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MOVIE REVIEW: Spoilerific review and analysis of Terminator: Dark Fate

November 8th, 2019 by Andrew Comments

Terminator: Dark Fate is the sixth movie in the Terminator franchise, though it’s the first since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day to actively have the pedigree of the franchise’s creator James Cameron involved, this time as producer to Deadpool’s Tim Miller taking over directing duties.

To that end, Dark Fate is being advertised as the ‘true’ sequel to Judgment Day, ignoring the other sequels (T3: Rise Of The Machines, Salvation and Genisys) completely, and continuing on from the events of Sarah Connor destroying the Cyberdine building and – in a strange sense of irony – having her essentially acting as a terminator, wiping out the artificial intelligence Skynet before it can ever be created.

Before I get into it, I’m going to say this about Dark Fate: it’s not a terrible movie in its own right.

Tim Miller is a more-than-competent director. It’s above average in most departments, the cast do a decent job with their roles, it’s fairly well filmed and edited (with one or two exceptions – a big one being a sequence in a sunken humvee – yes, you read that right), but it’s a much better completed movie than many others made nowadays with as big a profile as it has. Were I giving it a rated review based on its own merits I would possibly give it around 4 out of 5 nerds on the Following The Nerd-ometer.

But…

This is a Terminator movie, and as mentioned, not just any Terminator movie – a direct sequel to T2 and with Cameron involved no less.

As such, it comes to the screen with certain expectations and history to live up to and to faithfully follow. I’ll get to why as this goes on, but because Terminator: Dark Fate has that responsibility, the best rating I can genuinely give it is 2 out of 5 Nerds.

Anyone who has been a fan of the series will likely know of the alternate ending to T2, which features an aged Sarah watching an middle-aged John playing with his own kids in a future free of the war against the machines and while that is not cannon, that two minute sequence has more of the spirit of the Terminator franchise in it than the whole of Dark Fate.

The movie’s opening features a very similar sequence, with a de-aged Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong as Sarah and John on a beach in 1998, a year after the Judgment Day they were told was coming on August 29th 1997 didn’t happen.

Another T-800 terminator, sent back at another time, enters the scene and achieves its mission, killing young John Connor and disappears, leaving a devastated Sarah kneeling over her son’s dead body.

This is the big hurdle that will make or break the movie for the audience.

The fact that the ‘saviour’ of the future who we as the audience have been led to believe in and hope for is disposed of in such a throwaway manner was something I had considered possible before seeing the movie – my mind made assumptions of such an event based on the trailers, but I hadn’t considered just how bad a decision it would be to actually make that a reality.

The discarded Terminator: Salvation supposedly had an ending where John Connor’s face, after being killed, was transplanted to the human Terminator Marcus to keep the hope alive in the resistance, but was scrapped because someone realised that it would be a major blow to the core belief of the audience.

Sadly, someone here didn’t get the memo: destroy an audience’s hope and you destroy their spirit… and their interest.

After this opening moment, the movie jumps years ahead to 2020 and begins again with Dani Ramos, a woman living in Mexico being saved from termination by a new terminator from the future, a REV-9, so called by her new protector Grace, an augmented human who has also travelled back to protect her.

When the s#@t hits the fan and it looks as if Grace is about to fail her mission, an even more hardened Sarah turns up and helps, describing herself as a Terminator hunter.

So far, so typical – we’ve seen/heard most of this story before in the first movie – and Sarah even identifies with Dani, noting she once ‘was her’ and that it sucks to be so.

The characterisation works well enough for Sarah, but as she learns from Grace (who has never even heard of the name Skynet) of another AI named Legion, Sarah goes from a cynical ‘You’re not a threat, it’s your womb’ to ‘She IS John’ when she learns that Dani is the future leader of a resistance and foster mother to Grace.

So whereas the first Terminator movie found motherhood a strength with Kyle Reese describing Sarah’s future strengths while she questioned being the ‘mother of the future’, we’ve now gone to a negative stance on parenthood – when they had everything they needed to have Grace make Dani’s maternal strengths as her adoptive mother who raised her an important message of the movie.

It’s a small thing, yet so big and important to movies like the original two movies

In T2 when Sarah is hell-bent on killing Miles Dyson she comments on the importance of life, of feeling a life growing as opposed to the destruction of death – there is none of that here.

Then we have Arnold’s character, the T-800 who killed John, but after 20 years as a paternal figure and caring for an adopted family, has ‘grown a conscience’ over what he took from Sarah, so he had been sending her texts with details of arriving terminators to give her a sense of purpose. He is perhaps given the more interesting character development, but again the paternal element is not used to its full effect, more for humour (though not as bad as the T-800’s social shortcomings were in T3).

There’s also a perceptable level of ‘wokeness’ in the movie, with the dynamic of the three female characters for half the movie fighting off a male Terminator. While I do not subscribe so much to the whole ‘woke’ element, I mention it because I certainly couldn’t help but notice it at times throughout the movie. Others online have covered it in far more detail than I could, so seek them out at your peril, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go on the matter.

Overall, as said previously, Dark Fate is not a terrible movie, it’s just a terrible Terminator movie. To be honest, I would have more easily been able to swallow it had it been a total reboot. Nostalgia, baggage, whatever you call it, it weighs this movie down. A lot.

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Co-host of the Monday Movie Show, Andrew is a huge movie fan who is into all sorts of things movie related, as well as a fan of all things nerd. In his spare time he likes to work at script writing, that is when he's not spending it on something movie or nerd related!