'Terminator: Dark Fate' has flopped at the box office on its opening weekend in the US, barely passing $30 million and $102 million in the rest of the world.
A lot of the woes around 'Terminator: Dark Fate' come from its gigantic production budget - $185 million - and the estimated $80-100 million marketing budget. As is the custom with troubled blockbusters, an article appears a few days before or after box office opening with tales of woe, strife and the inevitable conclusion is that the movie's failure was as a result of this. That may be true, but there's also the fact that nobody really cared about this movie.
Let's be clear - 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' is an action classic, one of the best ever made, and solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger as a household name. Linda Hamilton's haunting performance as Sarah Connor is unquestionably brilliant, and the promise of Edward Furlong was clear in every scene. James Cameron's direction was clear and fluid, and the special effects still hold up to this day.
In short, it's flawless. Can the same be said for every 'Terminator' movie since then? Absolutely not.
'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines', directed by the journeyman Jonathon Mostow, played it more like a screwball comedy than an action movie. 'Terminator: Salvation', by the mononym McG, was better known for Christian Bale's on-set explosion of expletives than anything else. 'Terminator: Genisys', meanwhile, came and went like a fart in the wind. While you could argue that the fault of all of these lay in foolhardy directors who thought they could top James Cameron or do better than him, there's a much simpler reason.
'Terminator 2: Judgment Day' was supposed to be the end of the story. When we see the T-800 go into the molten lava, the story has rounded itself and turned the monstrous, horrifying killer robot into the saviour of all mankind. The entire first 20-odd minutes of the movie, in fact, you're not even sure whether or not the T-800 is actually there to protect John Connor or not. It's only when he opens fire on the T-1000 that it's made clear. By the end, John Connor is crying and we know that our perspective has shifted entirely.
The emotional finality of it all is breathtaking. It's why the movie is so good, and why nothing after it has come close. When he dumps himself into the crucible, giving them a thumbs up, that's it for Terminators everywhere. Granted, 'Terminator: Dark Fate' attempts to rewrite this - smartly, it must be said - but what of it? Many of the reviews - not just ours, by the way - cited the fact that while 'Terminator: Dark Fate' was a fine attempt, you're left with a feeling by the end of it that it's all rather pointless.
This is key to the ultimate failure of the 'Terminator' franchise to survive past 'Judgment Day'. When you've got that good an ending, when it's left on that final a note, why move on from it? Take 'El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie' as another example. Very well-made, very well-acted by Aaron Paul, ties up every loose end there is in 'Breaking Bad' without disturbing any of it. Did anyone actually need it, though? Think back to how 'Breaking Bad' ended. Did you really need to know how Jesse made it out?
Of course not. Less is more in storytelling, and the audience will either concoct their own ending or simply accept that we won't know any more of that character because the story has come to an end. With 'Terminator: Dark Fate', even though it reunites Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron is involved with a story credit, all the effort that's been put into it, you're not going to get anyone to care about this again because it was so eloquently finished in 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day'.
Sometimes, it's enough to have two excellent movies. As it stands, the 'Terminator' franchise has more bad or serviceable movies than actually good ones. Why keep trying when it's always destined to fail? Moreover, now that the Mouse House is pulling the strings in the 'Terminator' franchise, will they continue to throw good money after bad? Probably not.
In the end, the real dark fate of the 'Terminator' franchise is that Disney will most likely eat up the losses associated with the movie and simply move on from it. Maybe that's for the best.