Terminator: Dark Fate
Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta
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…respectable (it’s the best since T2 by a decent margin) but as a film in its own right, this tech is starting to look a little dated.
The Terminator franchise is a strange beast. Beginning in 1984 with The Terminator, a low budget sci-fi/horror flick with a genuinely clever script, it really hit massive mainstream success in 1991 with Terminator 2: Judgement Day, one of the biggest and best action flicks of all time. Director James Cameron stepped away from the franchise at this point, which left 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines feeling a little listless. Things got worse. Terminator: Salvation plopped out in 2009, and while setting a Terminator flick in the apocalyptic future is a cool idea, the execution was desperately unconvincing. Still, it wasn’t until 2015 that the series reached its nadir, with the inexplicably awful Terminator: Genisys – a film that felt like it had to be testing the aphorism “no one sets out to make a bad film” – because this staggeringly inept dirge felt like it was made out of spite. You’d think that many stinkers in a row would flat out kill a franchise, but once more the Terminator has come emerging from the flames with Terminator: Dark Fate and the result is… okay.
Terminator: Dark Fate introduces us to a new character, Daniella Ramos (Natalia Reyes) who, after about seven seconds, loses her entire family and finds herself being chased by new Terminator model, Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). Happily, augmented super soldier, Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is on hand to provide support and before too long Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) lobs back in for the valuable assist. From there it’s pretty much Terminator business as usual. Our heroes will flee from the Rev-9, they’ll get trapped, fight their way out, and flee again, with only the location and body count changing. Before too long the T-800 aka: “Carl” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) joins the action to mixed results, but director Tim Miller keeps the pace brisk and kinetic, to distract you from the fact you’ve seen this film at least three times before.
Performance-wise Mackenzie Davis is absolutely wonderful as Grace. She manages to be both vulnerable and believably bad arse, with a tragic backstory and strong motivation. Linda Hamilton is also a lot of fun, and while her role is a tad one note she’s clearly having a hoot tearing up robots and chewing the scenery. Unfortunately, Daniella isn’t quite so compelling, with a thin character arc and no real substance to the role, which is a problem as she’s meant to be the emotional core of the story. Arnie is Arnie – you know what to expect here – and the Rev-9 continues the vaguely irritating tradition of new Terminators with nebulous and ill-defined powers. It’s weird that in 2019 we still can’t craft an onscreen kill-bot that feels as advanced and threatening as Robert Patrick’s T-1000 did in 1991, yet here we are.
So, Terminator: Dark Fate is, you know, okay. Tim Miller directs action scenes that are an even split between weighty and practical and weightless and CGI. The script leans a little too heavily on callbacks but gets the job done, and Mackenzie Davis and Linda Hamilton are absolutely worth a watch. In a series as abused as the Terminator franchise, Dark Fate is respectable (it’s the best since T2 by a decent margin) but as a film in its own right, this tech is starting to look a little dated.