Directed By Tim Miller
Starring – Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger
The Plot – More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator – a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Hamilton). As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.
Rated R for violence throughout, adult language and brief nudity
– Heavy action set pieces. The Terminator franchise is one of the godfathers of big budget action, so in turn it’s a must for the newest installment to have no shortage of demolition mayhem to satisfy audiences into remembering what they loved so dearly about the franchise to begin with. Offering a satisfying compromise of aerial and ground attacks to keep the integrity of the set designs fresh with innovation, the film spares no degree of immersive sound mixing to play complimentary to musical composer Junkie XL’s eclectically riveting compositions, nor does it ever not result in the impact of these characters being felt on said properties. In addition to this, the sequences are shot with a degree of stable handheld camera work that maintains the detection of what transpires, and offers a surprisingly absorbing quality to its movements that better helps us feel engaged in the plight of these characters enveloped into it. If you’re only watching a Terminator movie for intense action sequences, “Dark Fate” will continue the trend in what has brought forth some heavy stakes in the war of man versus machine.
– The queen returns. There’s not much to say positively in the performance department here, with the exception of Linda Hamilton’s glowing return to form as badass Sarah Connor in the role that made her a household name. Sarah’s demeanor still embodies the feminine toughness that all female characters should be privy to, but it’s really Linda’s dramatic depth instilled to the character that helps push her transformation once more. In this unveiling chapter, we learn about the kind of loss that plagued Sarah for more than two decades, and left her with a mission of revenge as her only life’s meaning going forward. It offers a side of vulnerability to the character that we haven’t seen since the original movie from 1984, but brings with it the ruthlessness of the character from “Judgment Day”, which captures the complete evolution. This movie is better any time Linda is on-screen, and Miller’s desire to involve her moving forward is among the most rewarding of decisions that he has made for the integrity of the franchise.
– New toys. After seven films in this franchise, it’s difficult to keep coming up with fresh and innovative traits to give to these invading machines, but the arrival of Davis’ heroine, and antagonist Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9, bring forth some startling developments in on-screen technological advances that make them deadlier than anything previously established. For Davis, it’s her lightning-fast speed, as well as her ability with a chain that competently articulates her position as a protector. In addition to this, it’s her dynamic of not exactly being a machine but rather an enhanced human, that help her maintain the values of human existence, and what hangs in the balance from this invasion of the machines. For Luna’s Rev-9, he is able to melt himself into maintaining two forms of existence at the same time, doubling the odds against the opposition in a way that forces them to keep their eyes in both directions. Aside from this, however, it’s his ability to hack and absorb character signals and camera devices accordingly, in order to make it even more difficult to escape him.
– Production aspects. There are two things here that I believe are owed to Tim Miller’s attention for detail that better accommodate some of the beats that the film surprisingly takes us one. The first one is terrific de-aging in the form of two past characters to the franchise, that really makes you do a double take a few times, and maintains the gimmick even more than something like “Gemini Man” ever could. Beyond this, the C.G for the film is more good than bad consistently. Sure, there are a few instances where the movements of the Terminator’s while crawling or in mid-air felt a bit hollow or uninspired, but the overall spectrum here left me dazzled more than dazed, and solidified the production in a way that marries the best of ambitious practicality in set designs and computer generation in special effects, that accomplishes some impressive feats visually.
– Diversity in the cast. I commend this film greatly for instilling some Spanish born characters to the front-and-center position of one of the biggest franchises in the action genre history. Not only does this story’s reach expand its grip on its audience to include more minority moviegoers, but it also helps flesh out more of the scenery where the story takes place. It proves that the producers aren’t afraid to add a contemporary spin of social commentary to the dynamic of its plot, proving that there is a John Connor in every corner of the globe.
– Horrendous dialogue. This film tries so desperately to be humorous in some instances, and inspirational in others, and thanks to the unnatural flow of deliveries, as well as the forceful puns of familiarity to the franchise, they fail more times than they succeed. If this isn’t bad enough, the way they are presented brought forth several groans within me, where the intention never left the station, and immediately took me out of the heat of the scene, periodically throughout the film. The kind of dialogue that I expect in an action movie should inspire me to the point of goosebumps developing on my exterior, but the majority here are a series of pun deviations trying to capitalize on a bigger, better period for the franchise long ago, and just feels here like your grandparents learning words like “For shizzle” or “Crunk” for the first time ever.
– Lack of originality. Tim Miller has gone on record stating that “Dark Fate” ignores the continuity of films 3-5, and stands as the sole sequel to “Judgment Day”. “Halloween” recently did the same thing with its franchise, and it’s interesting to compare the two films because their abilities to push reset brings forth the meaning of their intentions when you find out just how little the newest edition brought to the franchise. Aside from the plot being the same in all six movies, there are moments and dialogue repeated from films 3-5, but presented in a different light here. It chooses not to acknowledge those films, then has no problems with ripping them off? I searched far and wide for something original in this movie that no other film before it has done, and even hours after the film I still struggle with the realization that this is just more reheated fan service to manipulate you into thinking it’s something fresh or ground-breaking for the series. It isn’t.
– Disrespectable. This is in regards to one particular subplot, and I want to be careful not to spoil it because it is a shocking development when you consider the previous films omitted from the continuity of this franchise. It deals with a death that takes place in the opening ten minutes of this movie, and it not only diminishes the heartfelt impact of a previous film, but also disposes of this person in a way that is nothing more than a speed bump to the roads this screenplay travels down. I have always said that the worst sequels not only damage themselves, but also previous successful films that should’ve been left alone in the first place, and “Dark Fate” is the latest in that selfish execution. It takes something as timelessly precious as the air-tight perfect ending of a previous movie, and shakes it in a way that lessens the meaning and stakes of its conclusion.
– Sharp tonal shift. I commended Miller and most of this movie for not reaching for the low-hanging fruit of his brand of humor that he’s very well known for, but then something happened in the early stages of the third act that made this feel every bit of the weight of the five screenwriters that it maintains. Arnold pops into the frame, and suddenly we’re treated to no shortage of corny material, slow punchline executions, and an important narrative that gets lost in the fog of these characters able to joke about their truly dire situation. I’m fine with a line or two here or there, but there are whole scenes of this act where Arnie brings forth so much of the character-ruining material that made “Rise of the Machines” such a difficult watch, for the road of pop culture that the character traveled between nearly twenty years of film. Here, I could’ve done with more urgency, and less dependability on using humor as a crutch for slow periods of script.
– Arnold. Speaking of the man himself, I wish he was kept to merely a one scene cameo, where his meaning within the film is established, and then he’s never seen again. Why do I feel this way? Well, so much of the film centers around these tough female characters fighting for themselves and the world surrounding them, and then the screenplay tells them that they need help in the form of a man, about 70% into the movie. Not only does this lessen the effects of Davis’ enhanced super human, but it also conjures up a very disturbing and timely insensitive message to the ladies in the audience, who are enjoying their first dose of gender dominance in 35 years throughout the entire franchise. Aside from this, Arnold is really just exploring the familiar third act beats of his character between “Judgment Day” and “Rise of the Machines”, that etched out this layer of predictability for this film that was inescapable. For a film and director so determined to build a fresh direction for itself, this one saunters through the muddy waters of repetition in a way that limits the evolution of its characters and permanency of its story, relying far too heavily on where we’ve been instead of where we’re going.
My Grade: 5/10 or D