Terminator: Dark Fate Review: There couldn’t be a better subtitle.

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Colin Campbell, Staff writer

The “Terminator” franchise has some of the best films of all time and some of the worst films of the recent decade. The story overall wasn’t meant to be anywhere near the cluster of trash it is now, and it only really exists for the sake of existing. “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a continuation of that trash. “Deadpool” director Tim Miller’s crack at this dying franchise is nothing special, and although it’s better than “Terminator Genisys,” it’s not that much better. 

 

Note: spoilers for “The Terminator,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and very minor spoilers for “Terminator: Dark Fate.”

 

Before “terminating” this movie with it’s many flaws and problems, it would be good to look at it’s pros and discuss what it got right, like the opening special effects that de-age the T-800, Sarah and John to almost lifelike degrees. This is the only good instance of special effects in this movie, but it’s so good that it made me genuinely confused at first on whether or not it was an outtake from the previous films or a computer animated scene. 

 

Performances were okay. Arnold Schwarzenegger still nails it as the T-800, and Linda Hamilton did a pretty good job as Sara Connor after nearly 30 years of absence from the role. Mackenzie Davis as Grace was definitely the strongest in terms of performance in comparison to the other newcomers but still didn’t compare to the already established characters.

 

The film adapts the conflict of “Terminator” pretty well to modern life. There are numerous scenes that demonstrate the overreliance on technology by humans, further reenforcing the vulnerability humanity will have to Skynet, or as it’s now called Legion, when the robots attack.

 

Additionally, there were certain parts of the movie that were really smart, like how multiple terminators were sent to different timelines from Skynet with the intent to kill John Connor, explaining why Skynet terminators still are appearing even though their future was wiped out in “T2.” Another is how several characters like Sarah Conner not using cell phones often because they can be tracked, and hiding them in potato chip bags because the foil inside hides phone activity.

 

The idea of having an enhanced human with terminator technology like what they did with Grace is intriguing. Like previous movies, Marcus (Sam Worthington) from “Terminator Salvation” was an experiment of what a human-like terminator would be like from Skynet. Grace was willingly augmented to fight for the resistance and along with super strength and reflexes has a modified metabolism that allows her to quickly transition into a heated rage to further enhance her already enhanced abilities and take down her opponent but resulting in her overheating and losing large portions of energy. In order to survive, she must pump herself specifically with injections of drugs that she only has a small amount of, therefore there are genuine stakes to the plot besides protecting the saviour of humanity. 

 

Unfortunately, the rest of the film isn’t very good and is blatantly nothing more than a bad “Terminator 2” sequel like every other new movie in this dying series.

 

The new characters aren’t very good. Grace, played by Mackenzie Davis, can be kind of a jerk at times. uch of her dialogue is snarky and disingenuous to the people around her. She also has a few moments that are clearly put in as political statements and nothing more. There’s one moment where she escapes from an ICE facility and asking “where are the prisoners” and the ICE officer says “they’re detainees” to which Grace corrects her saying they’re prisoners. The issue isn’t that these moments are in here, but it’s that they are so forced and out of context with everything else happening that it’s just blatantly shoving politics in the viewer’s face when there is no need or desire for it. This is a “Terminator” movie about robots time traveling to kill important future people, not a social justice statement. The Dave Cullen Show gives an in-depth analysis of “Terminator: Dark Fate” and it’s political motivations, and is recommended for those interested in that aspect of the film.

 

Danielle Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is basically the new John Connor, as she’s supposed to lead the resistance against Legion in the apocalypse. All she really does is yell, run around, and contribute very little useful actions at the end, that’s it. She willingly puts herself in danger multiple times knowing she is important and that her survival is crucial, and takes no consideration towards the many people risking their lives for her. In the future, she isn’t a very believable resistance leader either. The only difference between Dani and future Dani is the fact that she now has cornrows for some reason. How she convinces people to join the resistance is also dumb. Her “inspirational” reasoning behind combating Legion is the fact that Legion was built by humans so it can be beaten. That logic is so basic that literally anyone can put two and two together to come to that conclusion. Natalia Ramos’ acting doesn’t help much either, as it’s so dry and effortless that it doesn’t feel like she or anyone else working on this film even cared. The writing in combination with the casting and broken logic make her nothing special, and it’s almost impossible to care for such a basic and barebones character. 

 

Finally, there’s the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). The Rev-9 is basically the T-1000 from “T2” played by Robert Patrick. Having ability to take the appearance of others the way previous terminators were presented were done with a sense of purpose as they were meant to imitate intimidating figures. The T-800 used strongman Arnold Schwarzeneggar as a biker-like character, a strong burly man in sunglasses and a leather jacket with unrivaled endurance and strength. The T-100 in “T2” wasn’t physically intimidating, but was in the uniform of a police officer as cops can add a sense of oversight and surveillance to a situation. Even “Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines” somewhat understood this by intentionally making the T-X an attractive woman. It wasn’t just their ability to have power as a robot but also power as a normal human. The Rev-9 is just an everyman that honestly looks like Pee-Wee Herman. Especially considering the baffling and overused CGI that remove any sense of tangibility from the character, the Rev-9 isn’t an intimidating or threatening antagonist at all. Like with Dani, writing, casting , and broken logic ruin this character. 

 

The CGI is terrible, especially when compared to the opening section’s computer de-aged actors or the “Terminator 2” blend of practical effects and computer generated effects to create a sense of reality. The best, or rather worst, examples of this is with the Rev-9. The following infographic demonstrates the clear difference between the poor and obvious effects of Dark Fate’s antagonist, the Rev-9, and the antagonist of T2, the T-1000.

 

Finally, there is the narrative. This film’s narrative has little to criticize because it takes every major element within it from every other “Terminator” film, mainly from T1 and 2. There really isn’t any attempt to do anything new and it’s boring to anyone who has already seen the previous films. On its own, it’s still boring and dull as the characters are borderline unlikeable, the story in of itself feels basic and incomplete, and it’s logic is so inconsistent it’s infuriating. There’s a scene where the characters are fighting on the open back part of a military plane they stole, yet despite the altitude and wind speed in which they are at, for some reason they aren’t flying off to their deaths. There’s no specific time limit for how long Grace can last without the drugs she needs to survive. Sometimes she can last what seems to be in the film two hours and other times it can seem like she can last a day. How does the resistance in the future know where the T-800 is in modern day? How come the T-800 has aged skin, grey hair, and a beard when it has synthetic human tissue? Why does Grace need specific types of drugs to survive? There is no real answer to any of these and they just poke holes in the hollow shell of a plot this film has.

 

This should be the last “Terminator” movie. This franchise should have died with the T-800 at the end of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Although it is great to see Linda Hamilton back at it again as Sarah Connor and Arnie returning as the T-800, in the end this is just beating a dead horse with a barbed wire bat. “Terminator: Dark Fate” has the perfect subtitle, because there couldn’t be anything else to describe the state of this franchise.

 

Final Rating: D-