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.
The Black Dahlia” (2006) starts comedically, with cops Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart) and Bucky Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) in a boxing match to raise public support for LAPD raises. It ends in the fashion of old Hollywood drama, as Bucky and Kay (Scarlett Johansson) stand on a doorstep at twilight. Everything in between in director Brian De Palma’s film is tonally confused, and it makes for a schizophrenic viewing experience. Some actors go way over the top, and some play it like they’re in a normal 1940s-set noir mystery.
“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Season 2 (2008-09) is a decompressed stretch of low-key epic storytelling that continues to chronicle central “Terminator” ideas. John and Sarah ferret out organizations that might be the proto-Skynet, and resistance fighters and Terminators pop up in time bubbles on specific missions relating to Skynet or the Connors.
Watching “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Season 1 (2008) after reading the post-“T2” comics and novels, it seems certain that producer Josh Friedman is doing a loose adaptation of those materials. However, listening to his episode commentaries, it seems that’s not the case after all, as he cites only the films as influences. It goes to show that when continuing from “T2,” the story, character and thematic points are obvious. This is perhaps why James Cameron had nothing more to say after two movies and a theme-park ride.
I’m curious to hear from my readers on this one: How important is it to you that a franchise has continuity between each of its installments? I ask this because two of my favorite sagas are “Star Wars,” in which every story fits on a coherent timeline, and “Terminator,” which has launched three distinct timelines since 2001 between movies, TV and books.
Here’s an honor that no one wants to get and that I hate to bestow: The best show that was canceled too soon. This year’s winner is “Privileged.”
What happened to Derek Reese and Cameron? And why does Kate Connor look so young? The “Terminator” timeline(s) is (are) complex enough without these unanswered questions from “Terminator Salvation,” which opens today.