With a subtitle like “Dark Fate,” the next Terminator movie seemed determined to pledge the sixth installment would be of stronger stuff than the several failed PG-13 soft-reboots the series has endured in the last decade. Now that promise appears more than met during the Terminator: Dark Fate Hall H panel at San Diego Comic-Con.
As a panel punctuated by one F-bomb after another by director Tim Miller—who lost $20 to star Arnold Schwarzenegger due to saying “fuck” more than five times during the presentation—the biggest news of the event is that, yes, Terminator: Dark Fate will be rated R. “The DNA of Terminator is an R-rated fucking movie,” Miller says. Hence shooting many scenes with alternate, abrasive language. But it is more than a potty mouth gleaned in the Terminator: Dark Fate footage that is evoking James Cameron’s original Terminator movies from 1984 and 1991.
The footage gleaned during an extended sizzle real of Terminator: Dark Fate promises a much more serious movie than Terminator Genisys, as well as one colored by regret. This includes the regret for the road not taken since Dark Fate seems to pivot on the fact that when Sarah Connor and her son John blew up Cyberdine in Terminator 2, they did avert judgment day… but there were other types of fallout as a result. Sarah hints at much during a scene where she is being interrogated by Mackenzie Davis’ enigmatic Grace character. With Linda Hamilton finally portraying the role that was always hers, Hamilton’s Sarah is older now but, more importantly, wearier. She says as a matter of fact that she hunts terminators, and that “Aug. 29, 1997, was supposed to be Judgement Day. My son and I stopped that, changed the future, and saved three billion lives. You’re welcome.”
What she’s done in the meantime has apparently been dealing with a new type of dark fate created by her averting an old one. Perhaps, for this reason, Sarah is still a hero but John seemingly is not (Edward Furlong was confirmed to be in the movie by James Cameron when he livestreamed into Hall H, but he is nowhere in the footage). The sizzle reel actually begins with an extended version of Sarah saving Grace (Davis) and Dani (Natalia Reyes). They are being pursued by Gabriel Luna’s new Terminator, who is part liquid and part T-800, as well as another generic T-800. When Grace and Dani are cornered on a highway, however, Sarah runs over the T-800 and knocks Luna’s robot off an overpass. She then tells the other women, “I’ll be back” before dropping a grenade on Luna’s Terminator.
Clearly this is more Sarah’s movie than any installment since the 1984 film, hence her getting the iconic line. It is certainly more about Sarah than Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 when the duo finally share a scene together. For whatever reason, they are seeking shelter at a countryside cabin where Arnold’s aged robot-in-disguise lies in waiting. Sarah’s first impulse is to shoot him, and she later still promises that when this is over that she’ll kill him. “I understand,” Schwarzenegger responds in his perfect monotone deadpan.
Better still is when they first enter his house, Schwarzenegger says, “Everyone calls me Carl.” Sarah’s response is a pitch-perfect growl of, “I’m never going to fucking call you Carl.” But she will at least call him a necessary evil since the rest of the sizzle reel teases all sorts of crazy Terminator action. One highlight is Dani and Sarah inside of a car after it’s been knocked into a river. Luna’s Terminator doesn’t let that stop him as he tries to drip with the water into their sinking vehicle before Sarah shoots him in the face. The other highlight involves Schwarzenegger’s “Carl” acting as a human shield for a displeased Sarah as Luna’s unstoppable machine corners them on an open cargo plane’s door during an apparent airport chase. We know that because Luna is firing at the plane in a helicopter at one point, and at another he is on the back of the still grounded plane when Schwarzenegger holds him down and shoots him in the face with a machine gun. His face is obliterated but he doesn’t stop.
It’s all promising footage that suggests Terminator: Dark Fate will have an edge the franchise has long lost. It also hints at the sense of melancholy and despair from the earlier films will return. Even though Sarah saved the world, no one knows it, and thus it continues to slide at a slower rate to self-destruction. Reyes’ Dani appears very much to be a combination of Sarah and John Connor from the earlier films with Grace saying “if you die we all die.” Why Dani is so important is unclear, but it appears the next generation will have the same struggle with the nihilism that Sarah did. For the sizzle reel also confirms Grace is a soldier from the future, one who we see fighting future robots while having herself cybernetic enhancements. She insists to Sarah, “I am human,” but Sarah seems unconvinced.
Human or robot, they’re going to have to band together if they want the 1997 Judgement Day to stay in the past. Terminator: Dark Fate opens Nov. 1.
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