“Terminator: Dark Fate” opened atop the North American box office this weekend with an estimated take of $29 million, industry watcher Exhibitor Relations said Sunday, but analysts said that figure fell far below expectations.
After all, the sixth and latest installment in the franchise — reuniting stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton with series creator James Cameron — cost $185 million to make.
The Paramount film has Sarah Connor (Hamilton) fighting to protect a young girl from a deadly Terminator arrived from the future.
The film may have been hurt by head-to-head competition with dark thriller “Joker,” which in its fifth week took in $13.9 million for the second spot in the Friday-to-Sunday period. Joaquin Phoenix plays Batman’s notorious nemesis in the Warner Bros. film.
In third place was Disney’s “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” at $12.2 million. The film once again stars Angelina Jolie playing the evil sorceress, and adds Michelle Pfeiffer as the scheming Queen Ingrith.
New biopic “Harriet” — the story of Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and work to help free other slaves — surprised analysts with its fourth-place finish, earning $12 million.
It was a strong showing for a historical drama. The film has earned a rare A+ CinemaScore rating from audiences, and British star Cynthia Erivo has earned strong reviews for her performance in the title role.
In fifth was United Artists’ computer-animated “The Addams Family,” at $8.5 million. The funny/spooky film features the voices of Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Snoop Dogg and Bette Midler.
The Terminator has come a long way since Arnold Schwarzenegger first portrayed the cyborg assassin in James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi classic.
“In each movie, the Terminator is a little bit different — there’s a certain evolution,” Schwarzenegger told AFP.
But the character’s latest incarnation in “Terminator: Dark Fate,” out on Friday, still comes as a surprise — he is now a drapery salesman.
“The first Terminator was just crushing everything and destroying everything. The second one was the protector,” said the actor, 72. “Now I have grown a conscience in this one.”
But fans can rest assured that, even if he has become more human, the Terminator is a long way from laying down his weapons.
The ingredients that made the original movie and its acclaimed sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” such hits remain in place — breathless chases, spectacular shoot-outs and fight scenes laden with state-of-the-art special effects.
Glossing over the other, poorly received sequels and spin-offs that came after “T2,” the latest film also reconnects with another key element from the first two films — Linda Hamilton, more angry than ever in her role as Sarah Connor.
Most of the film takes place in 2022, but it begins where “Terminator 2” left off in 1991 — Connor has just prevented the future eradication of the human race by machines equipped with artificial intelligence known as Skynet.
‘You’re just afraid’
For Hamilton, the decision to return to this iconic role 28 years later was not an easy one. She told AFP how she had long since built a comfortable life for herself away from big Hollywood productions.
“It took me a long time to agree to do it,” she said. “I eventually started going, ‘You’re just afraid.’
“And when I’m afraid, then I have to do it.”
More than letting down the audience, “I was afraid I was going to disappoint Sarah Connor,” admitted Hamilton, 63.
“All these years I sort of felt like the first two films were very complete and resisted doing any more, largely because Jim Cameron wasn’t involved.”
Cameron returns not just as a producer for “Dark Fate” but also participated in writing the script, while Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) directs.
Desperate and aimless, “Sarah Connor is no longer human,” said Hamilton. “And the Arnold character is more human — I like that flip.”
Anxious not to reveal plot details, Hamilton said that beyond its action scenes, the film — like its predecessors — is about “what is it that makes us human.”
The film sees Connor find a new raison d’etre in protecting young Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who is being pursued by the most sophisticated-yet Terminator from the future (Gabriel Luna).
A human “augmented” by technology and also sent from the future, played by Mackenzie Davis, is also part of the chase.
For Hamilton, signing back up meant a year of strenuous physical training — and the even more unpleasant experience of taking testosterone prescribed by her doctor to help her build muscle.
“There came a day where I was angry about something and I couldn’t sleep and my blood pressure is spiking and I’m kind of flying off the handle. And, I’m like, ‘This is the hormones talking,'” Hamilton recalled.
“If this is what it feels like to be a man, forget it!”
Former “Mr Universe” winner Schwarzenegger, who continues to train every day, had it easier.
“It’s not as if I have to start all over again,” he told AFP.
