“Terminator: Dark Fate” builds on nostalgia and effects
Updated: Feb 14, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Columbian actress Natalia Reyes has become the new face of the franchise as Dani Ramos, battling the REV-9 terminator.
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“TERMINATOR: DARK FATE”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity; Streaming via (buy & rent) Amazon Prime Video, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: A Legend Reforged
DIRECTOR Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) finally realized he was making a “Terminator” movie when he had Linda Hamilton framed in one camera and Arnold Schwarzenegger in another, he says in the featuette “A Legend Reforged.” The iconic characters Sarah Connor and the cyborg T-800 hadn’t shared the screen since James Cameron’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” dominated the multiplexes in the summer of 1991.
Over the last two decades three Terminator spinoffs – “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003), “Terminator Salvation” (2009), and “Terminator Genisys” (2015) – continued the lore, but Hamilton purposely stayed away to shake off her Sarah Connor image and disheartenment for Hollywood.
“Dark Fate” the sixth film in the 35-year-old franchise and considered a direct sequel to “T2,” was a major box office disappointment. Reviews were mostly positive, a feat other post “T2” films never achieved. Still, “Dark Fate” only mustered a worldwide gross of $261 million against a production budget of nearly $200 million, not including marketing. The previous sequels were more successful: “T2” grossed $520 million, “Rise of the Machines” $433 million, “Salvation” $371 million and “Genisys” $440 million.
(1) The opening moments of "Terminator Dark Fate," T-800's invade a beachhead during the Skynet era. (2&3) Three years after Sarah Connor defeated the T-1000 and Skynet, a T-800 terminator kills John Connor at a beach bar in Guatemala. (4) Present-day, a different terminator the REV-9 from the Legion company, arrives in Mexico City to kill Dani Ramos, a blue-collar auto assembly plant worker, who's yet to understand her destiny as a future leader.
The “Dark Fate” budget was mostly eaten up by nearly 2,000 visual effects shots. It filmed for 30-days in Spain (subbing for Mexico) and Budapest for interiors. Who knows what Schwarzenegger charged for his services? Miller lured Hamilton back because the 63-year-old actress considered “Dark Fate” a “women-power” centric story. “I felt very much that I had worked a very complete character arc in the first two films from nobody to a warrior. I didn’t wanna just keep doing them without the ability to add something to the arc,” she says.
Cameron rejoined the team as producer and story consultant. He described the project as, “A fast, white-knuckle ride through a techno hell that comes to our present day.” He spent most of his time working within the authors/writers’ room, where the story and script went through rigorous rewrites, involving five unnamed top sci-fi fantasy authors, Cameron, and three screenwriters. “It deals with the proximal threat of the human collision with a potential artificial superintelligence and we’ve tried to recapture that feeling – without being too grandiose and too complex,” he says. He was also involved in twisting his ex-wife’s arm to return to the franchise. He sent Hamilton a long email telling her, “People love this character. People love Sarah. People love your Sarah.”
The story picks up in 1998, three years after Sarah Connor defeats the relentless T-1000 saving humans of the world from extinction. She and her teenage son John (Edward Furlong in a digital performance) reside in Guatemala when a T-800 Terminator shows up and kills him.
Then it jumps to present-day Mexico City where a different advance killing machine arrives from the future, a REV-9 played by Gabriel Luna, who like Robert Patrick’s T-1000 in “T2,” can reshape and reassemble itself with its black alloy endoskeleton and liquid exoskeleton. The new Terminator is created by Legion, a different company since Sarah prevented Skynet from rising to power. Legion is on a similar collision course to ignite a global war between machines and humans.
(1&2) The REV-9 transforms into Dani's father, as Grace (Mackenzie Davis) the augmented human gets the first shot and continues blasting the REV-9. (3) Grace tells Dani the REV-9 is not her father, and they must leave NOW! (4) The chase between the REV-9 and Dani and Grace continues onto a Mexico freeway, where Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up with firepower.
Colombian actress Natalia Reyes became the new face of the franchise as Dani Ramos, a blue-collar auto assembly plant worker, where she works with her brother Diego (Diego Boneta). The unstoppable REV-9 is out to kill her, transformed to look like her father, but Dani is yet to understand her destiny.
The charming Mackenzie Davis (“Blade Runner 2049”) plays Grace, Dani’s guardian angel and a former Resistance fighter transported from the future. Grace has been outfitted as an “augmented human,” with amazing speed and strength to fight terminators. The first act is jam-packed with intense, big-budget 20-minute action sequences – a trademark of the franchise – with plenty of firepower and car crashes as Grace and Sarah Connor join forces with Dani to fend off the REV-9.
