The “Terminator” franchise isn’t owned by Disney (yet), but “Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019) – if you take away Sarah Connor’s potty mouth — is what a Disney “Terminator” would be like. The filmmaking is slick and the action is impressive, and we get callbacks to the classic installments (notably Linda Hamilton returning for the first time since 1991’s “T2”). But the story/screenplay by six writers offers nothing new.
It’s hard to predict a decade’s place in history while you’re living it, but the 2010s strike me as a Gateway to the Future. So many movies came out that blurred the line between humans and artificial intelligence that it has become a played-out theme; when cyborgs start walking among us for real, it might be ho-hum. At least we’ve seen different angles into this classic SF theme: AI that has no body (“Her”), AI that has a body (“Ex Machina”), humans who operate outside their bodies (“Ready Player One”), and in the decade’s last blast of the idea, humans who have an artificial body – “Alita: Battle Angel.”
Ihad forgotten – or maybe not even fully realized – how good “Dark Angel” Season 1 (2000-01, Fox) is. When it aired, it was overshadowed by genre rivals like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” that were doing notably special work. “Dark Angel” treads more familiar ground, creating a mythology out of the old sci-fi concept of genetically engineered people – namely titular heroine Max (Jessica Alba) — who want to live normal lives. But boy does it ever create post-Pulse 2019 Seattle in convincing fashion.
Rambo: First Blood Part II” (1985), following the 1982 masterpiece “First Blood,” is generally seen as the point at which “Rambo” turns into a dumb action series, but that’s unfair. Certainly, it has all the stereotypes of over-the-top Eighties spectacle such as the Russian helicopter’s single bomb blowing up an entire waterfall and hillside, Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) unfurling explosive arrows that blow people up on impact, and the meme-worthy shot of muscleman Rambo letting loose with his machine gun and a savage yell.
“Dark Angel” Season 2 (2001-02, Fox), episodes 1-4 — “Mutant X” has been using “Dark Angel’s” Season 1 storyline, and in an ironic turnabout, Fox’s “Dark Angel” has been stealing from “X-Men” this season. Having Max (Jessica Alba) contract a virus so she can’t touch Logan (Michael Weatherly) was obviously inspired by “X-Men’s” Rogue-Gambit relationship, while the idea of monstrous-looking mutants being persecuted is the central theme of “X-Men.” Oddly, by splitting up Logan and Max, “Dark Angel” has essentially thrown away the only thing that kept the show watchable last year.
— John Hansen, “Is this the season of the rip-off?,” NDSU Spectrum, Nov. 2, 2001
ndsu spectrum: TV Review
‘Dark Angel’ isn’t in same league as ‘Buffy’ or ‘Angel’ yet
By JOHN HANSEN
Jan. 26, 2001
I was looking forward to “Dark Angel” more than any other new show last fall. Then, after seeing a few episodes, I was looking forward to ripping into it in my mid-season TV review. But alas, in the last five episodes, it has gotten consistently better and I have to admit that this initially-boring show is now a lot of fun.
The latest issue of Star Wars Insider (No. 155) espouses ring theory as a way to glean greater depth from the repeating motifs in the “Star Wars” films. The theory could also be applied to James Cameron’s two “Terminator” films: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991) copies so many plot points and set pieces from the first film that it’s as much a remake as it is a sequel.
“The Terminator” (1984) is a pivotal movie in sci-fi history. Wanting to make his own “Star Wars”-level blockbuster, director James Cameron drew upon the tropes of time travel and robots – and more specifically and controversially, a couple of “Outer Limits” episodes (which is why Harlan Ellison is credited in the closing scrawl) — to launch a hugely popular franchise. Thirty-one years later, it has spanned four movies (with a fifth, “Terminator Genysis,” coming in July and giving me an excuse to embark on this flashback series), a TV show and myriad books and comics.
In 1986, I was obsessed with “Star Wars” cartoons and toys and not even aware of the “Aliens” franchise, which is appropriate, because I would’ve been too young for it. But I can imagine what people thought going into the theater: “OK, here’s Ripley from the first movie, taking us back into the world of ‘Alien,’ a place we aren’t entirely sure we want to return to. And it’s from the director of a weird little sci-fi/romance story from a couple years ago called ‘The Terminator.’ Well, it’s worth a shot at least.”
Sometimes it takes a while to appreciate perfection. Don’t get me wrong; I thought “Titanic” was a great movie the first time I saw it, and it easily made my top 10 of 1997. I didn’t begrudge James Cameron for his success with the film, although my younger self wished he had made another “Terminator” or “Aliens” instead.