A surprisingly good yet still pointless continuation in the Terminator franchise.
Terminator: Dark Fate is a movie that pretends that the last three films don’t exist and is a direct sequel to T2. This is a movie that I was excited for only because of director Tim Miller who was coming off of his success with Deadpool. If he hadn’t been announced as director the. I probably wouldn’t have had much interest in the movie. Unfortunately that comes down to the three lackluster films prior to this one. I will say though that I’m one of those few people that actually like Terminator: Salvation, but I also have never been much of a fan of the franchise. I didn’t rush out to see it so I finally got a chance to watch it with its digital release. I wasn’t sure what to expect because I have heard good things about it, but I’ve also seen some people put it on their “worst of 2019” lists. You could say that I went in pretty open minded.
Right off the top, I know film is subjective, but if you put this movie on your “worst of 2019” list then I have no idea what you’re thinking. This isn’t one of the best movies of the year, but it’s a pretty good movie. I can think of plenty of worse movies that you should put on your list before this one, but again, film is subjective so think what you will. It’s a fun action thriller that goes back to the roots of what made the first two so good. This also makes this movie the best Terminator movie since T2, but there’s still a big gap between them. At the very least it’s a fun movie that gets by, by not trying to be anymore than what it is.
Like The Force Awakens and Halloween (2018) it takes the idea of being a sequel/reboot of the series and does it very well. The downside is that it didn’t do well enough at the box office to warrant a sequel like the other two. This boils down a lot to the fact that the movie proves a point of there being nowhere to go for this series. It offers up a very similar storyline to that of the original film by giving us a new Sarah Connor like character and having her being integral to the apocalyptic future. It proves the point of the series not being relevant any longer because there’s nothing more you can really do that hasn’t been done already. With the other sequels, we’ve seen just about every angle of the franchise that we can think of.
T1, T2, and Dark Fate all give us the story of a Terminator coming from the future to kill characters in the past. Judgment Day and Genisys both give us the lead up to the apocalyptic future, and Salvation gives us the future war itself. Unless I’m just not thinking enough to find a story, there really isn’t anything they can do that hasn’t already been done which could be why the general audience has fallen off of the franchise. Dark Fate is a good movie for what it’s trying to do, but to be relevant it needed to do something different and I don’t think there was much it could have done. It’s a downside for the film as a whole that’s no fault of its own, but it’s a significant point that can’t be overlooked.
It does however make a point that I overlooked after watching it, but was enlightened by my buddy Connor who pointed out where I was wrong. This movie at first seems to show that there’s no point to any of the events happening considering Sarah stopped her apocalyptic future that still ended up leading to the same result just further in the future than originally intended. It seemed that no matter what, the machines rising above everyone was going to happen regardless. Connor pointed out though that there is a deeper meaning to it if you look at it closely enough. This movie makes a statement that defeating the machines in the past will not ultimately change the outcome of the future, but rather it proves that there’s more that needs to be done to fix the future.
If I’ve lost you already then I’ll break it down a little simpler. What it’s saying is comparable to something like climate change. You can do small things to change the near future, but it’s going to take massive changes in our culture to change the overall future rather than just prolonging when the endgame happens. This could be something that is explored in sequels, but since it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any then it really doesn’t matter at this point. My first assessment was that this movie did nothing new and honestly it doesn’t, but it does setup the possibility and reality of what these characters are doing is only a small slice of what needs to be changed. I would have been more interested in the creators embracing this point going forward into a sequel if we were to ever get one.
The biggest highlights for me weren’t just the new characters who were fantastic, but the two old characters played by their original actors, Linda Hamilton and Arnold. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work so much with Hamilton, but Arnold I had assumed would be fine given his appearance in Genisys. Both of them turned out to be my favorite parts of this movie. Hamilton as Sarah Connor was very reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween (2018). She was a badass who nailed the aged veteran. Arnold as the original Terminator also nails his performance and it was interesting to see this version of the character who over the years had no mission and actually evolved as a robot. Some people may not like the evolution of his character, but I think it worked and made perfect sense. An intelligent robot evolving into a compassionate and understanding character seems to be a logical route to take.
I was never really a fan of all of the Terminator’s having new abilities or powers in each new installment and this one fairs no different. The liquid metal kind of deal of course makes sense given how far advanced it is, but I do miss the old style robot that Arnold always was and kind of wish they could go back to that. With that in mind though, the visuals were impressive and as I said before, the action was awesome. From start to finish this movie really nails the action and never lets up off the pedal. Some movies you could say have too much action and this could easily be one of them, but I’d much rather see the continuous action in a story like this.
I also kind of really feel mixed about the whole enhanced human aspect. I mean it’s cool to see a half human half robot go toe to toe with a Terminator, but it also seems kind of pointless. I get that they wanted to have a connection between Mackenzie Davis’ character and Natalia Reyes’ character, but it really bugs me that Davis isn’t just a Terminator. With introducing the human evolution element for Arnold’s Terminator, I felt like maybe they could have done something similar for her but I’m not sure. I’m just kind of torn on whether to like the idea or not.
The final thing I’ll talk about is the actual direction of the film and visual style. I think Tim Miller was able to capture what made the originals so good and of course it helps that he was using similar plot points to make it work, but he was the first one to do it successfully since T2. I also absolutely loved his use of slow motion. It’s a very minor thing to think about, but he does it in a way where he doesn’t keep the slow motion going too long. He does it just enough for you to be like “hell yeah” and then the speed kicks right back to normal to complete the action piece. I applaud him for that and if I’m not mistaken, I believe this was used a few times in Deadpool, but I think he perfected it in this movie. He’s a very good action director and I applaud him for what he was able to do. I will say though that there was one specific part in the story that made me scratch my head a bit as to the logic. It’s when they decide to get onto the big cargo plane. I get that they were in the middle of being chased, but I feel like there were more problems made out of getting on the plane than they would’ve had if they just kept to the ground. It’s such a minor nitpick though.
Overall this movie is not a “best movie of the year” and it’s not a great movie, but it’s fun and enjoyable to just sit back and watch. It doesn’t bring anything new for the most part, but it does set itself up for potential sequels that could explore some interesting themes introduced in this movie. This is a movie that I think is far better than some make it out to be. It’s not a movie that I would recommend to anyone unless they’re already a fan of the series. It does a well enough job to appeal to old fans and new fans alike, but overall it doesn’t do enough to warrant everyone needing to go see it. I really enjoyed this movie and had a great time watching it. I wish I could see sequels from what was set up, but it won’t happen given its poor performance at the box office. It might be worth watching on TV or even at a cheap rental price.
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