Slate Spoiler Specials: Terminator: Dark Fate

Listen to this episode

S1: Right now. Charlotte great. Paper. What’s in the box. Yo. Yo. Yo yo yo.

S2: Hello and welcome to another slate Spoiler Special. Today we are going to be spoiling T6 the sixth installment in the Terminator franchise also known as Terminator dark fate directed by Tim Miller produced by James Cameron.

S3: Yeah he was one of the producers and also is credited as like one of the four or so screenwriters who helped come up with the story right.

S2: So he’s back with the franchise for the first time in a while we’ll talk about the history of the Terminator franchise which goes back now more than 30 years. But first let me introduce my two co spoilers you just heard Forrest Whitman’s Slate’s culture editor in New York. And from Philadelphia we have Sam Adams Slate’s culture writer film critic Terminator expert I hope. I said to me Hello. But I actually need him to save me because you guys are going to see as we try to reconstruct this movie that it’s one of those movies that just leaps out of your mind the second that you’ve seen it. So the idea of going back plot beat for plot B and reconstructing this is going to be a journey into some sort of fantasy Terminator world that exists everywhere and nowhere as this movie does in a way it’s bringing back all of these Terminator callbacks. But what is it in and of itself it’s sort of this protean blob not unlike the black blobby substance of one of the villains which we will get to. But before we start on this movie I wanted to you as usual ask both of you whether or not you generally like and would recommend this movie and also because it’s part of such a long tradition. Can you just revisit your own Terminator histories how many of the six now movies that exist have you seen roughly in what order you know sort of how far back and how deep is your love for knowledge of the franchise go forest I’ll start with you.

S4: Sure. I would give this movie a thumbs up just as Arnold Schwarzenegger does as he descends into the molds you at the end of Terminator 2. And as that tone of voice maybe suggests there is a version of my life where my entire career path up to now was determined by one event that happened you know not quite 30 years ago which is that when I was roughly five years old I think I believe in the basement of our new house where we had just moved. We watched on VHS Terminator 2 Judgment Day and it became my favorite movie for a time. So I had two older brothers and it became sort of part of my identity. I think that I was somebody who kind of knew the cool shit in terms of movies and music because I had older brothers and that led to me becoming more of a nerd in terms of movies and music and eventually books and so on. And then it became my job to be the person who is trying to know about movies and music and have good taste in them and so on.

S2: Wow. So you were formed by T2 which you saw before the first one.

S5: Yeah I think so. I mean I think you know the original Terminator was on TV a lot although it’s of course not quite the same on TV but it was only later in my 20s that I went back and re watched the original Terminator and it was very hazy. So I mean I Terminator 2 was probably the bigger movie for me as a kid and I think a lot of millennials think of Terminator 2 as the best Terminator movie which is heresy to people of older generations I think and in fact like David Foster Wallace has this whole essay about how Terminator 2 is the worst sequel ever made as a child I did not believe that this movie doesn’t work as much more than this nostalgia delivery system. But I think as a nostalgia delivery system it worked very well for me. I mean it knew where to push my my buttons.

S2: I just I’m so interested to hear how this movie brought you any pleasure other than the sad retread of ancient memories of automatic pleasure. Sam what about you.

S6: Well I saw Terminator 2 on my first date shout out to Gwen Cessnock and that is also my review of Terminator Khadafy.

S7: It’s I have my history with I was older than 5 when I saw T2 for the first time but I think my my arc with regard to it is pretty much the same. I might have watched the first one on VHS before the second one came out. I don’t remember but that was definitely a lot to. It was a huge event to see that that movie in 1991 and had know amazing like Ireland morph effects that everybody was so jazzed for this liquid metal stuff. You know James Cameron was just kind of at the peak of his powers at that point and this is a movie that kind of really deliberately continues in that lineage and explicitly throws out all the other sequels that came between them all of which I have seen none of which I think are any good. So that is I think a good good move. And this is not there’s no reinventing or re CGI thing of the wheel here but it is like the Terminator a machine that is built to do a thing and it does that thing quite well.

S3: Yeah. In fact like the villain of this movie I think it’s kind of a microcosm for the entire movie and that he is literally just the chrome skeleton of the t 800 from the original Terminator with the sort of liquid metal substance of the T 1000 Terminator from Terminator 2. Just turn it over each other turned black which of course makes it completely different. There are some other small changes that I think we’ll get into but it mostly just tries to take part 1 and Part 2 and then mash them together your favorite parts from both and there you go Terminator like fate.

S2: Well I guess in order to set up my negative response to this movie I should give my own Terminator history in my review of this I compare myself to Linda Hamilton character Sarah Connor in that I too am a grizzled veteran who’s been around since the early first Terminator days and I remember the sensation that the first Terminator made which is a very different one than Terminator 2 which was a huge cultural event at the time as the movie of the summer for sure that summer. Right.

S5: That was the most expensive movie ever made at that point.

S2: That sounds Cameron like right and that it used that as a marketing tool probably. And you know just the way it looked. The special effects it was it was the hot movie at the time I can see why Sam it would be your date movie. You know it was a thing you could have conversations about because it also had this sort of political allegory right. Was the the period of Rodney King and the L.A. riots in just a moment that seeing a cop seeing a villain who could go in between sort of liquid metal evil person from the future and L.A. cop. You know it was a very sort of telling image to have on screen. It was the conversation piece movie and how I would place the first Terminator in that lineage and I can see why although I haven’t read that David Foster Wallace essay I can imagine the kind of argument he would probably make is that there’s something really crafty and artisanal about the first Terminator right. I mean in its way it probably had a pretty high budget but it was not it was not a huge budget.