For him, the main challenge was acting in front of green screens used to later generate computer-driven special effects.
“It gets a little bit more tedious, because you’re now working a lot of times with stuff that doesn’t exist,” he said. “So when you have a Hummer fly towards you, when you’re inside the airplane and you’re crashing, it was really never there.”
While Schwarzenegger has been repeating “I’ll be back” — his famous line from the original — since 1984, it is Hamilton who steals the phrase in “Dark Fate.” But will either of them sign up for more Terminator films?
“If the fans want to see more of me, they will make the voices be heard… It’s kind of like in politics — the people should decide,” joked the former governor of California.
“It depends on how this movie performs — it’s a really very expensive film,” said Hamilton, adding that the film was envisioned as the start of a new trilogy.
International Criminal Court judges on Monday convicted Congolese rebel chief Bosco “Terminator” Ntaganda of war crimes including directing massacres of civilians and rape, in a badly-needed victory for prosecutors in The Hague.
Ntaganda, 45, was a “key leader” who gave orders to “target and kill civilians” in Democratic Republic of Congo’s volatile, mineral-rich Ituri region in 2002 and 2003, head judge Robert Fremr said.
The atrocities included a massacre at a village where people included children and babies were disembowelled or had their heads smashed in, the judge said.
Ntaganda was also responsible for the rape and sexual slavery of underage girls, and of recruiting troops under the age of 15, as well as guilty of personally killing a Roman Catholic priest, the court said.
Ntaganda “fulfilled a very important military function, he was one of the key leaders” of the rebel group, judges said, adding that “Mr Ntaganda’s skills were held in high regard.”
“In relation to these direct orders to target and kill civilians, Mr Ntaganda endorsed criminal conduct by his by own orders.”
Ntaganda will be sentenced at a later date after judges hear submissions from victims. Judges can give a life sentence.
The soft-spoken Ntaganda — known for his pencil moustache and a penchant for fine dining — told judges during his trial that he was “soldier not a criminal” and that the “Terminator” nickname did not apply to him.
Rwandan-born Ntaganda was found guilty of 13 counts of war crimes and five counts of crimes against humanity for his role in the brutal conflict that wracked the northeastern region.
Prosecutors portrayed him as the ruthless leader of ethnic Tutsi revolts amid the wars that wracked the DRC after the 1994 genocide of Tutsis in neighbouring Rwanda.
More than 60,000 people have been killed since the violence erupted in the region in 1999 according to rights groups, as militias battle each other for control of scarce mineral resources.
Prosecutors said Ntaganda was central to the planning and operations for the Union of Congolese Patriots rebels and its military wing, the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (FPLC).
The FPLC killed at least 800 people as it fought rival militias in Ituri, prosecutors said.
In one attack directed by Ntaganda, judges said that soldiers killed at least 49 captured people in a banana field behind a village using “sticks and batons as well as knives and machetes.”
“Men, women and children and babies were found in the field. Some bodies were found naked, some had hands tied up, some had their heads crushed. Several bodies were disembowelled or otherwise mutilated,” Fremr said.
Formerly a Congolese army general, Ntaganda then became a founding member of the M23 rebel group, which was eventually defeated by Congolese government forces in 2013.
The first-ever suspect to voluntarily surrender to the ICC, he walked into the US embassy in the Rwandan capital Kigali in 2013 and asked to be sent to the court, based in the Netherlands.
Ntaganda is one of five Congolese warlords brought before the ICC, which was set up in 2002 as an independent international body to prosecute those accused of the world’s worst crimes.
Ntaganda’s former FPLC commander Thomas Lubanga was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2012.
But it has suffered a string of setbacks over recent years with some of its most high-profile suspects walking free, including Ivorian former leader Laurent Gbagbo earlier this year.
It has also been criticised for mainly trying African suspects so far.
The US administration of President Donald Trump has also attacked the court after warning it against prosecuting US service members over war crimes in Afghanistan.
In a separate hearing on Monday, judges are to determine whether there is enough evidence for a Malian jihadist to face trial for demolishing Timbuktu’s fabled shrines, as well as for rape, torture and sex slavery.
Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud was captured and transferred to the court last year.