Terminator: Dark Fate

Review by Matt Thrift @Matt_Cinephile

Directed by

Tim Miller

Starring

Arnold Schwarzenegger Linda Hamilton Mackenzie Davis

Anticipation.

Yu sor Genisys, ryte?

Enjoyment.

Computer, feed me entertainment product #3672-4

In Retrospect.

Hasta la vista, I guess.

New model, same result: Cameron, Schwarzenegger and Hamilton reunite for this serviceable belated sequel to T2.

Back in 2005, during his opening monologue for the Oscars, Chris Rock questioned the wisdom of the evening being referred to as the Night of a Thousand Stars, “There’s like four stars here, the rest of you are just popular people.” He was bemoaning the fact that there weren’t enough bona fide movie stars for the amount of films Hollywood was releasing each week, famously earning the ire of Sean Penn when he said, “If you can’t get a star… then wait! If you want Tom Cruise and all you can get is Jude Law… then wait! They’re not the same thing. Jah Rule isn’t the same as 2Pac!”

Tim Miller, director of the commercially successful Deadpool and now this sixth entry in the Terminator franchise, isn’t the same as James Cameron. If you want James Cameron and all you can get is Tim Miller…

Terminator: Dark Fate isn’t a good film, at least when held up against the clockwork precision of 1984’s The Terminator, or the rare, character-driven monolith of action staging that is its 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. It even pales in comparison to the affected navel-gazing of once-a-middleweight-contender Jonathan Mostow’s threequel from 2003, Rise of the Machines. But it’s a better film – maybe even a half-decent one – when compared to what came later: the feature-length video game cut-scene that is Terminator Salvation and the gibbering incoherence manifest in the very title of Terminator Genisys.

It’s a thoroughly contemporary blockbuster, fuelled by nostalgia, fan service and plastic CGI spectacle; a soft reboot that pays lip service to questions of illegal immigration, gender politics, worker obsolescence, and, in Mackenzie Davis’ augmented cyborg Grace, non-binary identification, without saying anything especially interesting about any of them.

Much has been made in promotional materials about the return of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor, a character of primal, protective, maternal instinct, here reduced to an angry alcoholic who really likes crisps. The title character fares little better, despite the ignominy of Gensisys’ ‘Pops’ – a degradation of the killing machine who once upon a time couldn’t be reasoned or bargained with – receiving an upgrade to a more benign ‘Carl.’ Still, upon introduction, Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is wearing cargo shorts, drolly monologuing on impotence and newfound domestic bliss in a sequence every viewer will have to wrestle with on their own.

Performances across the board are game and committed, with Davis and Hamilton evident standouts, but it’s hard to get too excited about a film that, while returning to the founding, chase-picture premise of the franchise, appears to have been algorithmically conceived and directed by an AI filmmaking-chip that somehow made it out of the Skynet lab back in 1991.

It says a lot about the current blockbuster landscape that we can call this numbingly satisfactory, over-the-counter dopamine hit the best film in the series since T2 and have that be good enough. Ultimately, Dark Fate is the T-800 model of the Terminator franchise; efficient and propulsive, but staring down the existential dilemma any self-respecting Terminator has to finally ask themselves in the grim the light of day: is it better to face up to obsolescence or just chug along as a Carl?

Published 24 Oct 2019

Tags: Arnold Schwarzenegger Linda Hamilton Mackenzie Davis Tim Miller

Anticipation.

Yu sor Genisys, ryte?

Enjoyment.

Computer, feed me entertainment product #3672-4

In Retrospect.

Hasta la vista, I guess.

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