S8: Yeah it was nothing like it.

S2: It was a medium budget science fiction movie that became a blockbuster despite itself. It was really kind of a sleeper on the market right. And I think what made it a big hit besides the Friends of Arnold Schwarzenegger who was this you know at the time not a kind of familiar affectionate jokey figure but this weird new kind of figure on the scene right who was mainly known as a weightlifter and bodybuilder and who suddenly had become this like monster from the future. So because of him. But also I think because of the premise like it was a real piece of science fiction in a way that really none of the movies have quite been since maybe to share that to some degree. But T2 is more of an action movie right. Sure. Whereas the first Terminator really asks these questions almost Looper style questions about time travel and the circularity of it and how does it work. And this crazy idea that you know that the guy who goes back to save the savior of the future ends up being the father of that savior of the future. Right so there’s this kind of or a bro structure. So it was also a conversation piece movie but in a completely different way not sort of like have you seen the cool new special effects movie but more like what world is this coming from right and it really does sort of help to invent a new genre. I mean robots from the future are something that we’re now used to seeing and all kinds of movies. And so I guess I remember it is being innovated in that way. Like James Cameron I never regarded anything that came in between as mattering at all after T2 was very relieved that this movie was absolving us as viewers of the responsibility of caring about the Claire Danes installment. You know the Christian Bale installment or anything that had happened in the interim because they didn’t have Linda Hamilton. I mean the big draw here is really that Sarah Connor is back. It’s not the first time Arnold has come back but it is the first time that the two of them have come back together. All of that’s ahead. I’m going to need you guys to engage in some sort of forensic reconstruction of the story of this movie because I really do just remember it as a long loud noisy blur and the only note I was seeing as I opened my notes from the screening is something about others there’s an opening car chase through a fruit market which just struck me as the biggest cliche possible and I never really thought that movie recovered from that level of familiarity. But where do we begin this movie. How do we fit this into the time loop of the previous Terminators.

S7: The first thing that happens chronologically I’m not sure is the first thing in the film but when they made a sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens alien 3 people were really outraged it felt like a big slap in the face that they first thing they did in Alien 3 was kill off Newt. The kind of child character that James Cameron had introduced in aliens.

S6: So of course this Terminator sequel which is officially approved by James Cameron begins by killing off the boy character from T2 John Connor who apparently was saved at the end of that movie for like a couple of years and then another Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator tracked him down and killed him.

S7: So that kind of sets us up with the return of Sarah Connor but not the return of John Connor in this movie which kind of puts the lie to the entire circular framework of time travel that’s been set up by the whole thing right.

S2: Because without any John Connor how was there a rise of the resistance against Skynet.

S9: Well this is something this movie and so I mean these movies have not lost their interest in time paradoxes but what they’ve started doing is just like recreating new time loops over and over and over and yes I mean this movie completely undoes you know all of the importance of you know everything that happened in the first two Terminators basically and what it creates is that instead of the Skynet dystopian future happening we have this different dystopian future in which there’s another company called legion. All they did was rebrand it trunk its trunk the company I mean as as to get a flavor of the dialogue of this movie as Sarah Connor puts it in the opening narration she says once I saved three billion lives but I couldn’t save my son a machine took him from me and I am terminated like this movie just has no fear of being very blunt and silly. And it’s dialogue and grasping at every possible pun and callback it can make and there are like two in there. Also Sarah Connor is just constantly bragging about how she had once saved three billion lives. She’s one of the more delightful aspects of this movie to me. But yeah John Connor’s dad and everybody headed for long. And now people who hated him including that David Foster Wallace. I say Dana is basically just like oh it was pandering to kids. That’s why it sucked. I mean that was one of the main points and so he would have enjoyed saying that and now we go to Mexico City 22 years later.

S2: Quick question though the moment where you see Edward Furlong killed by a terminator at the beginning sort of like the cold open before we get to the real beginning 22 years later. Is that cobbled together from old footage is it digital de aging how did they get that scene.

S10: It is neither. As I understand it and I wondered this too. I mean it’s quite convincing even the fact that you’re asking is is a compliment to the visual effects team and my understanding is that what they did is they use Ed Furlong as a reference for this person but kind of just constructed in the same manner as Gemini Man. The No. Ang Lee movie did they sort of constructed a new young had Furlong the same way that movie constructed and young Will Smith and just had somebody kind of be his body double and pasted the face on. And it really works.

S2: But Linda Hamilton must be digitally D.H. right.

S10: Yeah I didn’t I guess I didn’t get quite that far because the D aging there is not quite as dramatic and you only see them in a long shot.

S2: I think great a fairly distant shot it’s not like you’re getting repeated close ups of their faces love the Irishman right.

S4: Yeah. It’s really effective.

S2: I had thought it must be like a deleted scene or something but the movie presupposes that that happened back just very shortly after the events of T2 apparently when Edward Furlong is still a young teenager. And then we fast forward to 22 years later in Mexico City. We haven’t met the new Linda Hamilton yet because first we have to get to know this new character the new terminate tricks. Who gets sent back or I guess you wouldn’t call her that she’s the Terminator killer who gets sent back played by Mackenzie David.

