Terminator “Dark Fate” (R)
You certainly don’t have to have seen all five films in the “Terminator” franchise to enjoy “Terminator: Dark Fate.” In fact, this Terminator movie pretends the last three never happened. This is helpful because I never saw the last three and barely remember the first two as I never felt compelled to watch them a second time and 1984 was a long time ago.
Maybe if I did remember those movies, I would have understood “Dark Fate” (R) better, or at all. I haven’t left a movie this confused since the legendarily perplexing “Memento.”
This Terminator takes place after 1991’s’ “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” which ended when Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) saves the world because she saves her future son, who is destined to become the hero of the resistance.
However, things might not have gone as planned as the future is not particularly bright, and requires an additional hero, a factory worker Dani (Natalia Reyes) who lives in modern-day (2020) Mexico. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) an “augmented” human makes a splashy entrance in a pod sent from the future to save Dani from the Legion, the bad guys who don’t want anyone ruining their deathly domination.
This won’t be an easy job, as the latest model terminator, the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) is a shape-shifting, dead-eyed killing machine with lots of sharp appendages. He’s just one pod behind Grace and things escalate quickly with an incredibly long and noisy car chase. When things are looking grim, who appears but an older but still fierce, Sarah Connor!
Nothing is more exciting to a 50-something female filmgoer, than seeing a 50-something female action hero save the day. This excitement distracted me from my already mounting confusion until Sarah started describing how a terminator “carried out orders from a future that never happened” and I was back at square one.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” is seriously action-packed. It’s non-stop fighting, running, diving, driving, flying, fighting and shooting. Unfortunately, this literal overkill is necessary because the Rev-9 is a relentless killing machine, dispatching everyone in his path. Bullets, sledgehammers, grenades and flaming airborne vehicles are just a minor annoyance as he just melts, oozes and regenerates. Sorry, but I like my villains a tad more vulnerable and slightly less molten. It all gets a bit boring if the bad guy emerges from an exploding plane looking like he just had a refreshing nap.
Just when you’re thinking, “can anyone kill this thing?” who shows up but the original T-800, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yes, I thought he was “dead” too, but that was in the future that never happened, or something like that. In 2020 he’s calling himself “Carl.” living in Texas with his “family,” and is much less murdery than before. He’s also quite a bit older, yes as my daughter explained to me, robots can age if they’re built that way.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” is directed by Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), which explains the high body count and colorful language (mostly courtesy of Hamilton). Unfortunately, the humor that makes the “Deadpool” movies tolerable, is nearly absent here until Carl shows up. Schwarzenegger is still quite a formidable presence, but it’s interesting to see him a bit vulnerable. His sparring with Hamilton is fun to watch and she holds her own. Seriously, I don’t know who I’d be more scared to encounter in a dark alley.
The chances are this confusing chapter of “The Terminator” will be the final one, as “Dark Fate” has already surprisingly been declared a box-office failure. Why? Some suggest the world wasn’t ready for such a feminist version of “The Terminator.” Others say the franchise had run its course. My opinion is that if your movie timeline is so confusing you have to phone a friend, maybe it’s time to move on.
Terminator: Dark Fate