A welcome attempt that fails to break the time-loop of a classic movie franchise..
An unlikely hero must evade cyborgs from the future with the help of an unapologetic augmented human and an angry veteran of the past to become the leader of humanity.
Terminator: Dark Fate is the latest and sixth installment in a movie franchise spanning twenty years. It marks the return of franchise veterans Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sarah Conner and the T-800 Terminator, respectfully. The movie follows Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) and her protector Grace (Mackenzie Davis) as they both attempt to evade the new Terminator from a new future, the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). With the help of Sarah, the group search for a way to change their fate and stop Judgment Day from happening.
The Terminator franchise, despite being what is essentially pop culture royalty seems to be caught in a time-loop of its own making. The latest iteration of the six-movie franchise and what is fundamentally a soft-reboot, disregarding the movies after Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Terminator: Dark Fate repackages the previous installments while pushing for a pleasantly contemporary spin to the narrative. Coupled with the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the titular Cyberdyne Systems, Model 101, or to his friends the T-800. Together, the movie creates an interesting dynamic with newcomers Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) while adding onto the world of Terminators with the addition of the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). However, the movie is trapped in both elevating the new characters and doing “justice” to the old.
The movie begins with some archive footage from the previous film cutting to a relatively short but impressionable “action sequence” with classic terminators rising from the beach and firing on what is assumed to be the resistance. Then the movie fades to a triumphant and de-aged Sarah Connor with her son, John relaxing on a beach in Livingston, Guatemala. Unfortunately, fate, as they say, is a cruel mistress, and a model T-800 Terminator successfully finds and terminates (get it?) John in front of an incapacitated Sarah and leaves. But, not before he turns to Sarah and says, “I told you I’d be back.” Okay, that last part he didn’t say, but he very well could have given how jarring the careless killing of the previous protagonist, possibly foreshadowing how the movie will depict the legacy characters from the earlier films (more on that later).
Fast-forward to 22 years to a wet highway overpass in Mexico City. Suddenly, an orb crackling with electricity appears and drops Grace, later revealed to be an augmented resistance soldier from the future, from 150 feet (45m) in the air to the ground. A nearby couple attempts to help her, but then the police arrive and arrest the couple. As the officers try to capture Grace, a tactical interface triggers, and she dispatches them through non-lethal yet brutal takedowns; she then escapes but not before taking some clothes from the couple and their car. The quick and brutal action sequence is tightly edited and choreographed well. Usually, what comes with a quick action sequence comes even faster cuts in between. However, the scene focuses on “action and reaction” with the cut only made on the action and the subsequent cut starting on the reaction.
In complete contrast to the one-woman kicking machine, Dani Ramos, the protagonist, is an ally to the community and provider to her family, her brother, Diego (Diego Boneta) and ailing father Vicente (Enrique Arce). As the siblings go to work, an orb crackling with electricity appears and drops the Rev-9, a Terminator, sent to eliminate Dani learning her location from her father. It’s worth noting that Gabriel Luna‘s rendition of a Terminator that is seemingly the same model from Terminator 2: Judgement Day is spot-on, especially how quickly he switches from a disarmingly friendly smile to a blank, blink less, expression all in the same scene.
Dani and Diego arrive at the factory with Grace and the Rev-9 in the form of Dani‘s father close behind. Still, the Terminator finds Dani; Grace quickly shoots the Rev-9 revealing an exoskeleton underneath. The Terminator immediately catches up with the group, and he and Grace engage with some good old-fashioned blade arms to sledgehammer combat. The same principles during Grace‘s first melee scene with the police are put into action here, with a bonus of beautiful longer takes with even tighter edits.
The chase eventually ends up on the freeway with some crazy aerobatics involving steel rods. During the battle, the Rev-9 spawns Gabriel Luna, albeit a liquid form ala Terminator 2. It’s one of the visually fluid, pun intended transitions that not only combine the same ideas of the main antagonists from Terminator 1 and 2 but add a new and refreshing take to the liquid metal form that fans will appreciate.
Unfortunately for the group, the Rev-9 stops them, killing Diego in the process and cornering Dani and Grace. Fortunately for the two, Sarah Conner shows up in all her shotgun glory and mows down both the Rev-9 and Gabriel with explosives, after a misunderstanding and a stolen station wagon, the three escape and hide out in a motel. The movie then slows down to deliver some well-needed exposition on where Sarah has been for the past two decades, who Grace is, and what replaced the genocidal AI from the previous movies. While those questions are answered, the film seems preoccupied with elevating Grace as the leader of the group with Sarah belittled and criminally underwritten in most of their dialogue exchanges. Dani, on the other hand, switches allegiances from Grace to Sarah, depending on the situation with only a hint of personal character motivation. The movie doesn’t pick up until the introduction of the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger )that initially killed John, and even then, the film gets bogged down, with the exposition acting as a waiting room until the next beautifully edited and visually stimulating action sequence.
Terminator: Dark Fate sports some of the most exciting and intricate action sequences and, unlike its previous installments after Terminator 2, move the franchise forward in the contemporary with the introduction of Dani and Grace. Along with bringing back legacy characters, Linda Hamilton and Arnold, as well as the outstanding acting of Gabriel Luna, push the movie towards more than a soft reboot but a continuation of the Terminator franchise.
Alas, however, the movie suffers from the same “passing of the mantle” cliché other big pop culture franchises do as it desperately sells us on the new protagonists through moments of numbing exposition and unnecessary conflict between the old and new. By the movie’s end, there is some degree of connection with Grace and Dani with their motivations bringing well-needed context to their actions; however, it arrives too late to make a difference.
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, Enrique Arce
Director: Tim Miller
Distributor: Paramount Pictures (North America) / 20th Century Fox (International)
Genre: Action / Adventure / Sci-Fi
Runtime: 2 hr. 8 min.
Official Website: http://www.paramountmovies.com/movies/terminator-dark-fate
Official Social Media Pages:
IMDB Page: @Terminator_Dark_Fate
Wiki Link: @Terminator:_Dark_Fate
Joseph Mason | Writing Contributor
B.A. | TV, Film, & Media | Cal State Univ – Los Angeles The human being formally known as Ernesto Camacho IV is a student from California State University Los Angeles with love for the simple things in life: 90s pop culture fandoms, character/world-building, and pondering the intricacies of the galaxy. During the start of his academic tenure before transferring, Joseph wrote and hosted for the campus news program developing and crafting concise news/event scripts as quickly as humanly possible in various formats and mediums. During his off time, Joseph produced and co-hosted podcasts focusing on a variety of topics, from entertainment industry news to video games and even nature of fandoms themselves. When he is not pouring endless hours into the latest video game, he is writing or planning his next writing project. Passionate, collaborative, and somewhat eccentric, Joseph Mason dreams of being part of the entertainment industry in a creative capacity, be it through editing, writing, or physical productions, in the meantime, he strives to be the best human he can be. Instagram: @xenpixel || View My Articles
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