“Sarah Connor is such an icon and she was one of the first female superheroes that we had.” – Actress Natalia Reyes
The enclosed Blu-ray and digital platforms include four featurettes; the best of the bunch is “A Legend Reforged.” All include behind scenes footage and interviews with the cast and crew, as Miller details how Judgment Day was inevitable in the Terminator universe even though Sarah Connor eliminated Skynet in “T2.” “All she did was kick the can down the road. The new future is worse,” he says. The core of the sci-fi franchise is that Cameron truly believes AI technology will wind up as a curse against humanity. But, ultimately “the human spirit will triumph,” says screenwriter Billy Ray.
“I’m so happy to be with Arnold again. I kind of wanna hug him all the time. I don’t know what that’s about.” – Linda Hamilton
(1) The REV-9 slams a car into the vehicle that Dani, Grace, and Diego were riding in. (2) Grace collapses after the intense battle against the REV-9, and requires a cocktail of meds via a syringe to return back to normal. (3) Map coordinates tattooed on Grace's stomach are the next cue, which leads them to cross the U.S. border, where they are picked up by authorities. The REV-9 infiltrated the border patrol and signaled their crossing.
The featurette “World Builders” examines how Industrial Light & Magic used de-aging photo-real computer technology to create a younger Sarah Connor and her son John. They first took footage from “T2” to create digital models, a long and tedious process, says visual effects supervisor Jeff White. Then body actors were used to create character movements. Hamilton coached her body double to mimic her physical mannerisms. Finally, the newly created faces were attached to the bodies.
It also highlights the creation of the U.S. border facility and the dam turbine room both built on a soundstage in Budapest, plus a cabin home built in the woods for Schwarzenegger’s aging T-800 character Carl, now a family man in Texas. It also details the effects for the Air Force C-5 cargo plane sequence, which Grace’s pilots with Dani, Sarah, and Carl onboard. A massive 80-ton gimbal was built – the largest ever created for a movie – for the aircraft interior that “spins like a washing machine,” says effects supervisor Neil Corbould.
The last two featurettes highlight the final battle inside the dam and the Dragonfly helicopter. Also, find several deleted and extended scenes in HD.
No matter what you’ve read, “Dark Fate” is not sourced from a 4K master as stated on IMDb.com. The site's information has never been considered the gospel truth – especially with post-production specs. A quick viewing on a supersize screen reveals it’s from a 2K master and then upconverted to 4K in 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
Miller and cinematographer Ken Seng, who also worked on “Deadpool,” captured the action on an Alexa LF 4.5K digital camera using a full gate with old school anamorphic lens, creating a 3,698 by 3,096-pixel frame. Eight percent of the original 4.5K frame was reduced to make way for possible visual effects to stabilize shots, Seng says in an American Cinematographer Magazine article.
(1) The coordinates lead them to Texas, where Carl the aging T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives. He's now a family man with a wife and adoptive teenage son. (2) Carl and Sarah fight off the REV-9 from the cargo bay of the C-5 aircraft. (3) Grace reconnects a flash-forward moment of Dani leading the resistance against the machines. (4) Carl takes on the REV-9 in a hand-to-hand battle.
The massive amount of effects shots forced the production to render and master in the lower 2K resolution to save time and money. Wide shots on the 4K (disc & digital) confirm the lesser resolution, while the clarity disparity between the 4K and HD versions matches other films mastered in 2K, with only a slight increase of on-screen sharpness.
The real difference is the HDR10 and Dolby Vision toning giving the visuals a dramatic, slightly darker and less cyan cast during nighttime scenes. Facial toning is natural without the reddish/orange tone that’s plagued HD viewing for 15-years, with 64 times lesser colors. Highlights are controlled and intensely bright, one of the reasons Seng selected the Alexa LF camera. “I wanted to light the film a little darker than your typical Hollywood blockbuster and having the insurance in the negative,” Seng told AC Magazine.
The 4K (disc & digital) and Blu-ray all feature an eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. It’s extremely active in height speakers and surrounds with bullets, explosions, crashes and sledgehammer effects, plus the pulsating electronic cues from Brad Fiedel’s original “T2” theme and additional cues from Dutch composer Junkie XL (“Mad Max Fury Road”). The bass response is also excellent and the dialogue is always clearly delivered.
James Cameron and Tim Miller give “Dark Fate” a déjà vu thrill ride – bound to please most Terminator fans, even with its so-so script.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Carl and Grace push the REV-9 up against a dam site turbine. (2&3) Sarah and Dani watch Carl try to finish off the REV-9.