S9: Yes. Yeah. And she is Grace one of the many Christian allusions in the Terminator franchise just like you know giving the messiah figure the initials J.C. and calling the second movie Terminator judgment day. Again not terribly subtle. And she is as you started to allude to Dana quote augmented. So she is kind of like a wolverine type figure where she is a human who has had a metal skeleton and various other features pumped inside her and she has some visible seams right a little bit Frankenstein style.

S3: Yeah. Which I thought it was like. It’s like you’ve kind of slowly catch sight of these seams and then you’re at first kind of trying to figure out are they scars or are they more like the seams on a product. And they’re like a little bit of both. And then we meet our other the bad robot the Terminator yes.

S11: So our new Terminator in this movie the latest model is called a rev knowing that as you mentioned first it is basically just kind of a very vaguely souped up version of the T 1000 from Terminator 2. It’s kind of black liquid metal instead of silver liquid metal.

S7: He has the ability to split in half and leave his kind of skeletal frame behind like driving a truck. Well he you know runs off and does other things instead of turning one arm into like a sword that he can stick through people he can turn like several things into swords and stick them through people.

S6: But it’s really just not very good. And he can look at one point one upgrade not a 2.0 upgrade.

S2: Yeah really it’s it’s really not worth taking in your old model to the store and trading it for the new one. But he can also and I believe he too could do this he can also take on the guise of people that he’s killed right.

S12: Yes. And take on their voices. One thing that he could do that I wanted to talk to you guys about because I guess you’re not going to be very interested in this but five year old me was very interested in this piece which is that if I remember correctly very early in this movie he turns his hands not into a sword but into a gun which is the thing that I always wonder like why doesn’t he 1000 do that in the original movie and this one does.

S5: Briefly and his first appearance and then I think he never does it again which I mean granted he often is able to find plenty of guns around just because there are a lot in Mexico City and in America but he only does that once. Right. And I don’t know. I mean it kind of raises questions about what the limits of the military are like he can create moving parts and like fire parts of himself off in other directions but it’s not fully.

S13: So his goal and his goal in this movie that the John Connor of Terminator dark fate is a woman named Denny Ramos played by Natalie arrays and she is just a kind of ordinary like auto plant assembly line worker in Mexico City doesn’t have any idea why she is being targeted by this thing and Mackenzie Davis Grace does not have time to tell her ads that have come with me. If you want to live she does or she has about 30 seconds to get out of there. She’s going to be dead which is another one to it’s good movie. What if we just hit the same line slightly differently and that kind of sets up the first big chase scene.

S2: Also don’t forget. And this is gonna go to one of my larger overweening points that this movie doesn’t create any character well. But Danny the character played by to tell you Ray is loses her entire family within the first 15 minutes of the movie right. I mean we think that it’s going to be a story of this Mexican family where the brother and sister work together in an auto plant. Right they have this loving dad at home. But the both the dad and the brother are dispatched really with extreme force in the very early part of the movie and there’s not really any downtime to mourn for Danny. She’s just like swept up as bait in this whole trap for the Terminator within the first 15 minutes of the movie. And honestly for me if the movie is going to try to claim the feminist credit it wants to claim by as it later will show us making her not the mother of a future resistance fighter which is what Linda Hamilton assumes she’s going to be. But the actual savior of humanity herself if it’s going to claim those laurels for its head. I just feel like there should be a little bit of time knowing who this character is and why she’s motivated. You know why she’s going to be this great leader who’s going to be motivated to save the world.

S9: Yeah. I mean this movie has a very sort of thin feminism whereas so I think the way that the movie probably thinks about that like the screenwriters and the director who I guess we have insight is Tim Miller the guy who made Deadpool who is pretty good at directing action. But I think not a particularly intellectual filmmaker at least judging by what’s on on screen or a particularly distinctive one. Anyway I suspect that the way that the filmmakers were thinking about it is that oh we’re presenting you for example with this very hunky brother who you might typically think of as the action hero in this kind of story. And again as you said it kind of gets at this more explicitly later. But then they kill him off pretty quickly. So I think that’s the positive spin that they might put on what they’re just saying though it does show a little bit of a disregard for life. Although I mean this movie also it does have disregard for tons of life.

S2: I mean it kills like dozens of CBP officers later in the movie and that opening car chase in Mexico City alone the one that Linda Hamilton comes in at the very end of just has massive collateral damage being wreaked right. You have to imagine just cars flying off of Highway embankments everywhere you look.

S4: Can I ask one question about the raft nine character is that a Beatles reference. I believe it must be a reference revolution nine beloved Beatles track revolution nine.

S12: I don’t think there’s anything more to read into it but I feel it must be noted.

S7: Sure why not.

S2: Let’s say yes in the sense that like the song his character makes no sense sir. So let’s get to the point where we finally get Sarah Connor into the action. It’s really after that first big chase after Danny’s entire family has been assassinated and she’s met up with this futuristic being who descends nude in a blue bubble and then proceeds to steal someone’s clothes and take her on the road. It’s not until that Chase is winding up essentially right that we see Linda Hamilton emerge.

S5: Yeah basically you know in a very dire moment of course Linda Hamilton Sarah Connor shows up socialism emerges from I think it’s the same Toyota Land Cruiser that she was driving at the end of Terminator 2. Again tornadoes three through five do not exist now a Vintage Vehicle.

