Terminator: Dark Fate

“I’ll be back.”

Terminator is a strange property with multiple takes and versions of continuity; one could argue that every entry in the entire franchise is as valid as the next. However, this one feels different. It feels right, like a return to form.

Several elements could be contributing to this feeling. Perhaps it is because this marks the return of Linda Hamilton to the role of Sarah Connor for the first time in twenty years. Perhaps it is because James Cameron spent every day on set practically re-writing the script, and acted as a major consultant and producer on the film. Maybe because it has the right blend of action, drama, and cheesy comedy.

Personally, I think it has a lot to do with the leads, new and original. All of the actors brought the right stuff here, with Mackenzie Davis (Grace) leading the entire ensemble with a captivating performance as the new Kyle Reese, and no, her name is not Reese. I mean that she has that devoted protector vibe down perfectly, a vibe that made Michael Biehn’s as Kyle such a great and complicated person in the first film. Grace has a sense of humor, and she literally throws herself into danger without hesitation, just like Kyle did. It makes her both incredibly powerful and equally vulnerable.

There is Natalia Reyes as Dani Ramos, who is basically our new Sarah Connor. I won’t go into spoiler territory here, but she was a good counter point to Mackenzie Davis and made her character stand out despite being in the relatively thankless role of victim and damsel in distress. In fact, she spent a good majority of her screen time literally being shoved behind people for protection. I also loved the fact that Dani is Mexican, living her life in Mexico with no interest in immigrating to America, and just happens to be vitally important to the survival of the entire human race. This wasn’t harped on or made into a message, it was just the character.

Arnold also did a great job here, and this was a wonderful change to the Terminator character we’ve seen before. In fact the take is so left field that I was grinning from ear to ear during his introduction scenes. I wish the trailers hadn’t spoiled his involvement in this film because it would’ve been a lovely surprise if we hadn’t known.

Of course I would be remiss not to mention Linda Hamilton, again. She builds on the character from the last time we see her, and she has probably the best story arc in the film. She is funny and tragic and pretty exactly the character I would've wanted to see as a version that exists twenty years after her initial adventures. She is also just as much of a bad ass as she was in Terminator 2, which is saying something for a woman sporting white hair that isn't an anime affectation.

Which leads me into the action, because wow. Sure, there is a lot of people in vehicles being chased by an unstoppable robot; nevertheless, the way this new Terminator moves is very well done. With shades of both Arnold and Robert, Gabriel Luna moves like a machine. He is relentless and seemingly unstoppable like both of our original Terminators. He also combines their powers in new and inventive ways, which again the trailers spoiled.

Overall, this was a very solid installment in the franchise, and a worthy sequel to Terminator and Terminator 2. Yet this may be a case of too little too late, as the box office paints a sad picture for the future of the franchise.

3 out of 4 Unexpected Saviors of Mankind

Comments are a spoiler zone - Beware!

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

An intriguing review, J.D. I'm certainly going to watch this movie at some point, although probably at home. It's too bad about the box office thing. Especially if they got it right this time.

migmit said...

That seemed like a fan video to me rather than a proper movie.

No, seriously, who didn't, after watching T2, wished to see if Terminator would make a good dad? Well... here you go.

It also follows the same strict formula that all other T3s followed (I think Salvation is an attempt to make T4, rather than T3), while borrowing bits and pieces from everywhere else, no matter how fitting. I mean, who doesn't know these days that when you are on the run, first thing you do is ditch your phone? And yet there is the obligatory phone-throwing scene with the phone owner complaining about it.

Or the "big reveal", which was a) obvious from the start, and b) not actually changing anything in the plot.

As for the action, I feel like all the best stuff was in the trailers.

Anonymous said...

This movie was D.O.A when they made the choice to kill off John Conner's character in the opening scene.

What was the point of the first two movies, and the struggle the heroes went through, if they were just going to come out and say "It was all for nothing! Judgment Day is still going to happen!" What was the point of John Conner being billed as the savior of humanity if he could just be killed off and it didn't affect the future in any way?

Why bother having another AI villain named Legion if it's basically going to be Skynet 2.0?

I didn't see how this movie was any different from previous installments. There were a lot of scenes and plot points that reminded me of previous movies, and I had a hard time connecting with the new characters. Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger were a delight to see, but other than that, I found myself disinterested in the movie.

They should have ended the story at Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Both Migmit and Anonymous make valid points. What happens to John is heartbreaking, and also off-center in the franchise, but I'm willing to let it go.

BUT! This is one of several things that makes this movie stand out, not only from earlier installments but also action-flicks in general.

So, yes, it's not about a dude anymore it's about a woman becoming the savior of mankind - who is in turn protected, in our time, by two other women.
Who, by the way, are never sexualised in any way. Never looked upon with a male gaze or a "How you doin'"-comment, not even when appearing out of the blue, naked.

As an addendum to that, I really liked that whenever Grace took someones clothes (I counted three times), they were always clothes worn by a male.
Again, no-one in the movie commented or questioned this.

Finally, the big brute of a terminator (Arnold) who - if you want to analyze it deeper stands for male privilege: i.e. "I can do what I want because I'm a Terminator and anyone who tries to stop me gets shot too".
In this movie the unstoppable force has become a "loving" father, raising a son the proper way and hugging him.

All this, and a few things more, make this movie part of a new breed of action-movies - along with Mad Max Fury road that was at one point accused of "Trojan horse feminism" (an in my opinion wonderful description that only made me want to see that movie even more).

This might not be the same kind of Trojan horse-feminism, but it sure as hell respects its characters and their arcs.

I hope this snowball will start rolling and gather momentum 'cause I'd really like to see where they might go next with this.