Near-Terminated franchise makes decent comeback (Terminator: Dark Fate)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day has long been one of my favourite films. Its action, its emotion and its CGI are all stunning for its age, and upon countless re-watches it still holds up as one of the greatest films ever made. The team behind Terminator: Dark Fate clearly noticed that, and decided to try duplicating that film. What’s left is a fairly enjoyable action flick with none of the flair of the originals.

It’s a well-established fact that all the Terminator sequels after T2 are UTTER garbage. They totally lose track of what the franchise was, and Schwarzenegger’s evermore caricatured approach made the films laughably bad. This time, Dark Fate does what everyone else has been doing for years, and pretends that none of the sequels ever happened. This film is a direct sequel to Judgement Day, and therefore automatically sets itself up in a much better place that ‘Rise of the Machines’, ‘Salvation’ and ‘Genisys’ (genuinely how it’s spelt, don’t ask me why).

Ready for a confusing plot synopsis? Hope you’re sitting down!

25 years after the events of Judgement Day stopped the original future from happening, an advanced Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent back from the new future to hunt down someone in the new present who will become instrumental in the toppling of these new machines. Another Cyborg (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back from this new future to protect them from the first new bad Terminator, all while original pasts Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) tags along for an exciting ride. Sounds familiar? Yeah, this film is literally just T2 but with less Schwarzenegger and a more confused timeline.

It is very refreshing that this is a $185 Million Dollar action film with three female leads. However, what is more refreshing is that nothing is ever made of that fact. It’s not like Oceans 8 or Charlies Angels where it’s all about girl power and using sex to beat the villains. This is just three great characters who stand up against the villain.

Linda Hamilton makes a very welcome return to the franchise, and her cynical alcoholic portrayal of Sarah Connor provides a lot of laughs. However, she also gets to wield some hefty guns, and it’s in these scenes that she seems to be having the most fun. Mackenzie Davis plays Grace, a soldier from 2042 who has become an advanced cyborg with all the emotions of a human but the cut-throat abilities of a Terminator. Davis is superb in this role, blending the coldness of Arnold with the warmth of a versatile actor. Natalia Reyes also stars as Daniella, the woman targeted by the new Terminator, although I never felt that she was given as good a role as Hamilton got when she was in that situation in earlier films.

Obviously, you’ve seen that Arnold is back, but be warned that he is not the main focus of the film. His role is important but reduced, and he does actually bring something new to his performance. New Terminator Gabriel Luna is also exciting, if repetitive, but doesn’t come close to the steely-faced Robert Patrick in T2.

The CGI work in this film, astonishingly, is shakier that the 1991 film. Some effects, like the de-ageing that occurs at the start of the film, is fantastic. However, human motion was a key issue, and a lot of the Terminators were moving in very weird ways that felt unnatural and unrealistic. The action in the film is exciting, and is aided by a great electronic score by Junkie XL, but all of the set pieces feel a little too much like style over substance. Just because it’s big and loud, doesn’t mean it’s satisfying.

Overall, this film is an enjoyable but unneeded return to the Terminator world. The characters are interesting, with Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor being the most welcome addition, but the story is too unoriginal to be exciting. As thrills go, it works, but as a sequel to T2, it inevitably falls flat.

5 stars 3

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