S9: Yes she just fires off a series of weapons. I really love this introduction I have to say. So first she takes out a Gatling gun and fires it at the new Rav 9 batty.

S4: Then she takes out a rocket launcher and fires at him and then she takes out a grenade and throws that at him and then you know sort of drops the grenade and dropping the mike type fashion says I’ll be back. And then literally turns away and doesn’t look at the explosion. And it’s really dumb and cliched but the movie seems to kind of know it. And I was having a great time in that moment.

S2: She say I won’t be back. Isn’t it something that isn’t a conditional. I’ll be back. Or she says if you don’t come with me I won’t be back. That’s that was how I remembered it Sam. Isn’t it the case that somebody delivers that line in the negative at some point in the movie that’s later in the film.

S13: There might there might be a riff on it later but that time she does it but she doesn’t very like she’s like I’ll be back tossed. You know it’s just like a very tossed off kind of spin on it.

S2: So there’s an interesting portion of the movie that follows this where up until they meet up with Arnold which takes a little while I mean it’s probably 20 minutes later so into the movie that they finally meet up with the original Terminator himself but there’s a period where this becomes kind of an all female road movie where the three women are trying to get across the border into Laredo with no documents for Danny. A slight nod at kind of political reality that isn’t really very resonant or carried through on in any way. Yeah and how they make it past the border actually I don’t remember.

S5: Well so they I mean they end up getting arrested. So yeah I mean we get to know our characters for a little while so we get to know how Sarah Connor is this character who has been fighting off Terminator something like every two years for the last two decades.

S2: Twenty two we hear very vague I want to know more about that because she has she has this line which I admit is a great line about all I do is hunt Terminators and drink until I pass out. Right yeah.

S3: I don’t Terminators and then I drink until I blackout.

S2: That’s the entire story of her life that we’re given. Which I love as her cover story the very first thing we learned about her. But we never ever hear anything about what those 22 years held in terms of how many trauma here’s the jihad. Who were they coming back for. How did she live in between. And we never also see her drink till she passes out. I wanted there to be a kind of a party scene where we got to see that side of Sarah Connor.

S5: Yeah I would watch that. I mean what what it raised for me is just the question of. So if Terminators have been showing up on a regular basis for the last 22 years then like do people know about this. Are the authorities aware.

S14: And I think the movie gestures and I sort of handwaving fashion at at certain possible solutions like we eventually learn she’s connected to some sort of government agent I think who’s maybe helping to cover it up. I don’t know but it raises a number of questions that are not explored very much but I mean in the movie’s defense it also is quite efficient like constantly moving you through to the next action sequence.

S11: Right I mean I think the idea is like we learn at one point that she is kind of you know an international fugitive. She’s on the FBI most wanted list in the US so she has been getting these sort of string of mysterious texts with G.P.S. coordinates in a time and the words for John. And every time she goes there and shows up at that place in time there’s a terminator that she has to kill. And at some point you know setting off rocket launchers and throwing grenades over bridges has gotten her in trouble with the law in the US and you know and she has attempted at some point to tell the truth to the people who arrested her. None of them believe her and I think she’s crazy but I think her story is at least kind of circulating maybe it’s a kind of urban legend or can you believe what this crazy woman keeps saying. So but people have at least heard it. They just don’t believe her.

S3: So yeah I mean they start to make their way across the border. And then meanwhile Rav 9 the villain the bad Terminator kind of co-opted all of the capabilities of the American border control so he’s using drones and satellites and all these different technologies to find them which again I agree with you Dana. It doesn’t have anything particular to say about the Border Patrol but it is sort of interesting that it shows the somewhat menacing power or some I guess somebody on the other side of the aisle might view it as the quite impressive power of the border control and then it ends up with them getting arrested and put in the cages that we’ve been seeing in the notes basically.

S2: Right. So that you could say that that’s the end of this first portion of the movie where the three female characters are established. They go on the road together and they eventually managed to bust out of the border prison during the havoc of the Rev Nine’s attempt to to come and get them out. Then they find their way to the door of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his new guy his as we shall learn his new identity. He’s been living under for all of these these 22 years. And I guess this is this is the next you know big moment for fans of the franchise to feel the warm recognition of this character who’s become beloved even though he was initially horribly menacing and and now occupies this strange place in between. Because right in T2 he really became the loyal sidekick and as you said forced the last we see of him is his self-sacrifice and his noble firm going into the molten steel. But now in the 22 years that have passed in between Linda Hamilton has come to hate the Terminator because because he killed her son.

S15: Right.

S2: But we have to assume that he had been reprogrammed at that point.

S10: Like how did he go from that they kept sending back more and more Terminators and one of the Terminator got him in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

S2: Yeah. Right. But so then this is a different being than the being that killed her son. No. Like this is a different.

S5: No it’s not the one from Terminator 2 but it is also a tier 800 that’s the same model right. A couple years later they sent back another t 800 and then in a movie that I guess we’ll never really get to see. They have this other battle and then it leads to the scene where we see at the beginning where the T 800 kills John Connor. So right after he killed John Connor he runs off.

S14: He meets this Mexican woman named Alisa. And they develop a relationship and he takes on this name that is Karl. Great undercover name for a hundred. And although he notes that it is not a physical relationship but he is a very good father and basically we just get a bunch of very deadpan Arnold Schwarzenegger during the sequence where Sarah Connor is understandably unhappy to be spending time with the killer robot that killed her son. But the killer robot who killed her son has become this nice man who does things like help with the groceries. And he notes that part of how the relationship work is quote I change diapers efficiently and without complaints and I’m extremely funny.

