Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Two soldiers are sent back in time from the future. One has come to protect a child, the other to kill it, altering the future. Our heroes run until they take a stand, at which point an emotional sacrifice will be made to ensure mankind’s survival. “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a mix of familiar and new but does it get those proportions right?
“Dark Fate” takes place in an alternate timeline where the events of “T2” prevented the creation of Skynet and therefor eliminated Judgement Day. It’s now 2020, the world is still run by humans, and John Conner was never needed to run the resistance. The film does some interesting things with this, questioning how familiar characters would behave if they’ve lost their purpose in life. But it does this against a painfully familiar backdrop.
At some point in the future, a different AI singularity occurs and decided to end mankind. It’s stated that this new system is names “Legion” and is not the same as Skynet, although it has some oddly similar thoughts on how to win the machine war. The new terminator is not part of the T-series but instead is referred to as a Rev-9, even though it has a very familiar-looking endoskeleton. Legion also appears to favor the highly inefficient method of sending back a single robot to kill a youth, instead of multiples. Wouldn’t it make even more sense to send back a nuke, or perhaps plant their AI into the current internet? Why not go back even further and snip an entire lineage of humans at its roots?
But no one comes to a movie like this looking for logic. It’s all about the action, set pieces, and if you’re going to enjoy the adventure. Again, we’re given that mix of fresh and nostalgic. It’s really great to see the true Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) back on the big screen again. She’s badder than ever, in the best possible way. 71-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger eats up the screen with some of his best (if silly) lines to date. As the Rev-9, Gabriel Luna portrays the first Terminator who employs social engineering. His polite manner, friendly small talk, and casual smiles would be disarming if they weren’t so terrifying. Grace (Mackenzie Davis), the first to come back from the future, is an “augmented human. It’s a cool concept that seems like the next logical progression in the fight against machines and leads to some fun woman on robot violence. It’s a shame there isn’t more time spent contrasting the human with robot parts on the inside with the T-800 who has flesh and blood on the outside.
This time around, a young woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes) is the target, who again is crucial to the future resistance. What’s nice is Dani has a strong, determined personality. It’s easy to see her becoming humanity’s savior, something we never really saw in John Connor. For once, our hero doesn’t behave like a victim.
There are some fun action pieces in the film, but as the movie progresses, the action becomes increasingly over the top, which leads to increased CGI, quick cuts, and shaky camera work. After a great daytime action scene at the start of the film, the movie becomes darker and darker, until it’s almost impossible to see what’s going on in the climactic third act scenes. One low point is sequence aboard a cargo plane that’s falling from the sky. Not only is it a jumbled mess, but we’ve already seen it done better in “The Mummy” in which Tom Cruise was filmed aboard a real zero-G plane!
Some have called “Dark Fate” the “Force Awakens” of Terminator films due to it’s rehashing of old material for a (hopefully) new audience. I feel it has far more in common with 2018’s “Halloween.” It’s a direct sequel to the second movie in a franchise, that ignores the rest in the series, but still references or rips plot points from them. It also features the return of an original cast member and has a trio of badass women from three different generations standing up to the man. It’s really not a bad formula, but yah have to get the mixture right.
Terminator: Dark Fate