It’s time to put this to rest.
Without question, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a seminal piece of science fiction, a film that, much like many of its characters, has transcended time to become a part of our pop culture lexicon. Its dire warnings about technology taking over our lives has unfortunately proved prescient, while its clever narrative and imaginative execution has allowed the movie to remain as fresh and entertaining today as it was nearly 30 years ago.
Not content to leave well enough alone, a variety of producers have tried to milk a few more bucks out of the franchise, none of them able to recreate the sharp-edged style or intelligence of James Cameron’s first two films. To be fair, the underrated third entry from Jonathan Mostow is an efficient B-movie that provided one of the most memorable set pieces in the franchise as well as a reasonably smart conclusion to the saga that tied up most of the story’s loose ends.
After two expensive misfires, Cameron has returned to the franchise as producer for Terminator: Dark Fate. His presence, as well as that of original stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, provided a bit of hope that some of the magic from the original could be rekindled. Unfortunately, the result is a bit of a mixed bag, a movie with flashes of brilliance that’s ultimately bogged down by a flat script and one-note performances from the three leads.
If the plot sounds familiar…well, it is.
This time out, Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is the warrior sent back from the future to protect the unsuspecting Dani Ramos (Natlia Ramos) who, in an alternate future, will become humanity’s best hope for survival against the unavoidable rise of the machines. A new and improved terminator, the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) is on her tail and he’s a piece of work, as he’s able to split in two, making him twice the threat for Grace and twice the headache for the CGI artists charged with bringing him to life. These three tear up a good part of Mexico City and Southern California, even more so when they’re joined by Sarah Connor (Hamilton) and the original T-800 (Schwarzenegger), who owns a small business, is married and raising a son and insists he has a good sense of humor.
The manner in which screenwriters David Goyer, Billy Ray and Justin Rhodes fold these original two characters in is inspired. Too bad the rest comes off as a rote exercise as this chase movie moves with efficiency but little life. Films of this sort live or die by their action sequences and they end up being a bit of a mixed bag. An opening car chase is fine but far from an edge-of-your-seat affair, while the climax inside a hydroelectric dam is visually murky and as a result, a bit confusing. Only a sequence that finds the misfit crew on a flying army transport with the Rev-9 in hot pursuit in an aircraft of his own provides the sort of daring, fun action fans of the franchise expect.
Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) was obviously not concerned about the performances in the film as Hamilton’s one-note growl gets old fast, Davis proves too bland to register and Ramos’ role is so underwritten, there’s very little she can do to bring her character to life. Schwarzenegger’s minimalist approach shines in comparison and had me wishing Miller and company had explored the T-800 in retirement premise a little further. As it is, Fate proves the Terminator franchise has become one of diminishing returns, its time long since passed.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.