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Review – Terminator : Dark Fate

T2 Meets #MeToo

The Terminator franchise has had a lot of ups and downs over the years, ok ok more downs than ups since T2 : Judgement Day. However original film director James Cameron is back as producer on this new film and has recruited Linda Hamilton from retirement and got the actual Arnie back for a direct sequel to the second film with an alternative timeline to try and be relevant to the #MeToo era. Instead of offering a great continuation of the story, we are lumped with a rehash of the second film with some new actors and the old ones hanging around still clinging to cultural relevance. What could have been a fresh start for the franchise instead has turned into a disappointing entry that will easily be forgotten in the slew of end of year releases headed our way in the next 2 months.

The story revolves around Dani (Natalie Reyes) a factory worked in Mexico who is targeted by a new version of Terminator, a Rev-9 played by Gabriel Luna sent back in time to kill her. All hope is not lost as Grace (Mackenzie Davis) an augmented human soldier is also sent back in time to protect her. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. . .After their first clash the party is well and truly crashed with the re-emergence of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who conveniently knows where they are and deals a devastating blow to the Rev-9 allowing the trio to get away. Together the 3 women must figure out how to destroy the new Terminator and save Dani to save the future resistance.

What let this movie down is the story and the script. Re-hashing the second film for a new generation was not a great idea and long time fans of the series will be thoroughly disappointed with what they are offering up here. If this is your first time with a Terminator film then this will be all new to you and if you don’t know any previous canon you will enjoy the action scenes (even if there are WAY too many of them!) and the three female leads are intriguing. Having three female leads was a great idea however having a total of 8 men as the writers for this film didn’t help. Blatant pandering dialogue like “You’re not the mother of a man who will save the world, you are the WOMAN who will save the world” is truly vomit inducing and does nothing to help sell the premise. For long time fans of the franchise the all too familiar story with old faces may seem like enough to keep your attention but after the fourth and fifth confrontation with the Rev-9 in a different location with the same outcome, it wares extremely thin. If there was a solid story and great script then this lacklustre action could easily be forgiven, however the lack of all of these doesn’t help maintain your attention.

Where the film does exceed is the performances from each actor. Reyes is outstanding as the lead character thrust into the unknown forced to make a decision about what she will do and what she will stand for as her whole existence is questioned. Veteran actors Hamilton and Schwarznegger slip back into these roles effortlessly. Hamilton portrays a completely broken version of Connor, one who has so much dealt her way in terms of grief and suffering, her badass shell of a human being makes her character so interesting you want to know more about what has happened to her and how she ended up here. Schwarznegger is definitely having fun this time around. His character has evolved into semi-consciousness and seeing him as a family man married, with a child (obviously not biologically his!) and a business installing drapes provides some of the best comedic parts of the film. Mackenzie Davis is the MVP of the film. She absolutely nails the part of Grace, an enhanced soldier who needs to protect Dani while also still able to establish her character as having her own identity. She is incredibly strong and superhero like but also has a soft feminine side that she isn’t afraid to show. When Hamilton and Davis go head to head in their quest to protect Dani the tension and ferocity of their ambitions showcase the best of their respective characters.

Effects wise this film is also a bit of a mixed bag. There are times when the special effects are incredible, anytime Luna and Davis go head to head in battle and the exo skeleton from the Terminator separates into goo making two enemies to batte is a joy to watch. Regrettably the same cannot be said for other parts of the film where there is a lot happening on screen. In particular an opening scene with Terminator’s rising out of the ocean is lazily put together and doesn’t look great. There is also a scene on a dam that is shot at night with a lot of water and is really muddy and detracts from the performances from the actors. The level of detail on Grace when her skin gets grazed and her robot parts are exposed look great via make up and practical effects.

This film could have been the birth of a new wave of Terminator films that followed a timeline to wave in a new batch of fans while pleasing old ones. Regrettably what we got was a remix of T2 with a splash of #MeToo. The visual effects are sketchy at times and the story and script are extremely weak. The whole thing could have just been a complete walk out if not for the outstanding performances from each of the cast who are doing the best with what they have been given. Hamilton is able to deliver an older and broken version of Sarah Connor that can go head to head with Mackenzie Davis’s Grace. If not for these elements this would be a complete waste of time. If you can stomach the story and script, it is worth sitting through for the performances alone.

Terminator : Dark Fate is in cinemas now.

Review by Alaisdair Leith.

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