Saturday, 2 November 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate ★★★☆☆

Critics and audiences across the globe have been referring to Terminator: Dark Fate as ‘the franchise’s best sequel since Judgment Day’. Considering how abysmal all the films since T2 have been, this isn’t exactly a tall order. Hell, The Boss Baby was better than Terminator 3, Salvation and Genisys. But in all seriousness, Dark Fate is absolutely the best since T2 and actually feels like the Terminator 3 we’ve always needed. This is entirely due to series creator James Cameron returning to produce, after not being involved since T2. Cameron considers Dark Fate a direct sequel to that, while all the following sequels are now confirmed as not canon.

27 years after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a new, modified liquid metal Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent from the future by Skynet in order to terminate Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), a hybrid cyborg human (Mackenzie Davis), and her friends. Sarah Connor (returning star Linda Hamilton) comes to their aid, as well as the original Terminator T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), for a fight for the future.

So, the big question is this: is Dark Fate any good? Well, yes…and no. Let’s get the negatives out of the way. Most importantly, this is an overly CGI’d special effect bonanza that gets boring pretty quickly. Despite some well-choreographed action sequences and occasionally tasty effects, it does become rather mind-numbing when we’re into out 500th fight sequence. It’s tedious, but that comes with the territory with this kind of film. Although it certainly continues the craze of taking franchises further and further away from their genre roots. Like Rambo, the first Terminator film was a much slower and intense drama/thriller, as the sequels have become more and more over-the-top.

Of course, as a sequel in such a beloved franchise, you can expect an uncomfortable amount of callback, in-jokes and self-aware gags. Some of them are funny, sure. Some of them will make you wince. There is certainly an element of nostalgia here that helps, as the film certainly does feel the closest to T2’s style of all the sequels. But it’s still very much a 2019 blockbuster – the lifeless action sequences, in particular, are often without character or soul. There’s only so many times you can watch the persistent villain Terminator get shot or bashed with a pipe, heal himself, and continue onward in his journey of destruction. You will cringe as our heroes seemingly don’t realise the baddie’s self-healing ability, and express shock each time.

But, sure, there are some positives here. Mainly, as mentioned above, Dark Fate does feel like T2 – which, of course, is one of the best action films of all time. James Cameron’s passionate involvement is noticeable and does elevate this sequel high above previous attempts. It’s great to see Linda Hamilton and Arnie together again, reuniting after 28 years. Their scenes together will make the hairs of fans stand up on end, as will hearing the iconic theme as they fight together. The film certainly knows what its audience wants, and plays to that. While this can occasionally be tedious as noted above, at the end of the day, it’s a Terminator movie. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and it’s difficult to criticise it too much.

Terminator: Dark Fate is, if nothing else, a huge upgrade and a breath of very fresh air for the ailing franchise. While it’s no masterpiece, there are lots of thrills here and fans of the series will be absolutely delighted at the results. Welcome back, James Cameron. We’ve missed you. But please, for the love of all that is holy, give up with Avatar. Nobody asked for sequels to that garbage fire…

Sam Love

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