Strange Vistas


Dark Fate poster

Terminator – Dark Fate did the Star Wars series one better because it had the courage to move on from people named Connor.

That might come across as a little rich, seeing as how the movie finally brought back 64-year-old Linda Hamilton as Sarah, after she hadn’t appeared on a single one of these in the almost three decades since Terminator 2. It does it for context, though, and pulls off a great bit of character repurposing.

Yes, she enters the movie as the Action Bitch, who calmly gets out of a truck and starts blasting quips and rockets at a killing machine. That bit alone on the trailer almost turned me off the whole thing. But she’s also an aimless old woman who has seemingly done nothing in thirty years but sit around, drink, and wait for the next signal telling her where she needs to go blasting. She succeeded in Terminator 2, averting the future where Skynet killed most of the planet and only her son John could save us.

Her success also made her irrelevant.

Killing machines still seemingly rain out of the future, though, because we suck as a species, and if we don’t manage to blow ourselves up, then by Oppenheimer we will build something that does it for us.

So it’s some other girl, this time around, called Dani Ramos. Dani also has a bodyguard from the future, Grace (cyborg Cameron Howe, because God bless Mackenzie Davis, but even Arnie has more range). Grace is better and meaner than Sarah ever was – partly because she has gone through an actual war, instead of just training, but mostly because she’s not all human (“augmented”).

Gotta hand it to them. Sarah Connor, pushed aside from history by her actions, resentful it’s not about her anymore, full of assumptions that make her something of a know-it-all asshole, is not a play I’d have expected them to take.

No major spoilers there – this is like the first twenty minutes of the movie. After, most of it is Dark Fate doing a masterful job of untying the knows that the series has tied itself into, while doubling down on the “unstoppable horror” tropes that the original Terminator movie handled so well. Not only is the new Series 9 killing machine nigh impossible to kill, as you’d expect from a terminator, but it skin can walk away so that it can come at you from two sides. When its skeleton gets up, it does it like something possessed; its cranium has the shape of a half-brained zombie’s.

Dark Fate respects its pedigree, though, full of references to the old movies’ good bits. The skinless arm, the old-timey red vision with big white lettering, the eye, a dog just chilling. They fit. You don’t get a single wink or nudge. You could miss them, if you ain’t looking, but the jokes land.

But you know what? All that would be fun but irrelevant without it doing its core job. You didn’t get Dark Fate for the funnies, or the discourses on finding purpose, did you? You wanted an action movie.

Dark Fate is a damned good one. One of those where you can tell where everybody is during the fights, and where they may end up when the next punch lands. Because, unlike what seems to be the majority of movie directors out there, Tim Miller knows that action works better when you anxiously anticipate what people you like might be thrown against.

Spatial awareness – what a concept!

One of the great things about writing anonymously is that I get to do anything I want. If this will turn into an action movie shitpost blog, extolling the virtues of movies that are two parts explosions and one part references, so be it. It’s not like there is any movie festival going on right now.

Eventually, we are going to get back to more serious stuff. Some documentaries about the state of the world, or the abuses of the Church, or something political. For now, humor me on this. Watch this fucking movie, because it’s both a better sequel and action movie than most other pro-forma shit out there.

And, for everybody involved in the series, please stop here. The last three movies ranged from mediocre to terrible, with quality steadily decreasing. This one raises your success ratio to 50%. It was a nice bow to wrap around it. Quit while you are ahead.

#terminator #darkfate #timmiller #mackenziedavis #lindahamilton ##arnoldschwarzenegger #nataliareyes #gabrielluna #action

Halt and Catch Fire, main characters

I originally reviewed Halt and Catch Fire in two parts, first seasons 1-2 and then seasons 3-4. Here are both short reviews together.

Halt, Midway Through

Come on.

Nobody was adding math co-processors to computer kits back in the 8086 times, much less portables.

Yes, that's a nerd's complaint.

It shouldn't be what I say about this show, since it doesn't have a lot of tech background. Its history feels retrofitted, retroactively convenient for the times. They are too visionary, too misunderstood, too under-appreciated. It's got some well-written drama, but as far as tech or entrepreneurship goes, it's lacking.

Its main sin is that, two and a half seasons in, it doesn't make me want to run out and build something. Anything.

It does make me want to pitch, though.

I guess that's something.

Halt, at the end

Halt and Catch Fire continues its “tech's greatest hits” tour in seasons 3 and 4, with their characters inventing even more things ahead of their time. In less than 20 episodes, they manage to come up with:

  • Anti-virus software;
  • Web crawlers;
  • Yahoo;
  • Internet service providers;
  • and the commercial World Wide Web.

It's a techie's face-palming wonderland. It features an anti-virus written in BASIC, a packet sniffer which can sniff packets hour or days after the fact, and Unreal Engine-level graphics in 1994 (for an Atari game, no less).

But finally. Finally, at the end of season 3, they capture the builder spirit. That thing emanating from a few people, alone inside four bare walls, trying to figure out if there's something they can create out of someone else's concept. The angles of attack. The frustration of being left out. They get it right. Even if the writers can't stop themselves from making Cameron a über-genius who can build entire tech epochs by herself.

Its tech is window dressing, anyway. It's just there to anchor the drama and give them something to argue about.

This thing we do – programming, engineering, building businesses, the whole thing – is nothing but a hack. It's a hack implemented on top of a system force-grown, on a budget, against much more modest requirements: to avoid getting eaten by a tiger.

Season 4 understands that. Building stuff is great, and it provides a purpose, but it's also methadone to keep you calm while you find out if you were one of those who made it. Methadone only gets you so far.

You throw rational people into a room, give them something they all feel strongly about, and watch the apes club each other with keyboards.

Most of them do OK. Boss takes one step outside himself, gets a glimpse of greatness, but it costs him himself. Gordon realizes his potential, grows as a person, even if that growth is stunted. Donna wakes up, starts walking her own path, then runs, picks up so much speed she can't stop herself, no matter how conflicted she is about where her legs take her. Joe goes from charismatic salesman to hating his success to Jobs-wannabe to somehow coalescing all the personas into a cool John Cusack, then back to Joe. Only Cameron remains Cameron, her wardrobe gradually less janky but her persona just as sketched, the chip that doubles for a pauldron just as big.

She's only there to introduce chaos, anyway. Yeah, she's the one coming up with most of the impossible breakthroughs. But her whole shtick is to proclaim, in anger, why she's right and everyone's wrong. With as much door-slamming as she can manage.

It works, as a tactic. A decade of fighting about implementation details can make you feel you belong, even if the place is at each other's throats. Arguing means you care what the other thinks.

Frenemies are still friends.

#haltandcatchfire #tvseries #leepace #scootmcnairy #mackenziedavis #kerrybishe #tobyhuss