TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

The first two Terminator films are examples of movies that are simply some of the best in their genre. The Terminator is one of the best horror films of all time, with Terminator 2: Judgment Day being one of the best action films. They’re simply classics, but that never stops sequels from being made. Ever since Terminator 2 in 1991, various filmmakers and studios have attempted to continue the franchise, with each attempt failing. You think that everybody will eventually give up, but just like the titular characters, they just keep coming back to assault us once more. 

Terminator: Dark Fate takes place in 2020, where the Terminator model Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) appears from the future to, you guessed it, terminate a target. His target is Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), and as is tradition, good Terminator, erm, I mean enhanced human, Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back to protect her. On the run from the Rev-9, Grace and Dani find some unexpected help from Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), now a grizzled, traumatized survivalist who hunts Terminators. Together, they all try to figure out how to stop the Rev-9 for good and keep hope alive for the eventual future war. 

As far as I’m concerned, the Terminator franchise is dead and has merely been on life support since the 2nd film, which many consider to be the best (give me that OG any day). The story really was finished there, and writer/director James Cameron thought so at the time too… until now, since he’s returned as executive producer and story writer for this. With Cameron and Hamilton returning, this has been touted as the “true” sequel to Terminator 2, a la Halloween (2018). All of the other Terminator sequels are ignored, but who cares? It’s not like they add and legitimacy to the project, and it feels even more hollow, considering Cameron’s “endorsement” of the incoherent Terminator Genysis. There’s nothing about this that feels like it has any integrity, or real soul behind it. It’s basically a retread of Terminator 2, which we’ve seen retreads of with every other Terminator sequel, aside from Terminator Salvation. Good Terminator has to save somebody from the bad one. It’s everything we’ve seen before and it makes the story super predictable and bland. I will give some points at the end for some risks they took and some decent misdirection, though.

But again, who cares? It’s still just another generic, mediocre Terminator sequel that’s nowhere near as good as the first two films.  Just this time, Linda Hamilton is thrown into the mix, who I actually quite enjoyed. I felt her being emotionally destroyed and traumatized to be a natural evolution to Sarah’s character and Hamilton more than pulled it off. She really carried every scene she was in, especially more than our other two actresses, Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes. I just didn’t really buy Davis in the role, but the script didn’t do her any favors, and Reyes is about as bland as they come and totally unbelievable as a future human resistance fighter. Of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger as a T-800 model Terminator is there, simply because these movies are called Terminator, so I guess he has to be. His inclusion is really odd and unnecessary, especially with how they explain the development of his character. Sure, I guess they had to get the band back together for this “final” outing, but it goes past the point of being stupid, where it’s just plain weird. At least Arnie turns in a decent performance, but it even felt like he’s pretty much done with this franchise. This is also the first time we have a Terminator model without any sort of menace and personality, as Diego Luna’s Rev-9 completely lacks both. They’re robots, so all of the Terminators are emotionless, but there was always some hook to them. There’s nothing here. 

The narrative is both simple in terms of plotting, but overstuffed and confusing when it comes to everything else. There’s not a clear main character or story arc it’s trying to tell, with odd structuring to get a sense of who or what I’m supposed to care about. The only time I felt even a tinge of emotion was at the end, and 99% of that just comes from my love of the first two films. A lot of the background stuff just doesn’t make that much sense either. Sarah Connor’s been hunting various Terminators for the past 22 years, but with Skynet defeated, how did they get sent back in time over those years? Did they send multiple Terminators back to the past to kill Sarah or John Connor and we only saw a couple? It’s just a silly and contrived way to give us more incoherent action scenes. Most of them were so poorly edited, staged, and lit, that I had next to no idea what was happening. The only fun one is the truck chase at the beginning, which has loads of great practical effects, but it occurs so quickly in the movie that there’s no emotional impact. The confusing action scenes aren’t helped by the awful CGI, which looks right out of 2005. Seriously, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had better effects than this. 

With Terminator: Dark Fate being touted as the “real Terminator 3”, I just felt like, “That was it?” It’s just reskin of Terminator 2, but without the thematic depth, characterization, excitement, suspense, humor, or literally anything that made that film the classic it is. James Cameron only became involved with this project after he regained the rights to the franchise, but with how uneventful and lame it is, it makes you wonder why he even cared to do it at all. It’s really best to just pretend Terminator 2 is the real ending, because all of these “true follow ups” aren’t providing anything satisfactory. 

4/10

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