Listen up mother truckers that were rightfully traumatized by the obscenity that was Terminator: Genysis, Terminator: Dark Fate is Oscar-worthy in comparison. If anything, it benefits from the low expectations left from the previous three movies. Out of the franchise, it easily cruises into 3rd best film, pays homage to the original mythology, gives righteous fan service, and has some wicked sexy action sequences. It is a FUN movie, but it only is enjoyable on a superficial level. For us huge Terminator fans, superficial isn’t what we are looking for. The first two films simultaneously entertain you and make you think about the bigger meaning of life, the nature of man, and whether or not we may be doomed as a species. In spite of its ominous name, Dark Fate doesn’t bring the heavy, but it does bring the entertainment.
“My name is Sarah Connor.”
The plot of Dark Fate is all broody and familiar, as is the whole play-through. After we experience what some of us are calling, “The Guatemala Scene” we see two different beings in bubbles appear. One female and one male. Then shoot to a young girl and her brother working in a factory in Mexico complaining about machines replacing their jobs (expect a lot of that humor….it mostly works) when both beings show up and we see the female one was sent to defend the female sibling. As they escape the big bad, they extra conveniently run into Sarah Connor the heroine of movies 1 and 2. Since I don’t know how to behave myself in public I began cheering. No matter what happened my childhood hero just jumped out of a vehicle easily in her 50’s and throws the mega shit down.
Grace played by Mackensie Davis is sent back through time to protect “Dani” played by Natalie Reyes. She isn’t a terminator, but an augmented human, loosely translated as they put some upgraded cyberpunk shit in her and steroids keep her going. Grace meets Sarah and instead of treating her as an ally, she bickers with her constantly and there’s no resolve to that. She’s in general unlikable, and her refusal to share her future’s information with Sarah and Dani diminishes the weight that the new future carries, also the sacrifices she keeps making to save Dani. And she is the first “being” sent back since Kyle Reece to defend someone and is ironically far from human. I don’t blame the actress, that’s how she was written and clearly directed. She also nailed all the action sequences, and some were straight wicked.
“I’ll be back.”
The biggest reason Dark Fate works is Linda Hamilton so I’m not sure how it will impact a new audience. There’s a lot of throw backs and insinuations with her history that might be lost on fresh eyes, but she’s still focused, strong, and is the master and commander of the ship. Her losses have hardened her heart again and yet we see what becomes of her…..after. The future is still unknown to her and aside from her texting buddy she had lost her purpose. You feel exactly how powerful her journey has been, and when things switch up on her she adapts quickly. She wants to know what’s happening, but she’s comfortable moving forward, a true soldier. Even with Grace the plot device constantly withholding for no purpose whatsoever.
“This plan of a high probability of success”
I want to talk about Arnie’s part in the movie, but it would be difficult without a ton of spoilers, especially since he doesn’t show up until the last act, which his mere presence and chemistry with Hamilton elevates. It was exactly what we needed, and shotty dialogue didn’t slow down Arnie. He’s one of the few stars that can deliver a terrible line and make it sound great. I might be biased when it comes to Arnie. He’s my favorite action hero, and right there as one of my favorite actors of all time, but I’m biased because he does what he does so well and I love him for it. He’s everything we hoped and needed here.
“I said ‘DON’T DO IT.’ – You need butterflies, polka dots, balloons.”
I am fully comfortable with accepting any rules you commit to in a created universe. If this means infinite bullets, I’m okay as long as it’s consistent. If this means you’re allergic to rebar, then you better die when it penetrates through your body. Consistency is very important, and while the extra magical bad assery of the cyborg/robots in this film stayed within the realms of their capabilities the humans in peril weren’t so much. There is an underwater scene and basic cinematic rules have taught us time is of the essence when stuck in a vehicle and yet casual conversation was present here.
Even JW: Forbidden Kingdom hit the sense of doom coming for them in their gyro-sphere once in the water. There’s also a plane crash that legitimately would have melted the Rev 9 (an interesting hybrid of both T-800 and T-1000) would have at the very least been out of commission for days, if not infinitely. But apparently those high temperatures were merely an obstacle for it to overcome. Though previous film precedents and science say that’s incorrect. A few of these instances are easy to let slide, but they were often in sequence with one another. It did distract from the building momentum of the eventual climax, which was ultimately solid.
“No. You may have changed the future, but you didn’t change our fate.”
It was one of the high points watching the group band together to take the ultimate big baddy down. I liked the Rev 9, even though it’s design seemed to give it more vulnerability rather than violent aptitude. It was versatile and it’s behavior with or without being meshed together with the endoskeleton made it weaker and stronger in certain ways. It was fun. Even so, the T-1000 is still the scariest of all models of killing machines we’ve seen. Sometimes when you create a nemesis too powerful and it only has one small Achilles heal (i.e Death Star) it works, and sometimes you’ve back yourself into a narrative corner. The Rev-9’s weakness seems pretty easy to manage if everyone is ultimately aware (specifically in their future world), but in the context of this story it worked.
“When this is all over, I am going to kill you.”
That was how the movie functioned though. Big picture stuff wasn’t really considered. A new world was made, but not created. The old mythology was acknowledged, but really just grazed over. This film was meant for instant gratification, suspense, and simple enjoyment. It was extremely successful in that. I feel like this is a movie that I will enjoy more upon repeat viewings. It will be a fun casual watch. But I’m not sure what it means for the franchise. Either way, Dark Fate is definitely worth a trip to the theatre. It’s also absolutely fine to wait and see until it’s available to stream as well.