Choose Your Fate...
I never thought I’d be reviewing another Terminator film again. The last instalment Terminator: Genysis was surely the franchise’s nail in the coffin right? Well now that the rights to Terminator have returned to original creator James Cameron – who initially sold them back in the 80s for $1, yep that’s one dollar – he has a grand plan.
He will totally disregard anything made post-1991 (so that’s three films and one TV series) and instead make a direct sequel to the ‘sequel of sequels’ Terminator 2. That means bringing back young John Connor (a de-aged Edward Furlong) and hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) again. And Arnold Schwarzenegger as a T-800 again. And a time traveling soldier. Again. And a liquid Terminator. Again. Do you see where this is going…
So story-wise we’ve seen it all before. It’s essentially a grand chase movie, hitting the same beats as T2, without letting you pause for breath. This isn’t necessary a bad thing – director Tim Miller (Deadpool) keeps up a breakneck pace with the action pumped up to 11, and there are some very cool set pieces. But you just can’t shake the feeling that Dark Fate is essentially a remake of T2 and you’d rather be watching that instead.
The opening of the film sees two time-travellers racing each other to find new target Dani (Natalie Reyes) who is the new future saviour of mankind. Grace (a superb Mackenzie Davis) is an augmented human soldier sent to protect Dani, while Gabriel Luna is the new REV-9 Terminator (a mixture of liquid and exoskeleton) sent to terminate her. We have a fight between Grace and REV-9 which evolves into a huge car chase, and a showdown in an industrial factory (all very T2). Sarah Connor is thrown into the mix for good measure, and it’s great seeing Linda Hamilton return to her iconic role and still deliver the goods.
So who has sent back these time travellers, I hear you ask. Skynet and judgement day were stopped in T2. Well it seems that machines waging war over humanity is simply an inevitability (hence the title ‘Dark Fate’) and will occur no matter what. And how does Arnie get mixed up in all this again? Cameron has an iffy explanation – apparently there were multiple Terminators sent back to terminate young John Connor, including Dark Fate’s T-800.
Terminator: Dark Fate is probably the best Terminator film since T2, but to be honest that isn’t much of an achievement as the bar has been set so low by all films that have come since. Dark Fate is action packed, and has some good moments, but doesn’t do enough to emerge from the shadow of T2. It’s great to see Arnie and Hamilton back together again, but Reyes is quite weak and not unbelievable as the new future saviour of mankind. Mackenzie Davis, however, does well to channel the ‘desperate soldier who’s been through hell’ performance given by Michael Biehn in the original
Arnie’s Terminator (now named Carl – don’t ask) has been living undetected amongst humans for the last two decades. Whilst this is an interesting concept, Cameron does stretch things a little too far with the life Carl has created for himself.
If the clunky ‘re-writing’ of Terminator 2 doesn’t bother you, nor the inexplicable transformation of remorse that Arnie’s T-800 experiences, then add a star as it is an enjoyable and well-executed action flick. But ultimately this is a franchise that needs to be terminated.