S2: He is extremely funny. I have to say that most of the humor in this not particularly well-written movie comes from Arnold Schwarzenegger.

S5: I mean it’s like the writing of the movie is very dumb but it’s kind of dumb funny.

S2: I do like the moment when Sarah Connor observes of the coral identity he’s taken on. Do they not notice that you never eat or sleep.

S13: I’m not sure how he or the joy 400. Yeah. I mean forest you mentioned you know Tim Miller the director of this movie not being maybe a particularly smart or friendly being you know interested in subjects that I feel like this is one of the places where that really shows up. I mean these movies have you know in their own sort of you know James Cameron B movie way. I mean they have some sort of abiding interest in you know the dividing line between human and robot and what you know what differentiates one from the other.

S6: And the idea here is that this 1 800 Karl killed John Connor and then after that he had no further commands after that. So he was just kind of left to wander around on his own devices. He apparently grew both a conscience and an appreciation for drapes because that is the trait that Karl has been in all this time. And that is a weird not a particularly plausible idea but that is an idea at least that if you leave a robot kind of just walking around you know it has nothing left to kill that it will sort of eventually become more human like the movie that just tells us that just a kind of cover over a plot hole and then never goes back to it or shows any interest in that. And it’s that’s like a big idea that you can’t really just kind of drop in.

S3: Well yes I mostly agree with that although I will say it it definitely helps that this franchise has already shown us in Terminator 2 which as far as this movie’s concerned is like the last Terminator movie you saw it showed us in Terminator 2 exactly how robot can kind of develop a conscience and learn to be human and learn how to attempt to make jokes and speak Spanish and all the things that Carl ends up doing. Like in many ways this character of Carl is the logical progression of the character arc of the hundred from Terminator 2.

S2: Yeah. And interestingly you could say that it’s the reverse. I mean Sarah Connor has become a machine in a way right. I mean she’s lost some portion of her humanity and is now just completely focused on killing Terminators whereas Carl has gained in humanity but phone that. But the fact that we lack any flashback or storytelling or anything to give us a sense of what those 22 years meant for either Carl or for Sarah to me points to just another of the weaknesses of this movie which is that it’s not really great science fiction. You know I mean it is in the genre of science fiction but it doesn’t evince a lot of curiosity about time travel about things like the relationship between the the machine and the human. You know this idea that there’s been this kind of criss crossing where the robot became more human and the person became more machine like that’s interesting science fiction material but you know I guess this is part of the general sort of does screenplay is that it just is not particularly curious about digging into those paradoxes.

S5: Yeah. I mean that’s a progression that already started to happen with Terminator 2 which moved it from being like there’s always a mix of action film and science fiction film in this franchise. And there was somewhat more science fiction I think with the first Terminator and then the second movie was somewhat more action and this one it’s even more action and even less science fiction.

S2: Basically the first one also I have to say T1 just had a real interest in human psychology you know in the changing relationship between Sarah Connor and the guy who comes back and ends up becoming the father of John Connor Kyle. Is that the character’s name. Reese Yeah. Kyle Reese there’s an actual relationship that develops between them and you have this sense that you know a person who had this freakish intervene in their day where a future naked guy in a bubble came down you know somehow goes from being just a terrified bystander which is all really Danny ever gets to be in this movie to being an actor in their own fate. There is no fate but what you make forest another callback that comes along in this movie which was originally in T2 I believe it started in the first one and then it’s what Sarah Connor carves in to.

S5: I think it’s like a picnic table towards the end of Terminator 2 before they go and save the future or attempts to temporarily.

S2: So returning to T6 again what is the next place that we want to take these guys after they get on the road with Carl.

S3: Well so basically they have to kill the RAV 9 right. And so they come up with this elaborate plan that involves using Danny as bait to attract the Rev nine towards them. So they’re on their way to getting the one weapon that they think can defeat this seemingly unkillable robot which is an electromagnetic pulse and GMP which they’re picking out from some kind of shadowy military contact contact which I think is another aspect that really is not fully explained and they just kind of want you to fill it in but it’s there that they get attacked and that leads to the next big action sequence and essentially just nothing but action for the rest of the movie.

S2: The only part of that action that stands out to me maybe because it reminded me in some ways of the the zero gravity space fights and ad astra and other movies that take place in space. But there’s that moment that they’re flying in a some sort of giant military cargo jet right. And then there’s a whole battle that takes place as they’re being it’s not zero gravity but as they’re being hurled from one end of the other of this of this UN belted uncontrolled space.

S16: Yeah I mean I think it’s effectively zero gravity where the plane starts nose diving and then that is often how they create zero gravity for movies right as they’re in freefall.

S2: Yeah exactly. And that is pretty ingeniously staged sequence.

S13: I have to say and that’s really like where I started. The movie started kind of started to leave me because the first chase scene when the ref nine goes after Danny in the factory in Mexico City and they go up that’s like a sort of classic like highway chase and that is very I think probably deliberately reminiscent of kind of the big you know L.A. cover chase in T2 and it feels like a lot of it’s done with you know it’s kind of fast and the Furious style with real cars and practical effects and stuff like this the cargo plane fight is just kind of like unwatchable.

