Terminator: Dark Fate may be a hot mess, but it’s a mostly fun one, and it’s better than Genisys, so there’s that.
Taking place after Terminator 2, Sarah Conner says, “I’ll be back,” as her and a cyborg Mackenzie Davis team up to protect another victim of the Terminator mission – and yes, Arnold plays a part.
Linda Hamilton pulls a Jamie Lee Curtis from last year, older and battle hardened with expertise on her enemy, arriving back on the scene in explosive fashion. Between her and Arnold, who is of course good, there is plenty of fan service to go around. Mackenzie Davis as Grace, playing the Kyle Reese role from T1, is a badass in her own right and the hero the film needs. There is enough action throughout the movie to keep it enjoyable, and with the R-rating back, the previous film was rated pg-13, people get to say f***. So, as long as you don’t think too hard, you should enjoy yourself.
But it doesn’t get more standard Hollywood blockbuster than Dark Fate – a cheesy script that relies heavily on plot contrivances, lots of explosions and CGI, and squeezes itself in its own cinematic universe…that started over twenty years ago. The plot is nothing more than a rehash of what we saw in the previous films, with a poorly construed feminist message tied in as well; Sarah Connor is a great character who overcame destiny, and Mackenzie Davis, as I stated earlier, is parallel to Kyle Reese and is the true empowering hero the film needed to focus more on, but who ends up being the savior of the future? An autoworker with a personal vendetta against automation – not as exciting as it sounds. Honestly, more time should’ve been spent on this early character element; I’ll give the writers credit for being crafty by including the topic of automation in a film where machines literally turn against us. But yes, the least compelling of our protagonists is the one subject to the terminator fate, whose life must be protected at all costs, for the future is at stake.
Remember when the terminators were actually scary? Gabriel Luna shows potential as the Rev-9, but no matter how many guys he may slice his way through, it’s all too much of what we’ve already seen before. I never feared for any of our protagonists’ lives, not the way I feared for Sarah Connor in Terminator 1, and there aren’t any moments that stick quite like when the T-1000 stabbed John’s foster dad in the head with an arm blade. The Rev-9 has a straight-faced sense of humor to him, because why not a smooth-talking terminator?
If I can thank Dark Fate for one thing, it’d be for reminding me I need to revisit the first two Terminator films, the only great ones. But the film itself is yet another tired sequel that messes with the timeline too much, in a franchise that can be saved by the right person, but will it? 6/10