Kyle Shaun Thomas
Review - Terminator: Dark Fate
With the release of the latest instalment from the once glorious franchise, Terminator Dark Fate is an entertaining, adrenaline-laced on the run action film that reminds us of what made us love the franchise in the first place.
Walking into this film I knew what to expect, and that was an easy watch that might be better than the bad taste left in so many movie-goers mouths from Terminator Genisys. I must admit after the initial screening I was left thinking that Dark Fate had no business being as good as it was. But it makes me happy that we finally have a sequel to T2 worth its own merits.
The story does a great job of retconning itself from previous iterations and without using too much fantasy jargon/ time travel math to leave you confused.
Instead, it does enough with what is already set in place from prior films and tweaks them to represent a new “fate” when humans are wiped out by the new threat Legion. The film also does a great job of solidifying the casting choice for Grace in Mackenzie Davis, throughout the film she remains a cool action star who doesn’t get lost in the shadow of Linda Hamilton, which could have easily been the case.
However, there were brief moments where the issues with the character of Grace reared their heads, such as specific lines of dialogue that felt juvenile. For example, during an exchange with Sarah Connor, Grace makes it known that she could “rip her throat out in two seconds flat so don’t piss me off.” It was these little moments that took me out of the experience, as the whole ordeal translates as a power play, you’d find on the schoolyard.
Along with Grace is our new target for termination, Dani (Played by Natalia Reyes). The film does a good job of creating obvious parallels of Dani and Sarah, which plays into Sarah’s motivation- which is seeing herself in that situation before. Although this can come across as rehashing old ideas, what made Sarah so compelling in her transformation from a damsel in distress to a fully developed ass-kicker. The time span in which it happened in the first instalment to this, our next encounter with her, gave time for this to develop and grow. Whereas Dani’s transformation happens over the course of one hour. It can be attributed to the loss of her brother and father at the hands of the terminator but it just doesn’t have the same impact.
As for our returning stars, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger do a fantastic job of taking almost secondary roles within the film, to give room for our new characters and story time to breathe, but also have enough presence and involvement to satisfy all original Terminator fans. The film breathes new life into Sarah Connor’s story and continues her journey after preventing judgement day and creates meaning and motivation for her being in the film.
As for Arnold, it is always good to see him reprise the role of the T-800. What was interesting and different about his outing in this film, is the amount of comedy attached to his appearance. Which might be off-putting to some, but it does work within the film and is nuanced enough that it doesn’t become watered down.
There is also an interesting dynamic presented in the triangular relationship between Sarah, Grace and Arnie’s Terminator. Sarah is almost as cold and unfeeling as the Terminator, Grace is human but with “robotic” enhancements and the Terminator has learned to become as close to human as possible since his last mission. Allowing for moments when each character can metaphorically step into the position of the other at any given moment.
Where this new instalment does falter is in the making of the film. One of the earliest scenes features a flashback of Sarah, John Connor and Arnie’s Terminator, and I have to say for such a big-budgeted movie the de-aging of these characters is almost laughable. With the Terminator striking a closer resemblance to a fat Johnny Cage from street fighter. There are again more lapses in CGI quality during the film, where large portions of fight scenes are too notably animated, which in a world where some of the best CGI is being produced in other movies with smaller budgets this shouldn’t be as bad as it is.
Early on there is also a noticeable use of rapid editing, so much so that it makes it difficult to even begin to decrypt what is taking place on the screen. Granted as the film progresses this doesn’t happen nearly as frequently as the beginning of the film.
Finally, there are moments in the dialogue that were completely unnecessary, for example, an unprompted line of “I wish you two weren’t so white” from Dani about Sarah and Grace that felt like the writers were making a deliberate attempt to appeal to a large crowd and avoid “whitewashing” the film. As well as lines that talk about character’s “fate” to reinforce the new idea that it is no longer their future at risk but their “fate”.
But my major issue with the film is the “twist” in the story which anyone with a brain could see coming from the start of the film, and that is to do with who sent Grace back to protect Dani. This “twist” comes across once again as an attempt from the writer’s room to appeal to a different demographic and solidify how they know how to write for changing times.
My closing thoughts on Terminator Dark Fate are that any fan of the franchise no matter how disappointed by the last instalment should check this out, as it makes up for many of the past mistakes and adds a new chapter to the story set up in T2. I would even go as far to say that it fits very neatly into the gap after T2 the same Jurassic World greatly follows Jurassic Park.