. I liked director Tim Miller’s film as an action movie, because it had some truly memorable scenes, and it had a great pace. I think if a couple of things were edited, it might even have done way better at the box office. Let’s be clear though; it probably wouldn’t have saved the movie, just made it a bit less of a failure.

The assumption that there was an appetite for one more sequel in a 35 year old franchise might have been a stretch. The story was played out, each one being about the survival of a one John Connor. The LAST sequel he was killed off and turned in to a robot duplicate, and one more time, Skynet was thwarted, this time destroyed (or again… I forget how many times this Company has been obliterated). Bluntly, that pissed off the fans. At the moment of supreme victory, JC was assimilated into Skynet, making the future uncertain. (again). Queue loudly screaming fans calling B.S. on this one.

And yet, what did Cameron learn? Apparently nothing. Read on, but beware, there are spoilers ahead, but the movie has been out long enough that anyone who wanted to see it has seen it, and everyone knows the twist. Within a couple of minutes of the movie, we are treated to a young John Connor (the movie takes place a few weeks after Terminator II: Judgment Day) going up to a bar to order himself and his mother some refreshments, Sarah smiling and feeling like for the first time in years, she and John can feel safe and know that they have their whole lives ahead of them, when a Terminator walks up and KILLS john. Shoots him dead. Bang. Having done the deed, the Terminator strolls away, it’s purpose fulfilled. I’m shocked that they didn’t have him whistling a happy tune. Sarah is devastated. BOOM!

Now, if you’re a fan of the franchise, you now know two things that made this movie a “thing” was that John had to be kept ALIVE, and the SKYNET was the bad A. I. sending Terminators to kill him, with Sarah being the badass dragon-mom being the only thing stopping a future where most of the population are dead, and the machines rule the planet, with nothing to do but upgrade themselves and kill human stragglers. This one scene made allllll of the other Terminator movies moot. We learn later that Skynet isn’t at the root of current termators, but rather “Legion” (because THAT name hasn’t been overused to death yet, right?). I won’t go on about too much of the rest of the movie, because honestly, I enjoyed it. The change of who must be saved, the way the robot join to be more effective, the tools used to destroy them…all of that was fun, inventive, and exciting.

Having Schwarzenegger’s Terminator now be an old dude who owns a interior decorating company added humor in an otherwise dead-serious movie, and was, well, in a word, ridiculous, but even that wasn’t as stupid as killing off Connor. Seriously, had they edited out the assassination of Connor scene, edited out “Legion” back to Skynet, and maybe had the sense to make Arnold’s bot into more of a “man without a cause after the fall of Skynet”, they at least wouldn’t have lost the fan base. Even the political message, which was there, but murky, wouldn’t have made a difference.

This isn’t the first franchise to die under the weight of a mountain of bad decisions, and I’m sure it’s not the last. But that James Cameron attached his name to this turkey is surprising. He gave this monster life, and it almost feels like he wanted to kill it once and for all.

Linda Hamilton, left, and Arnold Schwarzenegger star in Skydance Productions and Paramount Pictures’ “TERMINATOR: DARK FATE.”

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