Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

The cover to the Australian 4K steelbook release.

Film: Movie trends come and go.

Fifty years ago, every second film was a western, and apart from an occasional uprising, it’s essentially a dead genre. In the late 1990s/ early 2000s, remakes of j-horror were all the rage. At the moment, it seems that ‘forgetting’ is the new genre.

This review is being written in 2022, and for the past few years, the dumping of the stories from either sequels or ‘expanded universe’ have been flushed down the toilet to create NEW histories of characters. Disney basically dumped all the Star Wars expanded universe stuff to replace it with their own (occasionally awful) new tales, the Halloween series had dumped the entire story from Halloween II on (thereby Michael and Laurie are no longer related) and here with the Terminator series, all the disappointing and convoluted sequels after T2 has been thrown away.

On first hearing this, I didn’t think it was such a bad idea as long as some new, high sci-fi concepts were brought to the table, and it wasn’t, like in Disney’s Star Wars case, an excuse to sell more toys.

Now I actually expected this to have some decent pedigree. I had read that David S. Goyer was writing, and I was quite thrilled by that. Obviously he’s know for his work on Chris Nolan’s Batman films, as well as the Blade films and even a couple of Call of Duty video games, which I’m particularly fond of. This excitement was tempered slightly by the SIX other writers who worked on the film! Too many cooks, and all that.

The film is director by animator Tim Miller, who directed the first Deadpool film, and a couple of episodes of the magnificent Love, Death + Robots, so at the very least you know the effects might make up for any shortcomings on the script written by multiple writers!

Grace (Mackenzie Davis) lines up the Terminator for a spearing

So, forget every film of the Terminator, and the TV series, and the comics because we are in the fast train to reboot city!

Terminator Dark Fate starts, quite simply, several years ago with the Terminators finishing their mission from Terminator 2, and shooting the Hell out of a CGI version of John Conner (a CGI version of Edward Furlong) in front of his mother, Sarah (a CGI version of Linda Hamilton).

Flash forward to now, and two visitors from the future have returned with a new mission. One, a new and different Terminator unit called the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) here to kill Dani (Natalia Reyes), a future leader of the human resistance, and the other is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an augmented super soldier sent back to protect her.

Grace has her work cut out for her because the new terminator is two terminators in one, and they will definitely need help for her survival. That help comes in the form of a much older Sarah Conner, who has been receiving mysterious messages, telling her when other Terminators will be dropping through time. These messages eventually lead our ragtag team back to a surviving T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who also agrees to help then…

The Rev-9 in all its glory!

… and then it’s on like Donkey Kong!

Certainly this film does that ‘thing’ that sequels need to do: get the one up from the episode before. In this we don’t have a terminator helping the good guys, we have a character in Grace who is both human, and yet half-a-terminator. In a world where our heroes that appeal to the general audience have super powers, this is both fashionably on point and ridiculous. Why ridiculous? Well, the bad guy has to be an amped up threat as well, and in this case we have a combination of almost all the terminators, but added together, and they can separate into both a T-800 and a T-1000.

It’s got a couple of problems though. It feels like Star Wars The Force Awakens insomuch as it’s a remake that expands a story. The entire film hits all the same beats as T2 and each act rings of familiarity, just like TFA did, or like the ‘remake’/ ‘prequel’ of John Carpenter’s The Thing that came out in 2011. The story itself is also a little daft: Skynet was still destroyed and didn’t become sentient, but mankind during a world war created an AI that ended up doing the same thing: it’s just really ham fisted and awkward.

There’s some dumb stuff too: for example, the new Terminator can tap into into any camera in the world… seemingly even those not on a computer or attached to a network? That some dumb video game crap. The convenience of how Sarah Conner knew where terminators were dropping through time was an example of rotten time-loopers too.

I will say, at least it’s not a multiverse.

I will say there is a couple of moments of comedy that the cast nailed.

Mostly, the CGI and special effects, as well as the fight choreography, are amazing, with some fight scenes that are just spectacular. However there are a couple of scenes that just don’t quite look too solid, and it’s due to the physics of movement: if you watch the film you’ll know them when you see them, and they are mainly around the Rev-9.

There are some positive: the cast are pretty great. Luna is an absolute freak as far as his speed and performance is concerned, and Davis is an emotionally delicate butt-kicker who I’d like to see as a new female action hero. Reyes’ growth throughout the film is believable, though her performance as the current day, wide-eyed victim doesn’t ring so true when she’s supposed to be the butt-kicking leader from the future. Hamilton and Schwarzenegger and the comfortable shoes that put the whole thing together and give it a nostalgia kick so you’ll be prepared to give it a chance.

Mainly my problem is why does it exist? What’s the point? The story offers NOTHING new, and I’d like to say is basically worthless, but there are some elements that are pretty good, but they are to do with performance, effects and direction, rather than story.

Disappointing.

Score: **

The menu screen

Extras: As it’s a 4K edition, it comes with both a 4K disc and a second bluay as well. The second disc is where the extras are hidden:

There are 6 deleted and extended scenes and typically, whilst some are cool, they are basically unnecessary.

A Legend Reforged looks at the rebooting of the story, and how James Cameron managed to get the original stars back, and combine them with the people who will advance the series. It’s fairly interesting but the fact that ALL the cast and crew consistently use the term ‘franchise’ made me think that perhaps they were coached into getting the viewers to accept there will be more.

World builders is a behind the scenes look at the effects and the locations.

Dam Busters: The Final Showdown discusses the third act of the film, and it’s dam location.

VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly breaks down all the elements of a CGI- heavy scene from the film.

Honestly I don’t know why all the extras weren’t just edited together into a feature-length behind the scenes! Still, they were a pretty good watch.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: No.

Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) offers advice to Grace

This film was reviewed using the Australian 4K HD