Terminator: Dark Fate – Film Review

There’s a number of ways you can tell if you are watching a Terminator movie.

Firstly, there’ll be a time travelling cyborg attempting to “terminate” one of the lead characters, who in turn will struggle to be taken seriously when explaining to other characters that they are being pursued by a lethal time travelling cyborg. In the real world this would be so simple, because of course one could say “you know, like in the movie The Terminator” which, by the way is one of my all-time favourite films.

That 1984 gem may not be a five star smash but the combination of a vivid, easy to understand story, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s rigid robot relentlessly pursuing Linda Hamilton’s punky waitress Sarah Connor, the world weary police psychologist Dr Peter Silberman (Earl Boen, the only actor apart from Arnie to appear in all the first three films) attempting to make sense of it all, and the cock-sure directing by James Cameron, all combine to make the original a stone cold sci-fi classic.

It doesn’t matter that you’d struggle to name any other movie (apart from Aliens or The Abyss) that featured the actor who played Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) or recognise Edward Furlong who played John Connor in the sequel T2: Judgment Day, the films have never been about the star power of the actors, well apart from Arnie, but rather the war between humans and robots that ravages the planet and claims billions of lives, and whether or not this apocalyptic conflict can be avoided by flipping back to the past to re-write the future.

Another giveaway to the fact that it is a Terminator film you’re watching would be the dialogue. You are 100% guaranteed at least one character will say “Come with me if you want to live”, or a variation on that theme, and “I’ll be Back”.

In Tim Miller’s Terminator “reset” Dark Fate, not only is Arnie, the original T800 Model 101 android back, but so too his original target, Sarah Connor, a still kickass Linda Hamilton.

So onto spoilers…

Technology has always been at the heart of Terminator lore. Humankind losing our slippery grip over the machines we created only for them to turn against us.

And technology has been a critical component of the film-making process as the years have rolled on.

In Dark Fate the action opens in Guatemala in 1998, after “Judgement Day”, and Sarah Connor watches on helplessly as her son John is terminated in the immediate aftermath of the pair having shut down Skynet. We flash forward to the present day in Mexico City and a familiar electrical storm signals the arrival of our first time traveller – Mackenzie Davis as Grace, who falls naked from a bridge to a dirt road below, where a young couple are making out on the hood of a car. Grace steals some clothes and drives off into the night.

The next electrical disruption heralds the arrival of a second time jumper, Rev-9, an advanced cyborg played by Gabriel Luna from Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Both Grace and Dev-9 have the same objective, locate Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes).

Naturally they happen upon the young woman simultaneously at her place of work, a car factory where moments earlier Dani’s brother Diego was made redundant by the installation of a robot, thus giving Dani an extra reason to mistrust technology.

A chase ensues and after a bloody battle, Sarah Connor arrives in the nick of time to save the day. From there it’s a well-trodden path that will be either comfortingly familiar for fans of the franchise, or in my case bordering on mind numbing boredom, with Sarah and Grace not trusting each other, and Dani struggling to comprehend the enormity of events.

Miller inserts a number of references to his marvellous Deadpool, most notably a big budget CGI sequence involving numerous military aircraft and a parachuting vehicle.

Mackenzie Davis does a solid job as does Hamilton, Reyes and Luna.

Arnie’s role is easily one of his worst turns in the Terminator franchise, and ultimately the film is only interesting for the technological update to the Terminator characters and the exploration of the idea of an alternate timeline to those presented in the 3rd to fifth films.

For my money though it is the first two films and their use of the limited digital and practical effects available at the time that triumphed primarily due to the wonderful story. I’m not quite sure what purpose this one serves.

“I Doubt I’ll Be Back” 2.5 Stars.

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