The latest Terminator movie, Dark Fate, struggles to give satisfying emotional arcs to its large cast of characters. Writer Sara Lynn Michener says it doesnâ€™t help that a large chunk of the movie is wasted on a bombastic action sequence set aboard an exploding cargo plane.
â€œI think thereâ€™s this idea with, especially, male directors where they get really excited about trying to top whatâ€™s been done before, but do it even bigger and better and more Michael Bay-ish,â€� Michener says in Episode 386 of the Geekâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. â€œAnd Iâ€™m like, really? Are we really doing that in 2019? Itâ€™s very upsetting.â€�
Geekâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that the cargo plane sequence was silly, and stands in sharp contrast to the sense of realism captured in the franchiseâ€™s best installments, The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
â€œTo my mind, the power of those movies comes from the juxtaposition of these creepy robots from the future set against this completely believable everyday reality,â€� he says. â€œAnd when you make it evil robots from the future in sort of a superhero milieu, it just doesnâ€™t work. Thereâ€™s no contrast anymore.â€�
Over-the-top action scenes arenâ€™t just eye-rolling, theyâ€™re also expensive. Screenwriter Rafael Jordan warns that needlessly bloated budgets are placing unrealistic expectations on sci-fi movies. â€œThe last three [Terminator] installments all made around $400 million, and based on first weekend grosses this is right in line with that,â€� he says. â€œThere have been a whole series of filmsâ€”the recent Star Trek films, Alita, Tron: Legacyâ€”that make $400 million and are deemed failures, and this is just going to be another one of those. Hollywood has to figure out a way to make $400 million a viable amount of money again.â€�
Dark Fate represents Hollywoodâ€™s third attempt to continue the story of Terminator 2, after the 2003 film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the 2008 TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Science fiction author Anthony Ha says that the scaled-down TV version arguably surpasses its big budget rivals in terms of storytelling.
â€œObviously a lot of IP is moving to TV,â€� he says. â€œSo if [Terminator] were to come backâ€”and Iâ€™m not necessarily convinced it willâ€”I think it might come back as a TV show.â€�
Listen to the complete interview with Sara Lynn Michener, Rafael Jordan, and Anthony Ha in Episode 386 of Geekâ€™s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Sara Lynn Michener on James Cameron:
â€œJames Cameron has this really charming idea of feminism, and his only real issue with that is that he hasnâ€™t really updated it since the â€™90s. I mean, when I saw Alita: Battle Angel, it felt like a wonderful movie that came out in 1995â€”other than the effects. â€¦ But he has this strong female obsession thing, and I think that unfortunately thereâ€™s sort of this strong female thing where it ends up being this commercialized â€˜Megan Fox happens to know how to repair motorcyclesâ€™ thing, and itâ€™s always this super-sexualized idea of a strong woman, and James Cameronâ€™s women were not really that. And so that resonated with me very strongly. I loved The Abyss, I loved Aliens, I loved the Terminator movies. So it was a very formative part of my upbringing.â€�
Rafael Jordan on screenwriting:
â€œIn general what happens is you wait and wait to get a job, and then the minute youâ€™re hired itâ€™s an extreme rush. Thereâ€™s never enough time, and thatâ€™s the unfortunate thing, because the minute they call you theyâ€™re like, â€˜Hey, so weâ€™re finally greenlit, and we need the script immediately to secure the bond and the financing, so can you give it to us in a week?â€™ And youâ€™re like, â€˜What? No. I mean, I can give you something in a week, but are you going to guarantee Iâ€™ve got time to fix it and make it right?â€™ And sometimes you get that time, sometimes you donâ€™t. â€¦ But trust me, these writers are pulling their hair out, and sometimes theyâ€™re sequestering themselves in hotel rooms for six to eight weeks if they get that luxury. But theyâ€™re definitely trying to make it better, itâ€™s just such an uphill battle for quality, always.â€�
Anthony Ha on the Rev-9:
â€œMy sense is that none of the sequelsâ€”including Dark Fateâ€”has found a way to top the T-1000. I feel like that was pretty close to the Platonic ideal of a Terminator villain. But this is an interesting variation, and the visuals I think are very striking, and it definitely makes for some interesting action scenes, because youâ€™ve essentially got two different Terminators with one brain going after [people]. I wish theyâ€™d done a little bit more to explore the powers of the Rev-9. â€¦ Like if [the two forms] had complementary powers, so the soft version is really good at insinuating himself into different situations, but the skeleton is there for brute strength. Something that makes it seem more distinctive.â€�
David Barr Kirtley on Arnold Schwarzenegger:
â€œThe movie kind of lost me when they meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger, heâ€™s great, but I already saw him as the good Terminator in three other movies. Itâ€™s been done, I hate the corny humor, and I felt like once he enters the story, it becomes much too focused on him rather than developing the relationships between the other characters. â€¦ When I saw the trailers, that Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be in this, I assumed it was going to be a cameoâ€”that they go to the cabin, and they meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he tells them whatever he tells them, and then they move on. I didnâ€™t think he was going to join the cast. And I think probably anything positive about his inclusion in this movie probably could have been incorporated into a cameo.â€�
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