Terminator: Dark Fate review - Terminator is good again

Sarah Connor is, as usual, always in the thick of things as far as genocidal machines from the future are concerned.

Director: Tim Miller
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna, Mackenzie Davis
Score: 3

Rogue AI-centric movies have come a long way from 1984's The Terminator and 1992's Terminator 2: Judgement Day, having gone from murder features to more deeply intrinsic and self-critical, like in the case of Ex Machina. So why does a film like Terminator: Dark Fate need to exist? The answer to that is unknown, but maybe it's a good thing it does exist.

Dark Fate picks up about 22 years after the fall of Skynet. Daniella Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a quiet life in Mexico with her family, completely oblivious to the fact that a Terminator (Gabriel Luna) has been sent to end her, and a human (Mackenzie Davis) to protect her.

Naturally, all the factors converge, people die - some dramatically - and Sarah Connor, now wanted in 50 states, comes to their rescue, apparently driven by a mysterious benefactor. And so begins the cat-and-mouse chase to stop the Terminator before it finishes its mission.

At first glance, it's clear that Dark Fate is blatantly derivate of The Terminator and Terminator 2. Perhaps it's a side effect of completely retconning the existence of Terminator 3, Salvation and, thankfully, Genisys, but the film by and large treads the same beats as its predecessors did: A human resistance rallies behind a saviour figure, the machines send a Terminator in the past to kill the human, and the Resistance sends one of their own to stop it, and somehow Sarah Connor is involved in it all.

On the point of originality, Dark Fate gets very few points. The new Terminator, Rev-9, is pretty much just a juiced-up T-1000 with a few interesting gimmicks, Arnie is back as the T-800, complete with his deadpan brand of humour and merciless tactics, and Sarah hasn't lost one shred of her proclivity for pyrotechnics, even if most of them here are beyond her control. The script also lacks the philosophical implications of machines rising against or working with humans that was deeply ingrained into the original Terminator films.

But when it comes to characters, Dark Fate does take the cake. Where the characters lack in originality, they make up for in depth. Every single character, including the Rev-9, has their own personality and view of things. The acting is solid across the board, giving what is an uninspired script a fresh breath of air.

The action setpieces, though again derivative of its predecessors, is also pretty good. From a highway chase across Mexico to a mid-air battle and climactic battle in a dam, the action is reasonably well-done. The mid-air battle could have been be a little clearer, though. Perhaps Tim Miller exists to save franchises from Hollywood's butchering; just look at what he did to Deadpool.

The film does suffer from a bout of censorship, though unlike action being censored this time, the dialogues take the brunt of the issue. Unlike going with the 'A' rating that Fox should have, the studio seems to have gone with the more forgiving 'U/A', with several edits to dialogue, many of which are painfully obvious.

To close, Terminator: Dark Fate is pretty decent. Though it doesn't have the depth of the previous Terminators, it is also not a mindless murder-fest like some of the others in the series. The script does have shortcomings, but perhaps it's better to have an okay-ish honest script with solid acting driving it than a bad, pretentious script.

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