In news that, unfortunately, many of us had already predicted, Terminator: Dark Fate is looking at a disappointingly low $28 million weekend opening. The return of Linda Hamilton deserved better. But I’m not surprised considering all of the issues with this film. Did it end up being “too woke”? Is Dark Fate not well-written? Or is it a combination of both?
This article contains certain spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate. You have been warned.
One of the biggest issues with the Terminator franchise is that Terminator 2: Judgement Day is so good, it wrote the entire series into a corner. Hollywood has tried to continue the franchise after T2 but with lackluster results. The latest installment was supposed to serve as a reboot and a direct sequel to T2. Certain fans were indeed looking forward to it. Linda Hamilton was coming back and so was James Cameron. However, only 10 minutes into this movie, all my hopes were squashed.
In a sense, I can understand it only being able to reach an approximate $28 million from 4,086 North American locations for a low weekend debut. The pre-release expectations were in the $40 million range. So, you can see why the studio might be worried. The reported production budget is $185 million.
If you search around a bit online, you’ll see certain people complaining about T: Dark Fate being too woke and leaning very SJW. While I can’t really grasp why some people think being SJW is a bad thing (I’m all for being accepting and respecting others, especially groups that are discriminated against), I do think most of the current complaints are uncalled for.
While Arnold Schwarzenegger is the face of the franchise because of how marketing for films works, the core story, in my opinion, has always been about Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. The way her character evolved in T2 is one of the reasons that film is still revered by many. Furthermore, the exploration of her relationship with her son John Connor led to the enjoyable Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. That series, in hindsight, did what none of the movie installments after T2 could do; it felt like an organic progression of Sarah’s story.
The Terminator franchise works when it is woman-centric, specifically Sarah Connor-centric, while also focusing on her bond with John as she trains him to become the savior of humankind.
The fact that Dark Fate threw that out the window in the opening 10 minutes to replace John with a young woman… I mean, you can see why certain audience members and critics weren’t really open to such an idea.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I liked the new additions to the cast, especially Mackenzie Davis as a robot-human hybrid named Grace. I appreciated the concept behind it. To fight robot overlords, it makes sense for humans to try and level the battlefield through various upgrades.
However, when you kill a boy many have grown up with (and root for) to replace him with a young woman (that we know nothing about), your narrative is going to ruffle a lot of feathers. I would have preferred an older John handing the torch over to actress Natalia Reyes’ Dani instead of how it worked out in this movie.
I don’t know what James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, David Goyer, and Justin Rhodes were planning when they came up with the current story. Did they really think every nostalgic fan was going to go along with such an idea?
I would have if it was done properly. But John’s death immediately opened uncountable plot holes. It was a chore to see Dark Fate fall into every single one of them during the approximate 128 minutes runtime.
On top of that, adding more women to a movie doesn’t make it better, similarly to how more men don’t automatically make a good film when the story isn’t well-written. In my opinion, Grace and Dani were undercooked. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons behind those two characters coming across as “too woke” to some. Due to them not really having much to do, Grace and Dani (unfortunately) can be considered as fictional women that were added to tick certain diversity boxes.
Linda Hamilton as an aged Sarah Connor is great and comparatively well-written, though. More Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, please!
In the end, Terminator: Dark Fate had a lot of potential. But the final product lacked in execution, and I can understand how certain audience members might think it leaned “too woke” and SJW (whatever that means).
Did you watch Terminator: Dark Fate? Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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