S6: Like C.G. Glock like it just you can’t tell like who’s falling where or like what’s going on. It’s just like a big loud mess. And it’s really shows you kind of where modern kind of action direction falls short because I’ve just found that like I’m supposed to be excited in this and instead I’m just like how much longer is this going to take the movie to me was was kind of indistinguishable CGI glop.

S2: So maybe the fact that that sequence at least stands out to me because of its location and the gravity conditions kind of shows how low the bar was set for the action sequences in this movie.

S14: Yeah I think it’s a sequence that was sort of better in theory than in practice like it was kind of cool to think about how all of the physics were working but they were not quite clear enough to follow.

S5: And I think that’s a little bit true of the sequence that follows as well which is they end up boarding a Humvee driving out of the plane which is also very fast and furious ask just like a fast seven when they drive their cars out of the plane and they deploy the parachute that’s on top of the Humvee but like the parachute isn’t quite working well enough they end up crashing into it. I mean is it the Hoover Dam or is it just a dam.

S2: I don’t know it’s a huge ass down a very big dam.

S5: And then they end up under water. I mean this sequence was kind of cool and imaginative because I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Humvee drive on the bottom of a river before. I don’t know whether a Humvee can do that. Maybe we should do some live in studio Googling or whether a parachute would ever support a Humvee.

S2: I mean what materials that parachute made out.

S14: I would not be surprised if that is a real thing that the military does is like airdrop Humvees into places. But I don’t know it’d have to be a very strong parachute.

S7: Yeah they I mean they can airdrop tanks and stuff like that. Yeah wow I only do that.

S2: Sam can you remember how they get to the inside of the dam with the revenue line.

S11: Yeah. Well yeah just to kind of run back this whole thing like they are flying away in the cargo plane in the river 9 steals another plane and crashes it into them and then jumps from his plane onto their plane. They fight over the Humvee the Humvee plummets out and then he also then crashes what’s left of the plane into this dam. They go underwater they get out of water they get going to go back up to the dam and that’s where he tracked them down. They have this big standoff in I guess kind of the generator portion of the dam. The only really relevant thing there is that there’s a big wheel thing that’s spinning around really fast that Arnold can shove his red Nine’s face up against and you can watch it kind of get away. By that but they decide they’ve been looking for a kill box to Lord this thing into and they decide that this is gonna be their killed right and there is a sort of character moment there where we have learned via a flash forward that Danny is the new John Connor in the future that she is the new leader of the resistance as they call it and this is the moment when she decides to take command and say no we’re gonna make our final stand right now this is our kill box that’s one of the sort of like which feminist moment that this movie really wants credit for and that I really doubt anybody watching the movie does not see this coming but you know Sarah Connor assumes that Danny like her is being preserved because she needs to give birth to the male leader of the resistance but it turns out that in fact Danny is the commander of the resistance and not some theoretical child that she might have. That’s right.

S2: Which again would be a more believable and more moving plot point if we had seen her kind of emerge into leadership over the course of the movie.

S14: I think it’s.

S10: I mean it’s something that the movie does try to do by degrees over the course the movie and this is the moment where she does emerge as a leader. I just think it’s it’s true that it’s like a little ham handed. It’s not it’s not subtle it’s it’s like yes I’m taking command now after having been I mean after having been an extremely passive and literally beat.

S2: Right. There’s a debate over whether or not to dangle her as a piece of bait so that given the fact that that’s her character history I just I’m not sure that’s a choice that she makes.

S10: They’re like Oh we’re not going to use her as bait and then her one way and she moves by degree closer to being a leader as she says. It makes total sense to use me as bait because I’m the least good fighter here and she kind of volunteers herself which is a moment of leadership in a way.

S2: Right. Since we know that this franchise value self self-sacrifice above all right. I mean that’s that’s sort of I guess a highly valued moral position to take in the Terminator world in fact not one but two characters end up sacrificing themselves at the end of this movie should we get to those big moments.

S16: Yeah. I mean I think it’s even before they leave to do this mission that Arnold Schwarzenegger is Carl the reformed tier eight hundred says the line that you’re afraid to Diana earlier which is I want to be back.

S2: People meaning that he if he sacrifices himself this time that’s gonna be it. Yeah. But he’s not the only one. We also have we’ve barely talked about her because I mean to me this is she’s one of the most misused in the whole movie but Mackenzie Davis character Grace also gets this moment of self-sacrifice at the end. I just feel like she at once is presented as this indomitable fighter and given basically nothing to do and always needs to rely on somebody else.

S9: I mean I don’t I. She defeats the Rev nine on her own in the first scene that she appears. But I mean it’s true that after she gets Danny out of the factory and they’re off on the highway and stuff she eventually like the thing with her is that she’s extremely bad ass like an extremely good good fighter and driver and fire of weapons and so on but she essentially runs out of steam because she uses so much adrenaline to fight off Terminators.

S3: And so that’s when Sarah Connor shows up. I thought she was basically the best part of this movie and I got a little bit of that feeling that a lot of people had while watching Wonder Woman not to the same extent of like oh it’s it’s I have never seen a woman have these particular superpowers before and be so impressive in this particular way. And you know I think it handles that pretty well like she’s comes down from space naked in the first scene but the movie doesn’t really leer at her at all and then she just starts beating up cops quite convincingly. So I thought she was one of the better parts of this movie.

