Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) Cover

Terminator: Endgame Chapter Three Doubletap is directed by Deadpool director Tim Miller and releases in a season where sequels, reboots, and remakes are Hollywood’s obsession. This film ignores all of the other Terminator movies besides the first two James Cameron films. Rise of the Machines, Salvation, Genesys- Terminator: Dark Fate pretends none of those failed attempts at continuing the series ever happened. The franchise has tried to continue past that legendary Judgement Day film but has not had any success. Dark Fate brings James Cameron back in a producing role but it is still yet again another disappointing stab at adding to a series that was once so compelling.

RADIO REVIEW

Terminator 2: Judgement Day is my favorite Sci-Fi Action movie. I’ve seen that film growing up at least a dozen times and so I of all people am a fan of the franchise and truly wanted to see a good Terminator movie. I had not planned on seeing Dark Fate as early as I did. My local Alamo Drafthouse actually recently held a disguised Fan Screening which was advertised to show Terminator 2 and only 20 minutes of Dark Fate, which I didn’t really care for. I can’t review Dark Fate after all unless I’ve seen the whole thing so that wasn’t a big reason as to why I went. However, since I love T2 so much and have never seen it on the big screen, I immediately got tickets. My friend Brandon and I show up. Arnold and Linda pop up on the screen and they tell us that instead of 20 minutes, we are about to be the first audience in the world to see the entire Terminator: Dark Fate film. I thought the way they unveiled this secret disguised screening was brilliant and it did make the experience extremely exciting. However, every Terminator film since Judgement Day has paled in comparison and unfortunately Terminator: Dark Fate is not very different.

Many early reactions said that this latest film was, “the best terminator movie since Terminator 2” and I just want to establish that that’s not very high praise. If the reactions said that the film was as good or better than T2 then maybe there would be something to get excited about. Instead, many of these early reactions are simply saying that this movie is better than Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genesys; that’s not a very high bar!

27 years after Judgement Day, a new Terminator model known as a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) is sent to Mexico City in order to kill a woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes) who gets help from Linda Hamilton and Arnold (who reprise their roles from the previous movies) and a new half human and half cyborg character named Grace (Makenzie Davis).

One of my biggest problems with Terminator: Dark Fate is that It has an extremely unexpected plot choice that could’ve been very compelling but it’s done so quick and with voice-over narration by Sarah Connor that it was bafflingly underwhelming and really difficult to take seriously. Unfortunately, I can’t get into details because it would be a spoiler. What I will say is that they have Arnold do something that makes absolutely no sense. Even if it’s a different Terminator model, what they choose to do makes everything that was accomplished at the end of Terminator 2 feel less meaningful. If this is supposed to be a true sequel to Terminator 2, it was the wrong choice to make.

Let’s talk about what does work in Terminator: Dark Fate because there are some things to admire. Makenzie Davis has the best action scenes in the film, as she kicks the film off with a brilliant chase and combat scene against the Rev-9 Terminator. This antagonist is threatening and this opener, involving a car chase, quickly shows that. The visuals effects compliment the action and there is a massive amount of them! Even when getting exploded the Rev-9 will regenerate itself and it appears as if nothing will defeat this villain. Sarah Connar joins the team in the fight against this new machine, confidently bringing her expertise about Terminators to the table. Linda Hamilton does a great job acting but I do think that it is Davis who is half human and half cyborg that steals the show with the action. Arnold is fine in this movie but he does not ever have a memorable moment in regards to the action.

As a long-term fan of the first two films, I seek a Terminator film that has heart and doesn’t feel so forced the way that Dark Fate feels. Much of the story is recycled plot points from the previous film and there’s not enough themes told in a compelling or emotional way. In T2 you felt the strong sense of injustice based on the way that Sarah Connor was treated (and it built upon the character that we already cared about from the first film). You genuinely felt grief for John who had to learn to say goodbye to someone he learned to love. The writers try to have us care about Grace and Dani’s relationship but I thought the dynamic was too close to what we already got in T2 and that T2 did it better. It feels as if they are trying to create a sensentialized reaction based on doing what’s already been done and it did not resonate with me. Most people will appreciate the action and passable story, but fans like myself who love the first two films won’t feel satisfied with this contrived story that lacks heart. With the numerous dry attempts at expanding past Terminator 2, perhaps it is best to admit that this is where this legendary series truly deserves to conclude at.

Final Verdict:Best Terminator since T2? That isn't a very great compliment. Dark Fate features decent action and visual effects, but it's barely a passable story that lacks a genuine heart.
Rating:C+