Let’s face facts: most people have given up on the Terminator property by now. There have been more duds than hits under the Terminator banner at this point, with the last three films in the series having truly tested the mettle of its fans. We’re repeatedly told before every release in the once-iconic franchise that “this one is the one”, only to get the critically savaged Terminator: Salvation and the franchise low of the annoyingly-spelled Terminator: Genisys.
Skepticism is warranted once again with the arrival of a new entry, even if some mild excitement can decry from the fact that this sixth installment is the first since Terminator 2: Judgement Day to have creator James Cameron involved in a creative capacity. Terminator: Dark Fate, imagined as a direct follow-up to T2, ignores all the other entries and reveals that Judgement Day was not the final chapter in the war between machines and mankind. It brings back franchise stalwarts Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and a bearded Arnold Schwarzenegger as a legacy Terminator, who are faced with an advanced shape-shifting killer from the future (Gabriel Luna), out to claim the life of saviour-in-waiting, Dani (Natalia Reyes). Also along for the ride is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced future fighter who’s firmly on Team Dani.
Beyond the nostalgia casting fix, it’s worth noting that the creative team behind Dark Fate is solid, with Deadpool’s Tim Miller in the director’s chair, and for the first half-hour, there’s the suspicion he may have pulled it off. Indeed, Terminator: Dark Fate wastes no time in effectively getting the ball rolling, and the pace established isn’t half bad. Mackenzie Davis is terrific and helps keep things fresh for a while, as does the acerbic Sarah Connor, reminding everyone what a formidable screen presence Hamilton is. However, some early signs of shoddy CGI, repetitive sequences we’ve seen done better as well as groan-worthy dialogue rapidly take their toll, leaving Miller and Co. with a familiar hide-chase-smash flick that takes very few risks and feels like an amped-up mash-up of Terminator and T2. To say it’s the best Terminator film since T2 isn’t inaccurate: it’s far more enjoyable than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys, all of which made you consider whether or not to side with the machines just so it would all be over sooner. And we are spared the limited acting ranges of Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney this time around. But that still doesn’t make it a worthy successor to the originals. Time to finally stop hitting the reset button and pull the plug on the ailing franchise once and for all.
Terminator: Dark Fate | Directed by Tim Miller (US, 2019), with Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis. Starts Oct 24.
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