Movie Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

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terminiator dark fate.jpg

2star

R | 

Director: Tim Miller

by Jason Koenigsberg

The Terminator franchise has continually tried to re-invent itself this millennium. About every five years or so a new Terminator entry comes out that tells audiences to ignore the previous sequels other than James Cameron’s The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) and that this is a fresh spin on the timeline and the start of an upcoming trilogy to follow. Terminator: Dark Fate is no exception claiming to be the definitive sequel to T2 because of James Cameron’s involvement as a producer and co-writer. This is the sixth Terminator movie and it is one of the most unimaginative films in the series. The addition of creator James Cameron returning in a secondary form does not make Terminator: Dark Fate any better. Perhaps if he directed the film it would have made a difference but instead Tim (Deadpool) Miller has his hands tied with an uninspired script and young attractive actors who have the screen presence and charisma equivalent to a gerbil. 

 The movie opens up with a scene from T2 with Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in the mental institution warning everyone about Judgment Day spliced in between the Paramount and Sky Dance logos. This makes it clear that Terminator: Dark Fate is going to center on the Sarah Connor character as the tough mother of the future. It does and it doesn’t. She does not show up until about twenty or thirty minutes into the film and when she does boy is it a convenient entrance. The kind that most superheroes get in their own movie with a lot of anticipation and hoping to garner applause from the audience. Sarah Connor appears almost magically in the middle of a highway chase between our younger generation heroes and a new more diabolical and seemingly invincible terminator. The new evolved villain really makes one miss the stealth performance of Robert Patrick as the T-1000 from Terminator 2. It also does not help that the people he is trying to kill are more like generic cardboard cutouts than they are convincing fighters of the future that need to survive to save mankind. 

One of the best aspects of Terminator: Dark Fate is Linda Hamilton. It is energizing to see a sixty plus year old woman headline a major Hollywood action film and also show her age on screen rather than attempt to look younger. One will really wish that the script gave her more to do, or at least more realistic timing for her to do it. The action scenes themselves are subpar and will make you wish you just stayed home to watch Terminator 2. It is really sad that the special effects from a 1991 summer blockbuster hold up better and are clearer than the CGI mess of special effects in Terminator: Dark Fate. James Cameron and Stan Winston really made a special creation back when computer effects were only in their infancy. Terminator: Dark Fate is uglier and sloppier than many action films this year. It is hard to make out what is actually happening and when it is bright enough, the visuals are not impressive. 

Terminator: Dark Fate is also trapped with the fact that it is a product of 2019. The girl power message is a little heavy handed at times until they woman needed Arnold Schwarzenegger to return from out of nowhere and save them, and so is the liberal agenda of making the detention camps on the US-Mexico border look not only bad for the refugees, but also filled with incompetent workers. This is the polar opposite of Rambo:Last Blood. The anti-technology message is still there as it is in all Terminator films but Dark Fate adds nothing new, just restating that technology is bad and if humans are not careful machines will become the next step in evolution making mankind extinct. 

The ad campaign for Terminator: Dark Fate ruins a few of the surprises, although it leaves one early on that is jarring but shows promise that this movie may go to dangerous places few blockbusters dare risk to go. Alas it does not, and Arnold Schwarzenegger shows up and does exactly what the trailers indicate he will. One of the biggest flaws with Terminator: Dark Fate is that it does not utilize Arnold’s strength’s as an actor. This is a joyless movie and even though a lot of people had qualms with Terminator 3 (2003) and Terminator Genesys (2015) at least those movies had some sense of fun and used Arnie’s charms to their favor. Dark Fate takes itself almost as seriously as the Christian Bale led Terminator: Salvation (2009). This movie is a joyless slog and it missed a lot of opportunities to add levity in a natural way or humor to pay homage to the first two films. A few of the main characters on this adventure are Mexican and not one time did anyone utter the famous “Hasta La Vista baby”. There are some insipid jokes about potato chips and Texas but they fall flat. Terminator: Dark Fate is a missed opportunity and just another failed attempt to revive the Terminator franchise which proves that without James Cameron writing and directing the series he created it will continue to be an exercise in futility. 

Skip Terminator: Dark Fate and check out Terminator Genesys. A failed first attempt in a new Terminator trilogy that never materialized. Most people disliked this movie but I found to be a fun ride. A far cry from the James Cameron directed films but the best in the series since the first two.

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