Terminator: Dark Fate

The Terminator franchise has returned to the hands of producer James Cameron, and along with this change, we get to see Linda Hamilton reprising her role as Sarah Connor. This back-to-basics approach reminds one of last year’s Halloween reboot, which similarly simplified the plot line while bringing back the key, original actors to reprise their role (in the case of Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode).

The trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate is set some 27 years after Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). The original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, of course) is working alongside Connor as they try to protect a cyborg, Dani Ramos, from a future-version of the Terminator sent by Skynet.

The music covering these events is an eerie cover of Björk’s 1997 track “Hunter,” probably chosen as much for the lyrics as for the music itself: “If travel is searching / And home what’s been found / I’m going hunting.” The lyrics contain obvious thematic links to the plot, which in essence a cat and mouse game writ large. The tone of the cover also reminds of the trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015, which dealt with a similar theme of technological dystopia, using the theme “I’ve Got No Strings” (derived from, of all things, Disney’s Pinocchio).

The cover of “Hunter,” by RIAYA and featuring John Mark McMillan, opens with a repeating choral motif that modulates between parallel Ionian (major, happy) and Locrian (dark) modes; the inclusion of the occasional minor second interval (think of two directly adjacent keys on the piano) imparts a morose, unsettling tone. The addition of militaristic percussion is a notable difference between this cover and the original, which fits the film. Lyrically, “hunting” is arguably the key subject or theme that ties together the Terminator franchise as a whole, so it’s only apt that this would be brought to the fore.

The initial thirty seconds of the trailer are solemn in tone; we see the Terminator from the future driving, searching for their prey. When it exits by the vehicle by liquefying its metal body, the accompanying choir invites one to marvel at this technological spectacle.

At 0:50, militaristic percussion enters; at 1:01, Sarah Connor makes her entrance, her missiles serving as part of the rhythm of the soundtrack. By 1:25, we hear strings enter the arrangement, underscoring that aforementioned minor second interval. At 1:45 we see the original Terminator making his reprise; the theme enters and exists between key pieces of dialogue. The key lyric—“I’m going hunting”—gets featured one last time, prominently, alongside the main title card at 2:24.

Taken together, this trailer presents another creative and well-considered use of an existing song in a cover form, integrating tropes found in epic trailer music such as choir and militaristic percussion to good effect. In addition, the use of lyrics does much to reinforce the themes of the franchise, without necessarily underlining and spelling it out for the prospective theatre goer.

Terminator: Dark Fate arrives in theatres October 31st.


— Curtis Perry