Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Terminator: Dark Fate

The latest desperate attempt to breathe new life into the franchise is awkwardly inconsistent while pushing a laudable girl power message through a mine field of a plot that often blows up in the actors' faces. Knocking off John Connor in the pre-credit sequence (which apparently cures his mother's cancer?) creates a new timeline for Terminator: Dark Fate in which Skynet never rose but an almost identical artificial intelligence with time-travelling robots (lamely named Legion) comes to power. Set in the present, a Terminator (Gabriel Luna) and an enhanced soldier (Mackenzie Davis) are sent back in time. The target is a young woman (Natalia Reyes) who will grow to fill the void left by John's death.

Ignoring all events after T2, the new timeline allows for the return of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Skynet's final Terminator now passing for human. Although it earns points for removing Terminator Salvation from continuity, the brain-melting Dark Fate is inferior in every way to Rise of the Machines which remains the only Terminator movie that thought out the lasting ramifications of time travel.

Terminator: Dark Fate feels like a half-hearted reboot of a franchise even most casual fans have moved on from at this point. As if it wasn't obvious who Dani Ramos (Reyes) is a stand-in for this time around, the script makes Hamilton say it out loud. Repeatedly. Genisys may have been a mess, but at least it was fun. Aside from some impressive action sequences and the nostalgia of seeing two of the original stars back together on screen, there's almost nothing of interrest here.

Luna's dual-threat Terminator is visually interesting but the design isn't explained and doesn't really make much sense other than being "something new" (which in fact is just the combination of two other Terminators we've seen before), and Davis' cyborg, while better than what we got in Salvation (how could it not be), is a painful reminder the bad decisions which have haunted this franchise for decades. Dark Fate is a tedious affair that only further complicates one of the most screwed-up timelines of any movie franchise.

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