Warning: The following contains spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate, in theaters now.
Terminator: Dark Fate introduces the newest version of the Terminator, a deadly and fast model known as the Rev-9, played by Gabriel Luna. Across the film, it proves itself to be extraordinarily deadly and capable of contending with multiple threats all at the same time. But while it has a wide range of skills, it also picks up an unintentional weakness along the way.
During an interview with CBR, Gabriel Luna revealed the unique aspects he played up with the Rev-9 and what elements he kept from the previous Terminator performances.
The Rev-9 was created by Legion, the malevolent AI that has risen in the future in Skynet's absence. Bolstered by an additional few decades of technological advancement before it became self-aware and began targeting humanity, the Rev-9 is a more sophisticated kind of Terminator. It can replicate almost any damage, create blades from its body and even duplicate itself into a secondary-figure, allowing it to attack from two different points at the same time.
When the Rev-9 arrives in the present day, it's able to blend into its surroundings more effectively than almost any previously introduced villain from the franchise. It's able to pick up little traits that make it appear more human, like a sense of humor and casual charm. "He's a very good simulation of a human," Luna said. "That wasn't present in the first two. Maybe just a little bit with Robert [Patrick] in [Terminator 2: Judgment Day]. And Arnold [Schwarzenegger], of course. I think his comedy came more from his impeccable timing and a good script.
"I think [Rev-9 appearing to be more human] was a big element of this film, and that was there from the beginning," Luna added. "[Director Tim Miller] wanted Rev-9 to be so sophisticated that the human simulation is inseparable. It's seamless. There should be a little bit of an oddity to him, which I try to do by shallowing my breath and not blinking. There's a slight weirdness to it that you can't quite place. It should be seamless. It's certainly one of his superpowers, to catch flies with honey instead of just smashing stuff."
That humanity gives the Rev-9 a bit more of a mind for strategy than the previous Terminators. The T-800 and T-1000 were both laser-focused on trying to murder their way to victory, usually indiscriminately cutting down anything that got in their way. But the Rev-9 is stealthier. At various points it successfully sneaks past human detection to reach its goal. In the process, the Rev-9 ends up exhibiting new skills that give it a serious edge over previous Terminators.
"The Rev-9 is a newborn when he lands," Luna explained. "And then he is able to tap into the internet, and by doing so, he literally has every thought, every feeling of everyone who has a phone. If you can imagine it, he's inputting a great deal of information in a very short amount of time. Spoilers aside, he's able to do very quickly what it took the T-800 decades to achieve."
Late in the film, this development even fuels one of his most dangerous attempts to win over one of his enemies, the T-800 now known as Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to his cause, appealing to him through logic. "I wanted him to grow," Luna said, "to have the human simulation, the human thought process becomes more advanced throughout the film. That's the culmination of it, the [use] of logic as a weapon. He even starts to have more frustration growing and a personal desire to kill [Dani] to complete the mission. It's not just an objective to fulfill, but it becomes more of a personal stake.
"But in doing so, he's now absorbing a bit of an Achilles Heel by mistake. Having that tunnel vision and focus now... It doesn't serve him well. He's acquiring a human weakness. He's just going after her that whole fight and he's got these great heroes coming at his flank. And because he's so [focused] on her... it's probably his greatest weakness towards the end of the film."
Even though Luna gives his version of the Terminator a bit more personality, he didn't want to forget the impact and influence of the previous actors who played these androids from the future.
"When I'm doing magnum changes, it's like Arnold. It's effortless. That's a big point that he made in the first film... [when he's] in the gun store and checking every weapon. That was something I wanted to keep. I did some really cool mag changes. The run, the way Robert Patrick ran, I wanted to make sure I kept mine in a sprinter run. Very aerodynamic, very efficient."
Still, Luna was given the chance to bring his own elements to the performance. "On top of all that, all of that gets escalated of the way we filmed it and choreographed the action," Luna noted. "They used my skill set to up the ante on all that. So you have me running that gauntlet at the detention facility, you have me in the factory fight doing all this blade work. And it's much more active and ferocious.
"So I was able to do me and turn it up to eleven, not to say those guys didn't take it to eleven. I took what worked though. Arnold is a creature of habit. He says if it's not broke, don't fix it. And I'm the same way. They created such iconic characters if I didn't take what was strong about that and keep a narrative through line, keep a thread going from Terminator to Terminator 2 to Terminator: Dark Fate. I made sure there was some and then we amped it up."
Directed by Tim Miller and produced by James Cameron, Terminator: Dark Fate stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes and Diego Boneta. The film is in theaters now.