Terminator Terminator: Dark Fate

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

Terminator: Dark Fate
dir Tim Miller
prd James Cameron, David Ellison
scr David S Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray
with Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, Enrique Arce, Tabata Cerezo, Fraser James, Steven Cree, Pete Ploszek, Christine Horn
release US/UK 25.Oct.19
19/US Fox 2h08

schwartzenegger luna boneta
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Terminator: Dark Fate
James Cameron returns to the franchise and ignores the films he didn't make, so this is the conclusion of a trilogy with T1 and T2. So it feels more coherently connected than the three movies made in between. The story is involving, the pace is snappy and the characters have sharply engaging edges. But the filmmakers lose control of it in a storm of pointless digital mayhem.
It turns out that after hiding for seven years in Guatemala, the Terminator (Schwarzenegger) tracked down Sarah Connor (Hamilton) and killed her son. She has reinvented herself over two decades as a Terminator terminator, alerted to the time-travelling killer robots by mysterious text messages. Now she comes to the rescue of Dani (Reyes), a Mexico City teen running from an unstoppable Rev-9 model Terminator (Luna). Dani is also being protected by Grace (Davis), an augmented women sent from the future to protect her. And they're going to need more help if they hope to survive.
There isn't a dull moment, as even down-time is packed with sardonic wit, flashbacks (to the future) and exposition. Revelations are carefully positioned throughout the script for maximum effect, as are relentless acts of heroism. The earlier action scenes have a gritty explosiveness that's visceral, but as they get bigger they're far less exciting, climaxing in a ludicrous bit of weightless chaos on a crashing cargo jet. The characters just about survive the film's increasingly bloated scale, but the set-pieces get less and less involving.

Everyone on-screen is tenacious and tough, with a terrific trio of women at the centre. Reyes is feisty and smart, much more than a child in jeopardy, and she rises realistically to challenges. Davis brings intense physicality to Grace, while Hamilton has a ball as the take-no-prisoners alpha-dog Sarah has become. Her scenes with Schwarzenegger have a vicious charm, especially as he reminds us why a robot was the perfect role for him. And Luna adds some driving energy to the seriously relentless baddie.

Miller clearly relishes all of the gunplay, which is sometimes mind-bogglingly excessive. And he makes most of the outrageous action sequences relatively coherent, although most are wildly implausible even in this universe. But aside from the female-power subtext, he only barely hints at deeper meaning in the central idea of human-made tech that has the ability to wage war on humanity. So while the film has a certain popcorn-chomping charm, it ultimately feels somewhat pointless.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 23.Oct.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall