Terminator: Dark Fate Trailer Review – What It Means for the Franchise

The long-awaited trailer for the latest entry in the Terminator franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate, was released last week, and it has left fans with quite a bit to unpack. Where it belongs in the franchise’s muddled history is a little complicated, but not worry, I’ll explain just where it sits in the franchise’s greater narrative arc, as well as giving my own views on how it seems to be shaping up.

So right off the bat, it’s worth noting the parties involved in bringing the sixth entry of the Terminator franchise to life.

Returning to the series for the first time since Terminator 2: Judgement Day is James Cameron, albeit as a producer. Filling the director’s chair then is Tim Miller, best known for his work on the smash hit that was Deadpool.

Screenwriting duties fall to David Goyer (known for his extensive work with Christopher Nolan), Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray, based on a story by James Cameron, Charles Eglee, Josh Friedman (who created the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show), as well as Goyer and Rhodes.

The most notable cast members are Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who return to their roles as Sarah Connor and the T-800 respectively. They are joined by series newcomers Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna.

If you’re more than a little confused by the return of Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, who was unceremoniously killed offscreen in the events between Terminator 2 and 3, and then recast in the botched reboot that was Terminator Genisys, you’re not the only one.

For context, in order to get The Terminator made, Cameron, who was relatively unknown at the time, was forced to sell the rights to producer Gale Ann Hurd…for $1! Although it secured Cameron’s position as the film’s director, it was a decision he came to deeply regret, as the franchise was out of his hands after Terminator 2, and we all know the trail of mediocrity that followed.

Then in 2017 it was reported that Cameron was poised to reacquire the rights to the series, and that his intention was to disregard everything after Terminator 2, with what is now Terminator: Dark Fate being a direct sequel to the original two films.

Now that you’re caught up, it’s time to take a critical look at those involved, and my initial impressions of the roster is that it’s pretty damn solid.

Miller has proven himself a talented director with an eye for action sequences, Hamilton and Schwarzengger are always welcome presences in the franchise, and the return of Cameron can only inspire confidence. I do, however, have my reservations about David Goyer as a writer on the film, but only because of a chequered creative past that admittedly has its flashes of brilliance.

In spite of my minor reservations, I believe the trailer very much delivers on its great promise. Though it is only the first glimpse we are given into the latest entry in the Terminator franchise, it does appear that the newcomers are well-cast, with Mackenzie Davis’s human-cyborg hybrid in particular giving Gabriel Luna’s villainous Terminator a run for his money in some blistering action sequences. What’s more, Sarah Connor is as badass as she was in Terminator 2, so it’s immensely rewarding to see a faithful continuation of her arc.

As Cameron’s involvement in Alita: Battle Angel recently proved, even as a producer his films tend to push the boundaries of special effects, and it seems Terminator: Dark Fate is no different. The highway chase scene alone shows off some impressive visuals that not only illustrate Miller’s ability for coherent action, but also the attention to detail attributed to its convincing special effects.

Admittedly, this is somewhat undone by the seemingly bombastic airplane collision at the tail-end of the trailer, which veers from the more practical and intimate effects of Cameron’s original two films, but I will resist jumping to conclusions given its brief tease.

Speaking of intimacy, while it is again too early to tell, the trailer does appear to hint at a greater focus on character development, which is what made the original films so endearing to begin with, preventing them from being nothing more than the hollow spectacles that came post-Cameron (I do still have something of a soft spot for Terminator 3, though).

Finally, throw in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo of Schwarzenegger, and you have yourself one hell of a promising trailer that doesn’t spill too many beans.

Yet, it is not with fanboy-centric cameos and teased action sequences that the Terminator: Dark Fate trailer ultimately succeeds, but in the way that it blends the old with the new. It is clear that Cameron views this latest entry as a revitalisation of a dying franchise, as well as a means of finishing what he started over 30 years ago. I don’t know about you, but for me November can’t come quick enough.

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