2019 is the year of the 80s movie reboots and sequels, with franchises like Child’s Play and Rambo. The Terminator franchise is one such example, though its last instalment (2015’s Terminator Genisys) released pretty recently but was also its worst in the series’ almost four-decade-long history.
Paramount is attempting to remedy that mistake with another instalment just four years later, though this time Terminator Dark Fate boasts the return of James Cameron (story contributor) and Linda Hamilton reprising her role as Sarah Connor. However, is all that really enough to jumpstart the franchise and revive its spark after decades of mediocre sequels?
Pressing The Retcon Button
The Terminator has gotten too convoluted over the years, so Terminator Dark Fate ignores most of the past instalments and simply continues where 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day left off. I won’t spoil what happens in Terminator Dark Fate but it essentially retcons the franchise’s established lore by expanding on them.
Terminator Dark Fate is essentially The Force Awakens of the franchise.
While Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens followed the formulaic template of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Terminator Dark Fate does the same by following Terminator 2: Judgment Day almost beat-by-beat.
Terminator Dark Fate can also be considered a modern remix or greatest hits of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, to the point that several iconic scenes from the latter are even recreated in what is clearly intended to be homages.
My point is this, that there are no genuine surprises to be found in Terminator Dark Fate.
You can see most of the twists coming from a mile away, which is disappointing for long-time fans who would be expecting something fresh and new.
It’s all a blatant excuse to forge a blank slate for the franchise and make way for future sequels. It’s a shame, considering that there were a few interesting concepts that deserved to be explored further.
These include A.I. development, human augmentation (the potential addition of more cyberpunk elements), as well as the idea of vicious cycles and what it means to break them. Instead, we get another action flick where the good guys spend the entire movie running from the evil Terminator, before ultimately facing him in a final showdown.
Fitting The Terminator Archetypes
The new protagonists are Dani (the hunted) and Grace (the protector). Mackenzie Davis does a great job as augmented future soldier Grace. She’s a strong and confident female character who is a far cry from the twitchy and PTSD-ridden Kyle Reese from the first movie, which often puts her at odds with the similarly-strong female in Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor.
While Davis’ Grace fits the mould of Kyle Reese, Natalia Reyes’ Dani is the equivalent of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor or Edward Furlong’s John Connor (don’t worry, you’ll learn what happens to Furlong’s character in Terminator Dark Fate). Unfortunately, her character is unmemorable, devoid of much personality except for the fact that she’s another strong female character.
Arnold Schwarzenegger puts in a fun and charming turn as T-800 model-101 Terminator, whose human name is Carl. He puts in a more subdued and emotional performance this time around, which is similar to his role as Pops in 2015’s Terminator Genisys. His back-and-forth banter with Hamilton’s Sarah Connor are the highlights of the movie.
I loved Gabriel Luna as Ghost Rider in the TV series Marvel’s Agents Of SHIELD, so it’s great to see him diversifying his roles. Most of the evil Terminators throughout the franchise have been devoid of emotion, lacking even the slightest smile. Luna plays the advanced prototype Rev-9 Terminator with glee, even wise-cracking from time to time.
The entire cast did their best, but there’s no doubt that they’re essentially just filling in the boxes of existing Terminator archetypes and moulds.
The new characters don’t have as much room to develop, especially when juggling screentime and material with the older legacy characters in the mix as well, which is a problem that The Force Awakens also suffered from.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day Did It Better
What more can I say other than that Terminator 2: Judgment Day did almost everything better than Terminator Dark Fate? There were notable action scenes in the beginning and during the climax, but the rest were just huge setpieces that were executed to much better effect decades earlier (probably because those were accomplished using practical effects while Terminator Dark Fate lazily resorted to using bland-looking CGI).
If I could describe Terminator Dark Fate in one word, it’s that the movie feels “UNINSPIRED”.
Just like The Force Awakens, it rehashes the best of the iconic classic for a new generation but loses any sense of unique identity in the process.
While that movie managed to spawn a whole new generation of Star Wars sequels, it’s hard to imagine Terminator Dark Fate doing the same.
FINAL SCORE: 50/100
We received a preview screening courtesy of The Walt Disney Company Malaysia. Terminator Dark Fate premieres in Malaysian cinemas on 23 October 2019.