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'Terminator: Dark Fate' Movie Review

by Robert Cain 2 years ago in review

The sixth entry in the tired franchise is another bland and underwhelming slog

Released: November 1st 2019 (UK and US)

Length: 128 Minutes

Certificate: 15

Director: Tim Miller

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davies, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna

The Terminator franchise has been in a rough place since the turn of the millennium with lacklustre sequels and baffling decisions riddling it from top to bottom. With creator James Cameron returning to the series in a producing role alongside Linda Hamilton, things appeared to be looking up with Terminator: Dark Fate; regretfully the result is another painfully underwhelming production that leads the popular series nowhere.

Ignoring the events of the previous three entries, Dark Fate is a follow-up to Terminator 2: Judgement Day; we follow a new character named Daniella “Dani” Ramos” (Natalia Reyes), another prophesised human of the future, this time taken under the wing of an augmented human named Grace (Mackenzie Davies) alongside the returning Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). The trio flees from a new terminator called the REV-9 (played by Gabriel Luna) with an ability to morph and copy itself much like the T-1000. We’re chucked right into the action with little to no background development, the characters immediately racing off with no time to build their bonds against a new backdrop. There’s a new future war, a new AI and several new characters, all seemingly pulled out of thin air to form Dark Fate’s shallow narrative while tossing out much of the franchise’s lore and underlying themes. As for the story itself, it’s yet another run of the same chase scenario we’ve seen too many times in the franchise, only broken up by the occasional original action scene that moves too far away from the grounded set pieces of films past. Its goals of both returning to form and serving as a worthy follow-up fall short yet again, but the biggest paradox of the sixth Terminator film is how it wants to be a reinvention of the franchise, but it insists on gathering all the big names from previous flicks. It simply doesn’t know what it wants to be, and this made watching it a rather monotonous experience.

Later Terminator sequels have struggled to match the resonance of the franchise’s original protagonists and Dark Fate is no different. Without much screen time to build her character, Natalia Reyes’s Dani is OK at best and the same is true of Mackenzie Davies, who turns in a satisfactory performance as Grace. While her character is rather weak when compared to Kyle Reese and the reprogrammed T-800, she still brings a solid physicality to the action. On that note, Linda Hamilton returns to the series after almost thirty years as Sarah Connor and is easily the best performer of the bunch; she carries through the same vengeful bitterness that defined her character in T2: Judgement Day. In retrospect, the main cast aren’t particularly bad; they’re simply given next to no material to make us care. There is one exception to this however and that’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s returning T-101 unit; with an incredibly contrived and senseless inclusion, the role that once defined his career has now been reduced to a basic, one-note performance. The same is true of Gabriel Luna, who is unable to distinguish himself much from Robert Patrick’s similar portrayal back in the second film. If anything, taking in the main performances and their wasted potential only serves to remind us how far the franchise has fallen from its once deep, thought-provoking roots.

When compared to the lacklustre effects and sanitised action of the previous flick, Dark Fate does show some improvement; every action sequence is well shot and directed with a wide view of the action. Combine this with more detailed special effects (particularly on the REV-9 model Terminator) and you have a franchise entry that reaches slightly closer to the monumental efforts of the first two films. With that said, some action scenes in Dark Fate, especially in the film’s climax, feel overblown; where previous films focused on believable action-packed moments in a modern setting, here we get two gargantuan cargo planes crashing together which limits the film’s believability overall. On the other hand, the film’s future war scenes (this time making use of a grey colour palette) do make a visceral and gritty impression and the same is true of the audio design. Pounding sound effects have a visceral crunch and while the Terminator theme is mostly absent throughout the film, Dark Fate’s soundtrack is acceptable as an accompaniment. It’s a well-directed package but with little heart and soul surrounding it.

For the fourth time they try and the fourth time they fail; Terminator: Dark Fate is another bland, deflating and pointless entry in a franchise that has continued to overstay its welcome. It chips in just above 2015s Terminator Genisys for its improved special effects and action but sadly everything else is aggressively forgettable and not worthy of your attention. It’s time for this series to be laid to rest.

Rating: 2/5 Stars (Disappointing)


Robert Cain

I'm a well-travelled journalism graduate from the UK who is looking to spread his blogs and freelance writings further afield.

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