S2: Sam break the tie here. Do you think Mackenzie Davis is doing anything interesting or do you feel like she’s just being dangled as kind of proof of feminism. That’s how it seemed to me.

S7: I mean I think I like the performance I mean it helps first also that she is I believe if I’m reading this correctly 90. Yes. Yeah. So but yeah. So I mean I like her kind of I mean in this she is you know a resistance fighter from the future so she has that very kind of like military bearing. She’s a great line that well I think it’s great for us. You reminded me of her when she is a Sarah Connor has been getting these texts and can’t figure out where they come from and then Mackenzie Davis as well. Give me your phone and then just kind of like plugs herself into the phone and trace the origin of the text and Sarah comes. What are you doing and Mackenzie Davis’s answer is like that a great.

S17: Future should is fine. I think that’s kind of like that’s the register that she’s in here just very kind of like kick ass and no nonsense.

S6: So I enjoy that I don’t mean I don’t think there’s like much of a character to play here but I just enjoy the like the physicality of what she’s doing.

S2: I mean I’m not at all faulting her performance. She’s she’s really arresting in that role. The whole idea of making this triad of super strong women who nonetheless have to go get a terminator guy to help them solve their problems. I don’t know. I just I was not at all convinced by the go girl aspect.

S5: I mean it’s just one member of the team right. I think he he looks somewhat outmoded by the Mackenzie Davis character. I mean just like if if three women and one male robot is like not enough then why did you just need the one that where there’s no male robot. Because I mean she she is effectively in the same role that Arnold Schwarzenegger is in Terminator 2. And it’s not especially original but I don’t think it’s especially condescending either.

S2: Yeah I wouldn’t say it’s kind of setting. I just don’t think it really brings that much that’s new to the table and again having a little bit of knowledge of who these various characters are would give it a lot more punch that she gives herself up at the end. Right. I mean the moment that she tells Donnie’s character to essentially pull her heart out to pull out the part of her that makes her work should be more moving and more sacrificial feeling than it is. But it doesn’t feel like the molten form going down in the lava and T2 because they’re both kind of generic characters who has this relationship with each other. Have they ever had a one on one conversation. Basically it wasn’t. Come with me if you want to live.

S5: Well it depends how narrowly you interpret it. Come with me if you want to live I suppose. I mean what we learn about them is that Mackenzie Davis’s character was in the future before she was sent back. She was a member of Danny’s army. Right. And so that was their relationship. And I also think that and I wonder if this occurred to you guys at all.

S14: I think this movie is sort of winking at queer readings on occasion and there are some scenes where Mackenzie Davis’s character and Danny Grace and Danny they like are looking into each other’s eyes for a long time and they really care about each other and they’re sort of crying that she doesn’t want her to give herself up and so on.

S16: There’s also a scene earlier where Sarah Connor and Grace are caring for Danny before she’s evolved much. And so Danny at that point is kind of the child in this relationship. And Danny busts in on them and they’re fighting each other. And they say something like mommies and daddies sometimes have to have grown up conversations.

S5: And I mean a few people laughed in my theater I laughed a little bit. It’s a little bit a think of a wank where it’s like who is the daddy in this situation. Did you I mean were you guys thinking about that.

S2: Yeah I mean I guess that occurred to me in the sense that there’s a relationship at the moment that Mackenzie Davies’s character is giving herself up that only one of them knows about it. Like in the future they are going to have this intense mentor protege relationship. We don’t know if it will have romantic overtones or not but essentially one of them will be the revolutionary leader that you know dispatches the other one on this time travel errand. So that scene has enormous meaning to the Mackenzie Davis character and is only dawning on for the first time to Danny that it’s going to have tremendous meaning in the future. So there is something potentially romantic about that. That again I don’t think the movie really does much adequate exploration of. But it’s cool to think about how it could have explored it better.

S4: Yeah I mean there’s like a whole history of queer readings that way right where it’s usually there isn’t much for you to work on but there’s just enough. I think this movie. I mean granted we can expect more than that in 2019. I mean arguably we always should have expected more. But it’s it’s it’s in that tradition I think.

S2: So we’ve established that the Mackenzie Davis character Grace is going to sacrifice herself but what about the last we see of Carl Hardy the former t eight hundred. Do you want to take us through his sad demise.

S7: It’s very sad. Yeah. So Mackenzie Davis has given up her heart her power source where she’s decided is the only thing that can destroy the Red Knight.

S6: If you just jammin into his head it’ll overload him and it’ll blow up so all that he has to do is get this little doohickey which basically looks kind of like a glow in the dark spark plug and cram it into the Rev nine so she goes over to do it and of course she drops it and then the Rev 9 is at this point has been pretty beat up but still has enough strength to strangle her. So was actually like wrapping his hands around her neck. KARL at this point been kind of knocked out or whatever the robot equivalent of that is as Sarah starts yelling at him to wake up which is always an effective thing to yell at a robot. But he does you know they manage to jam this glowing spark plug thing into him and then you know the Rev 9 kind of starts going up in flames or light the two of them just kind of tumble down into the bottom of this. It’s sort of like a big well or reservoir or something inside the damn blast site you see of them in the movie is they’re kind of metallic skeletons like lying at the bottom of this. Well let me get a shot of just Arnold’s metal skull with the sort of iconic glowing red eye in it.

