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Defending - Terminator: Dark Fate

This is the sixth installment in the Terminator film series. However, it ignores the three previous entries and serves as direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement Day.


SPOILER WARNING – The big twist in this film has been controversial among fans and I’m here to address it. This will also mean spoilers for the previous Terminator films.


At the end of T2, Sarah, John and the T-800 successfully put a stop to Judgement Day and the existence of Skynet from ever happening. However, at the start of Dark Fate we learn their happy ending was short-lived when another terminator, already sent from Skynet, tracked them down and killed John. And there comes the divide among fans and critics!


There are claims that killing John Connor ruins the franchise and makes T2 pointless, and for being too pro-feminist replacing John with a female character. While I do understand the upset, I do beg to differ on those claims.


In Terminator, Skynet sent a terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor to stop her from giving birth to him. Then in T2, they sent another terminator after John when he was a child. All of this is because in the future John is a resistance leader that successfully wins the war against Skynet therefore, he’s believed to be the hero of the Terminator series – but was he really?

John doesn’t even appear in the first Terminator film, he was just hyped-up to be the hero by Kyle Reese. After T2, John got to be the protagonist in the two follow-up films Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines and Terminator: Salvation and neither of those films did a good job at showing why John was the great hero he was hyped up to be.


In T3, John is just a whiny protagonist and Nick Stahl was miscast in the role, in Salvation while Christian Bale is convincing as a resistance leader his version is a dull protagonist. Also, in Terminator: Genisys (which is not technically canon to any entry, it’s a complete alternate timeline) they made John the bad guy!


Not to mention T3 and Salvation shouldn’t exist anyway because T2 made them pointless. The whole third act of T2 is about Sarah, John and T-800 stopping Skynet from ever happening, therefore no Judgement Day and therefore John will never be a resistance leader. In T3, Skynet still somehow exists in the future and Judgement Day was just delayed by seven years.


In this film Skynet most definitely has been stopped from happening, however the future of technology has evolved through different means and has formed Legion and a new Judgement Day will happen at some point in the 2020’s. Still repetitive sure, but the future of evolving technology even in today’s world is still uncertain.


Then there are the pro-feminism criticisms, yet people seem to forget that Sarah Connor is an icon from the original films. She started off as a young naïve waitress targeted for termination and was aided by Kyle Reese until he’s killed and she had to fend for herself.


She lived as a fugitive and trained John to prepare until she got caught and institutionalised, when she escapes and John is targeted for termination, Sarah decided to change course and stop Skynet from happening. She succeeded and saved three billion lives - she’s the true hero of the franchise!


That’s not to say John didn’t serve a purpose. After all, everything Sarah did was for her son. So, when Sarah lost John, she felt she lost purpose until she’s been receiving texts of terminator’s whereabouts that were always signed ‘For John’. Sarah is still a hero and terminator hunter and keeping the legacy of her son alive motivates her to keep going.


Then there’s Dani whom the film essentially labels as the new John, which I can understand is frustrating – but I like to look at her as a parallel to Sarah. Sarah assumed Dani would give birth to a hero until it’s revealed Dani will be the hero – which is Sarah in a nutshell. Sarah joins Dani at the end and will essentially train her like she did John – again keeping his legacy alive.


Grace is an interesting character as she’s a cyborg but was born human who was converted after being badly wounded. She has superhuman-strength and other skills terminators have, but it does take a toll on her body and constantly needs medication to replenish. She may not be the first hybrid, which would be Marcus from Salvation, but as far as female cyborgs go, she’s far more watchable than that Barbie-terminator from T3.


Other things to like in this film – the terminator of this film is Rev-9, which has similarities to T-1000 from T2 such as the ability to morph and liquefy, the big difference is he can split into two forms. While not as iconic as Robert Patrick’s T-1000 because he’s still a big threat and being able to split into two terminators raises the stakes.


Carl, the T-800, is also an interesting take on terminators, it’s established already that T-800’s are adaptable but this is the first time we see what happens to a terminator after their mission is complete. Carl is the terminator that killed John, after that he had nowhere else to go as Skynet no longer exists and he develops a conscious and intelligence, like Frankenstein’s monster. He adopts a human family, gets a job and sends Sarah the anonymous ‘For John’ texts to give her a purpose after taking John away from her.


Arnold Schwarzenegger is great as always as the T-800 and this is the most layered he’s got to go with the role despite the limited screen time he’s given. The additional cast are all a great support – Mackenzie Davies, Natlia Reyes and Gabriel Luna. James Cameron, director of the first two, returns for the first time since T2 as a producer with Tim Miller (Deadpool) as the director, and together they return the series to the more gritty and mature tone the previous entries lacked.


The film marked a big return for Linda Hamilton, whom I hadn’t seen in a film since Dante’s Peak in 1997 and at the age of 62 she still proves to be an iconic action hero. While the role had also been portrayed by Lena Headey (The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Emilia Clarke (Genisys) who are both extremely talented, Hamilton here reminds us why she’s the only actress who can play Sarah Connor.


One criticism I have, is that John’s death at the beginning is a little too rushed. If there was some build-up to it then it might’ve been received a little better. But then again it is understandable that they were limited on special-effects and the de-aging on Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger looks amazing

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The film may not be as good as the first two but is a major improvement over the other films that came between them. Yes, it made a controversial move in killing John Connor, but a necessary one to take the series in a needed new direction.


Written by Jack Parish