There is a lot to admire in ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’, perhaps the most admirable quality is the idea (seldom brought to fruition) to do something different.
Yet even in the best of delayed sequels like ‘Creed’, ‘Max Max: Fury Road’ and ‘The Force Awakens,’ while you might see a lot of new dance moves, you realise they’re still playing that same old song that we love. That is true here in a film that is not nearly as good as those previously mentioned.
We’ll avoid plot spoilers but essentially this is a chase movie, a saviour figure is targeted by a Terminator and offered a protector or two. There is a fresh coat of paint in the form of moving the action to Mexico City, a new type of villain, a new type of protector and a new future that they come from.
All intriguing at first, until you realise none of the ideas are going to be developed further. There is a theme about fate being inevitable and how we choose to respond to that having meaning, but you’d be hard pressed to see beyond that.
The performances from Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna as the new characters are fine, but you don’t really care about them. Not the way you do about Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 and Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Connor.
Arnie plays an interesting riff here on his iconic role and it makes you really hope ‘King Conan’ is around the corner but this film belongs to Linda. She is acid-tongued, emotionally wounded, stoic and compelling as ever as her most famous character. The picture is trading off her triumphant return, but provides a compelling case to have her on our screens more often and in better movies.
As an action film there is way too much CGI and a poor colour palette. Everything feels fake and cartoonish compared to the gritty location night shooting of the original and the amazing stunt work in ‘T2’. Still, there is energy to spare in proceedings from director Tim Miller (‘Deadpool’), and you feel the relentlessness of this new Rev-9 Terminator. As a design, the capabilities and look of the Rev-9 are the most interesting since the T-1000.
Co-writer Josh Friedman made the best follow-up to ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ with TV show ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’, but as far as movies go this is probably the best second sequel we ever got.
Not a high bar to clear, and a reminder yet again for Hollywood to not go back to the well.
Since they did though, it is nice to note ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is not nearly as bad as it could be and we all know what that is from hard experience.