S3: Right. And they show it from his perspective which is I think I mean this movie often it knows it has all these callbacks and these sort of like stations of the Terminator cross to go through and it’s good at like withholding a number of them until the moment of maximum emotional impact. And so it’s right before this final climactic sequence that it finally brings back the full Terminator to score with the melody going over it instead of just the judges just judges you know and and it’s at this moment right when the team at hundred is dying where they cut to his point of view and you see you know that classic kind of terminator vision as it powers down.

S2: Right. And we’ve always seen his or his red eye go out at those last moments but not ever necessarily seen it what it looks like to him you might think that this is the end of the line for the franchise as well as the end of the line for Carl when that light goes out for the last time. But there’s a coda tacked on to the movie that suggests that there may still be angles of this story to explore. Do you want to describe that for us.

S16: Yeah I mean so this movie ends with just another callback. So if you remember in Terminator 2 it’s sort of I think opens and closes if I remember correctly with Sarah Connor you know up against a chain link fence with this nightmare vision that she always has of how the robot apocalypse is going to come via this like nuclear holocaust I believe it is. And so here we get Danny instead up against a chain link fence and she is watching the young version of grace. So Grace before she has grown up and become augmented and a super soldier and so on. And Danny is seeing that Grace is okay and then she and Sarah Connor start to walk off or maybe she walks off and sees Sarah Connor and Sarah Connor tosses Danny the car keys which I think is a sort of passing of the torch where it’s like OK DANNY YOU’RE THE SARAH CONNOR of the series now you’re the sort of bad ass woman commander of the resistance who will be guarding against all the Terminators who will presumably continue to write like Sarah Sarah and John Connor have become one basically.

S2: Right. That purpose has been fused into one person.

S6: Yes and so now that legion doesn’t come along perhaps some other rebranding of the inevitable robot apocalypse we’ll start sending back robots you know one of the lines in this movie that really struck me is when they were when they first meet Carl and he reveals that he has this big stockpile of guns in his house. He says well like OK well you know I figured like some some other kind. New Skynet wasn’t gonna happen but probably some other robot threat would happen and even if they didn’t he said he’s calculated that there a 74 percent chance that humanity would like wipe themselves out anyway.

S5: Which kind of is a depressing thing to say in a movie that is ostensibly about averting the apocalypse like it’s all just a kind of temporary thing and in a couple of years from now it’ll be just some other movie that is also the moment where when he’s explaining it in the senior describing why he says so many guns and he’s talking about the inevitable doom that’s coming and how he needs to prepare and so on and then he goes also it’s Texas pretty good lines we’re laughing a lot.

S8: Thinking back at this movie I’m having a great time remembering a better time of watching Terminator Darth Vader. It is Carl who gets all the good lines honestly and that’s not quite fair to Sarah. There’s a lot of callbacks. I mean that Sarah gets a bunch of the callbacks too and stuff.

S2: So one last question before we wrap this one will there and should there be another Terminator or do you feel like this franchise has come to its natural end.

S5: Well there is I think an answer that’s entirely dependent on the box office that this movie gets I suspect it will probably get enough box office to justify some sort of sequel. They’ll just try to figure out how big the budget should be based on how much box office this movie does. Should there be another one. I mean like you could make a more interesting movie within this universe. But as is. These movies seem to just be retreating themselves. I don’t think there’s any reason for Tim Miller to do a T7.

S4: That’s just the same as two one and two again Sam would you be happy to see another are you.

S2: Are you done terminating.

S6: I think I’m done terminating. This is for me. I mean I think probably the series should have ended after T2 but that is not the world that we live in. And this at least is kind of the first sequel to the movie that sort of feels like it belongs and you know it’s a better ending at least than any of the ones that came in between. I feel like this both this movie and Alito battle angel which came out earlier this year James Cameron was also sort of like half involved with while he’s shooting his you know five or seven Avatar movies are both kind of serving to like remind us of like what a great James Cameron movie is like but by not being as good as one. So this is sort of in the same vein it is not remotely as good as the first Terminator or T2 but it’s sort of close enough to be vaguely satisfying. There’s surely not gonna make a better movie in the series at this point so let’s just quit while we’re ahead.

S2: I’m with you there. But I’m actually impressed that you guys have enough affection and respect for this franchise that you were managing to dig into the dross of this movie and find things to value.

S5: I hope that in the future all t 800 movie is just involved here hundreds. Talking about the virtues of drips and how to purchase and install the proper drapes.

S8: That that’s a sequel I would stand for one that takes place in between somehow and that shows how Carl started to fall in love with window covering a little easier.

S2: That’s the mature just I want I just want to see him doing window treatments for this to the citizens of Laredo.

S15: Like extreme makeover tiered edition very extreme.

S2: All right. Well if we are punished with yet another Terminator sequel I hope that you guys will come in and spoil it with me because I’m really not going to know what’s going on at that point.

S18: Can’t wait. Thanks for listening to the slate spoiler special. You can subscribe to this podcast in the Slate spoiler special podcast feed. And if you like the show you can read it and review it in the Apple podcast store or river you get your podcast. And if you have any suggestions for movies or TV shows you’d like us to spoil in the future or any other feedback to share. You can send it to spoilers at Slate dot com. Our audio engineer today was Merritt Jacob. Our producer is Rosemary Belson for Forrest Wickman and Samuel Adams. I’m Dana Stevens. Thanks. And we’ll spoil another movie Anderson.