Movie review: 'Terminator: Dark Fate' has failed the franchise

Fred Hawson

Posted at Oct 31 2019 11:58 AM

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in 'Terminator: Dark Fate'

The "Terminator" franchise had been going strong since the first film debuted in 1984. It is about a future where the world is taken over by machines under Skynet, and human John Connor leads a resistance movement against them. Skynet sends an android assassin called the Terminator back to the past to kill John Connor's mother Sarah to prevent him from being born. The subsequent films in the series would follow the same basic formula of Skynet sending Terminators back in time to alter history to their favor. For me, only the first two films really mattered, the next three were forgettable. 

From the year 2042 (a future where Skynet and John Connor never existed), a technically enhanced human soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis in a breakthrough performance) was sent by the Resistance back to the year 2020 to protect a young Mexican woman named Dani (a bland Natalia Reyes) from an advanced Terminator called the Rev-9 (an even blander Gabriel Luna). Just when the Rev-9 was getting the upper hand, Sarah Connor appeared to rescue them. With the Rev-9 hot on their heels, the three women crossed the border into Texas to locate Sarah's source of information about Terminator arrivals. 

The very beginning of this sixth film followed the events of "T2" in 1998. In this version, the young John Connor was successfully killed by the T-800 assassin, and Skynet never was. So, this is yet another attempt at a franchise reboot like "Terminator Genisys," for which the planned sequels had been shelved because of poor box-office performance. Here in "Dark Fate," the filmmakers went further into the future, creating yet another AI aggressor called Legion, and the another human resistance fighting against it. 

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Despite the exhilarating action CG-enhanced sequences of "Dark Fate," everything felt oddly tired and rehashed and unsatisfying. Even the Rev-9 terminator was not too much of an advancement over the Academy Award winning liquid metal T-1000 which amazed us back in "T2." Its current innovation of being able to split into an exterior and its black endoskeleton was not as visually impressive. What's worse was this Rev-9 seemed deficient in hand-to-hand fighting skills, especially apparent when he went one-on-one against Grace, only to be saved by its ability to regenerate -- lame.

I felt the best thing about this film was the nostalgia factor of bringing Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger back together onscreen again in their iconic characters as Sarah Connor and T-800. Despite looking very much older, Hamilton still somehow projected the strength and fire for which remember her Sarah Connor best for. Schwarzenegger attempted to be the comic relief at first when we first see him as domesticated Carl, but of course he would also figure in big action scenes before the film ended. 

However, by deciding to lose John Connor early on in this one made the emotional heart of the first two classic Terminator films stop beating as well.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."