Terminator: Dark Fate Review

From the second this film was announced, all I thought was “why?”. The Terminator universe was something, that I found so cool when I was younger – robotic killing machines sent back from the future to kill the mother of the resistance leader (I mean, c’mon). While I haven’t ever seen Rise of the Machines, I will admit that I enjoyed Salvation. However, Genysis cast a large shadow over the childlike imagination that went wild over the Terminator franchise.

So just four short years after that disaster, we have another attempt jump start a franchise that, in the eyes of many, has stalled more than most even have the chance to. I wanted to get excited, but the more grown-up part of me just didn’t believe that the Terminator franchise could be handled right in this sequel-filled and watered-down market. It seemed as though the studios, were just desperately trying to keep the once infamous franchise alive. They were bringing back Arnie (again), James Cameron was on as producer (and swearing it was a good one this time), and promising the true sequel to Judgement Day, ignoring the films that came after it. None of this was really enough to convince me it would be any good, but I went in hoping to be proven wrong.

It was genuinely to my surprise that, whilst I didn’t love it, Dark Fate was a fun popcorn action film. From the opening scene I was in, as it showed that it was more in line with the Terminator films I loved. Within the first half hour, we are treated massive action chase sequence that is cool, exhilarating and a great way to introduce us to all the major players of the film.

That level of excitement carries over to most of the action scenes throughout the film. As it progresses on, it successfully balances the quieter moments – having them around for just long enough – before moving on to the next action set-piece. Each of these set-pieces are varied to a degree that keep things interesting and flowing from one to the next whilst feeling organic, in a sci-fi action film kind of way. One issue with most, if not all of these action scenes, however, is the over reliance of CGI. While most are quite good, it is still really apparent that you are watching fake sets and fake characters – particularly the antagonistic Terminator, who floats and bounds around with ease.

Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is back as the sunglasses wearing, silver-haired, Terminator killing badass. This incarnation, or continuation of the character is nice to see over previous attempt at the iconic character. She is rough around the edges and scarred from her tumultuous past. It is a shame that the script never really lends to Hamilton’s acting prowess – her best scene is a taped replay of an interview from Judgement Day.

Standing alongside Sarah Connor are Mackenzie Davis’ Grace and Natalie Reyes’ Dani. Dani is the latest in the crosshairs of the Terminator (the next Sarah Connor), and most of her story plays out much the same as before, as she hardens throughout the process of the film. The writers try to find some ways to work things around and switch it up, but ultimately her character and her story, were the least interesting aspects – by no fault of the actor. Grace, the augmented human from the future, has a lot more fun, as she jumps, flips, and fights her way through most of the runtime. Her backstory, relating to the new future, set from the events of previous instalment, was great to see – and leaves me wanting the studios to take another crack at the future timeline.

Big Arnold is also back, and better than ever. He seems to have taken a back seat in this entry, but it works. When comparing to Genysis, the character is handled with more respect and while he gets most of the laughs, he also got a lot of the emotional beats.

Finally, we have Gabriel Luna as the new Terminator, dubbed Rev-9. A metallic skeleton and morphing liquid metal – a mix between the T-800 and the T-1000. This iteration is neither as intimidating nor as iconic as Schwarzenegger or Robert Patrick (a hard feat to be fair), but the implementation of his dual Terminator was intense in parts and awesome to watch. I just wish they had squeezed a couple of more uses out of it.

Dark Fate feels like a call back to old-school 90’s action – which is over the top and stylised. While it attains the 15 rating in the UK, the violence feels only slightly over the 12a rating, typically cutting away or covering up any of the heavier moments of violence. Personally, I would have liked a bit more, but it didn’t leave me wanting too much, and I am not ever fully satisfied by the use of digital blood.

Terminator: Dark Fate surprised me. It has a well-trodden storyline but fills that storyline with cool (if overly CGI) action, funny quips, and occasional lines of cheese (there are two “I’ll be back” jokes!). It isn’t serious and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is more concerned with giving the viewers a good time. I spent the majority of the runtime, nodding away, as if someone made a good point that I was being won over by, and for the most part I had been. It won’t win over everyone, and it definitely won’t be as highly regarded, but this is a solid piece of entertainment which brought back that childlike imagination for big explosion, killer robots and apocalyptic futures.

 

Published by Aaron Bayne

I’m a film and video games journalist based in Scotland. I write stuff about them on my website, talk about them on my podcasts and film videos about them for BBC The Social.

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