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Terminator: Dark Fate

COME WITH US IF YOU WANT TO LIVE! I mean see an alternate timeline where a Terminator sequel is actually not bad! ONLY ON THE ALAN SMITHEE FILM REVIEW!

One Comment

  1. jckourvelas jckourvelas November 4, 2019

    OK, here is my take. MAJOR spoilers below.
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    It’ll be easiest for me to start with this response to your episode – frankly I agree with y’all almost completely on everything. Starting off with the strongest reasons to see this film – its connections to T2:
    Linda Hamilton – yes, I agree that her performance was good, but only as good as the plot allowed her to be. We didn’t get peak Linda, but to be fair we weren’t getting peak Sarah. She was there to be a grandmother archetype, and in that role she was awesome. To address the major shock – John’s death – it was so jarring and so powerful that there really wasn’t a way for her to deal with that in an equally powerful way without her disrupting the hell out of the plot. Y’all were totally right there. Her despair was also rather brushed by quickly, with a couple of lines that struck me flat (“and I drink until I black out” – I think we actually could have gotten away with a reaaally good scene with a drunk Sarah Connor. Grace dealing with that, etc. Could have been an excellent dynamic to explore.
    John – I loved what your cohost said about him being kinda annoying in T2. Some of the fans have said that Dark Fate’s killing of John “shits” on the end of T2, but I would disagree, and for reasons I suspect y’all already agree with. With Dark Fate, it’s clear that the Terminator timeline has entered a sort of Rick and Morty type territory, where we’ve come to understand that in a world with infinite timelines, any one particular tragedy is just that. One tragedy in an ocean of possibilities. So I think it’s perfectly possible to have one’s cake and eat it too; i.e., there is a timeline where human kind never develops AI, etc etc; John lives a long, happy and peaceful life. But in Dark Fate – as the name implies – human kind is more corruptible than that, and we keep making the same mistakes. Instead of SkyNet we get Legion. More on this in a bit. Nevertheless, his brief cameo and shocking disposal was exactly what this film needed, frankly. It makes it starkly clear that it doesn’t give two fucks about T3, Salvation, Gynysys (or however the hell you spell that monstrosity).
    On other direct ties to T2 – I also love how they were subtly done. Very, very happy that y’all also noticed the country song from the bar scene playing in the background at the barbecue. That made me laugh out loud in the theater. All the little nods to the past were for sure great.
    (and yes, I totally agree – we were in Mexico for a third of the fucking movie and we didn’t even get someone saying “hasta la vista baby” in the background? Missed opportunity for sure!)
    So onto the mechanics of this film as its own Terminator film:
    The villain – holy hell, yes. We’ve had duel skeleton and liquid metal terminators before, but this is a whole new system. Legion is clearly to SkyNet what ancient Rome was to Greece. I loved that y’all called it the core robot and the drone – that did seem to be the case. Regardless, this was such a terrifying villain that I agree with you Ben when you said that this felt a lot like the first Terminator. He is RELENTLESS, and so powerful there were scenes where I had no idea how the heroes were gonna escape. It was AWESOME.
    Ben you also talked about something though that I agree with profusely: as T2 progressed, the T-1000 began to fail increasingly (and yes, the majority of those scenes were cut from the theatrical version). We did not see that with this new villain, and I’m torn on that. His ferocity certainly made him a terrifying villain, but there were times where he did seem *too* invincible. Perhaps if his skeleton had taken damage and the range of his liquid projection reduced, etc. There were options they could have explored, but perhaps didn’t due to time or laziness. Whatever. But on the nature of flaws, you talked about Grace, and she is one of my favorite things about this movie and the biggest reason it is a success.
    Grace – the savior archetype, standing in for Kyle and then the reprogramed T-800. She was AWESOME. But more than the great performance, they were clearly saying something with her. Much like the astounding statement they made at the US/Mexico border (more on this later), they were saying a lot of interesting things with her. So for starters, I only use “she/her” pronouns with her because the film does. My impulse is to use “they/them.” They are clearly portraying her as non gender-conforming, with a certain amount of nonbinary-ness. When she steals clothes from other people (as all Terminator time travelers inevitably do), she only ever takes them from the males. This is subtly done, but the clothes always fit her. She was also portrayed as a child by an extremely androgynous actor. There’s also the line when Arnold asks her “may I ask what you are?” and she responds simply “No.”
    There’s one other key part of her I find fascinating, and it ties back into the flaws of the machine. She is not a terminator; she is an augmented human. Her incredible powers take a toll on her puny human metabolism – one of my favorite scenes is when she robs a pharmacy with a grocery list suitable for a typical crashing ER patient in East TN – so she is dependent upon medication to be as incredible as she is. This was a truly fascinating and mature mechanic for the film to use, and this Achilles Heel as it were ultimately became simplified in the visual metaphor of the big syringe (what happened to all the other medications? Why is it all just one syringe now? Doesn’t matter, it’s for the metaphor). So being that she already reminded me of a lot of trans and nonbinary people that I know, her medication reminded me of their hormone treatments. Grace is living up to the person she wants to be – a hero that protects her family – and to do so she took on augmentation that has to be maintained with external chemicals. This will resonate with a lot of people, I think, and makes an excellent poetic demonstration of the nature of female to male transitioning in a way that may help those who do not understand to better appreciate what it is their trans friends are going through.
    So in many ways this movie is all about family dynamics. Hamilton as the grandmother who is anxious to pass on her motivations to the next generation. Dani as a sister, a mother, and a hero all in one. Etc etc. But the most interesting part of this movie is easy to miss as a joke: Arnold the Terminator as a family man. Holy shit.
    And can we talk about how in the movie, he ends up with a Mexican son that he raised as a doting father? In real life, Arnold himself *HAS* a Mexican-American son, but he was a love child and was kept hidden and secret. Was some of this Arnold expressing some sort of inner conflict? Some type of regret? It’s interesting to think about.
    Finally, the whole movie seems to be about strengths and weaknesses. Technology – the phones are both protection and yet danger; drones – same thing. Border security – portrayed as a pro and a con. We meet Dani against the backdrop of automatic manufacturing robots, and this is where the terminator villain makes his appearance.
    Hm. Subtle, isn’t it?
    Putting automation and the hyper-militarization of law enforcement against the backdrop of a hellish future where our own weapons and systems have turned against us makes for a very harrowing message indeed.
    Especially when paired with dialogue like “where are the prisoners?” “They aren’t prisoners, they’re detainees.” Grace’s eye twitches.
    Anyway it’s rambly but there it is.

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