MOVIE: TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
STARRING: LINDA HAMILTON; MACKENZIE DAVIS; ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
DIRECTED BY: TIM MILLER
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
One of the major themes of the entire Terminator series has been the concept of time. Robots travel back in time, hunting humans in order to thwart a resistance against them in the future. Humans try to protect their loved ones, hoping to buy more time, before the inevitable apocalypse occurs. I find it all to be a cinematic sci-fi Greek tragedy. These Terminator movies especially, are an example of time passing us by, the aging of beloved characters, and to be witness to what has hindered this science fiction series from thriving beyond the initial two installments: It's all about time. The fact is, the people that made The Terminator a smash hit, are not young anymore. Arnold Schwarzenegger is 72 years old, to some that may be obsolete, but what keeps the Terminator franchise going, and truly fascinates me, has been the “Austrian Oak's” ability to adapt to the times. That's why Terminator: Dark Fate is a surprisingly fresh return to the action series form. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) makes it all work, along with the return of Linda Hamilton, after a 3-film hiatus as the inspiring mother Sarah Conner, and everyone else involved, has a grasp for what makes this series keep on ticking.
After the sad installment that was Terminator Genisys, the bar has been lowered for any Terminator movie that would follow. In order to find some success, getting Linda Hamilton on board is a good start. Dark Fate is a direct continuation from Terminator 2: Judgement Day, which at this point in the series, it's best not to think of the continuity, or timelines matching up. It's a mess, but you know the gist, a robot goes back in time to save a human from being hunted by another robot. The year is 2020, a woman named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) arrives from the future with a mission in Mexico City, to save a woman named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes- who doesn’t get to show much, other than running away). They are being hunted by a new version of the terminator called a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). These trackers are a combination of the robot and liquid metal, a new breed, geared to never be stopped, but what they didn't expect to be waiting was Grace, a hybrid robot human, and some help from the unstoppable survivor- Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton).
Like two immovable objects pushing against one another, it is the story for Dark Fate that works- compiled with the help of James Cameron, Charles Eglee, Josh Friedman, David Goyer, and Justin Rhodes- and the script by Goyer, Rhodes, and Billy Ray, that work against itself. I loved the story this time around. It is a modern day action film, with three badass women on the move, Hamilton is given plenty of dialogue to chew, all of them looking out for one another, but never really trusting each other either. Miller seems to be mushing a lot of the things we love about the terminator series together, intense car chase sequences, mindless explosions, a race for survival from a shapeshifting villain, along with dialogue that has the cheesiness we saw in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Some of it works and some of it does not, but Terminator: Dark Fate never slows down for anyone. It knows exactly what we want and gives it to us.
You might wonder, how do they handle Arnold Schwarzenegger this time? His T-800 is back, just like he said he would be, but only this time he's a different model. Now, his name is Carl, blending in with society after completing his mission. It is with his arrival where Dark Fate digs into the deeper questions, about whether machines can feel love, the constant running for Sarah Connor from something she once hated, but now she must see it in a completely different light. As all of those plot lines simmer in the background, Mackenzie Davis' character steals the spotlight, showing off how impressive she can be, both physically, and as a new generations protector.
One of the biggest problems with Dark Fate is the reckless use of green screens. Although there are a few strong set pieces, the majority of this one is given the CGI treatment, which is not something meant for a Terminator saga. I wished we could go back in time. No matter how good the story was, I kept thinking about the late, great, special effects legend Stan Winston, who's entire footprint has been washed away by computerized robots and animated action. It's not that it completely ruins the experience for Dark Fate, but a Terminator movie will never be what it was till they go back to real makeup and impressive stunt work.
At the end though, it all just goes back to the concept of time. Terminator: Dark Fate brings back the best part of the series in Linda Hamilton, takes an honest approach to working with an aging Schwarzenegger, while ushering in a new action star for us to root for in Mackenzie Davis. In all aspects, it is the third best Terminator movie to date. That may not say much to some, but I had a lot of fun with it along the way. We just can't go back in time. We can only make the best of it, with the people we have, and the technology we see. Terminator: Dark Fate takes this series into its own hands and makes the future look a little bit brighter.
Written by: Leo Brady