By Henry Barsch ‘20
In what does not seem like too long ago, “The Terminator” hit the theaters in 1984. What was at first a low-budget and low-risk movie directed by James Cameron became a smashing success. It made $78.3 million at the box office on a $6.4 million budget.
For all those who grew up on “The Terminator” and its critically acclaimed sequel “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” you know how important these movies are to American film history. They have become a hallmark in storytelling, computer generated imaging (CGI), and action.
“Terminator 2: Judgement Day” launched the CGI era as we know it today, introducing the idea of a T-1000 robot that can use liquid metal to shapeshift. It was the first movie to use motion captioning and have a character be partially computer generated.
“At the time, they were cutting edge, new concepts in science fiction, and advanced. “Terminator” was one of the first to have time travel and robots, and it was a really new concept,” said my dad, Henry.
With the release of the new entry into the franchise this year, “Terminator: Dark Fate,” it seemed like the franchise could be headed in the right direction for the first time since the 20th century. A decent “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” was followed by two horrible films, “Terminator: Salvation” and “Terminator: Genisys.”
Sadly, the box office decided that was not the case.
Despite a good critical showing, the movie has been proclaimed a “box office bomb.”
Despite this distinction, I decided to see the new movie with my dad, with the aim of comparing the “Terminator” franchise of old with the franchise of new. What has changed? What was the same? What could have been done better?
For starters, the plot itself could have done better. I have seen “Terminator 2,” and both my dad and I agree that “Dark Fate’s” plot is essentially a carbon copy. The robot in “Dark Fate,” the Rev-9 model, very similarly can shapeshift with a liquid metal body. The robot does have the added bonus of being able to exist in two places at once, as the metal can separate from the standard Terminator endoskeleton. This perk is used in some creative ways, giving the robotic assassin some characteristic flair.
“It was pretty much the same plotline as “Terminator 2,” but it was made more political to adjust to today’s times. Political statements were made throughout the movie about immigration,” said Dad. “I believe they were distractions from the plot and writing, and they were very obvious attempts to make those statements. It kind of took away from the story itself.”
The action was superb. Dad said, “The new CGI is obviously a step up from the 1980s and 1990s. It looks way better, and just has a better feel to it.”
The action is intricate and complex, and one scene stands out to me in particular. The Rev-9 is trapped by Carl, the name of the good T-800 Terminator, and he splits into his liquid metal body to escape quickly. The action throughout was purely clever, innovative, and fresh. It still holds that small inspiration of old slasher films.
The symbolism was good, outside of the politics. There were terrific callbacks to the original movies and subtle nods to character development throughout the movie.
“It was actually a decent movie, despite the negative press around it,” said Steve Walczak.
One big nitpick I have with the movie is one particular scene in the middle of the movie. Grace, the other protective android from the future, is being examined by U.S. Border Patrol on a medical bed. She wakes up and attacks multiple agents, but stops to ask one where the “prisoners” are held. The first thing the agent responds with is “They aren’t prisoners; they’re detainees.”
This is ridiculous acting and writing. To be fearing for your life and yet still having the snobbish ability to “stay woke” is just a poor excuse to insert a blatant political message into the film.
If you have the ability (some may even call it a gift) to ignore the political messages in the movie’s middle act, the movie is good overall. It is action-packed, exciting, innovative, and new. The plot may be a tad recycled, but the minor changes in it gives the film a fresh scent. The acting, although cheesy at times, is actually very funny. The character development throughout the movie is well done. I would recommend that you give “Terminator: Dark Fate” a watch soon.