Friday, January 31, 2020
Review: "Terminator: Dark Fate" Tries... Lawd, It Tries
[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
Running time: 128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity
DIRECTOR: Tim Miller
WRITERS: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray; from a story by James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer, and Justin Rhodes (based upon characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd)
PRODUCERS: James Cameron and David Ellison
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ken Seng
EDITOR: Julian Clarke
COMPOSER: Junkie XL
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, and Fraser James
Terminator: Dark Fate is a 2019 science fiction and action-thriller from director Tim Miller. The film is the sixth in the Terminator film franchise, but Terminator: Dark Fate is a direct sequel to the original film, The Terminator (1984) and its sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), both of which were directed by James Cameron, who is a co-writer and co-producer on this new film. In Dark Fate, a soldier from the future arrives in the present day to protect a young woman marked for termination by another kind of soldier from the future.
Terminator: Dark Fate opens in 1998 when events that began fourteen years earlier come to a close... of sorts. The story moves forward to the year 2020 when two fighters from the future (the year 2042) arrive separately in Mexico City. One is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a cybernetically-enhanced human soldier. The other is an advanced Terminator model, the Rev-9, (Gabriel Luna), sent by “Legion,” an A.I. (artificial intelligence) built for cyber-warfare that threatens the existence of humanity in the future.
Their target is a young Mexican woman, Daniella “Dani” Ramos (Natalia Reyes); Grace wants to protect her, and the Rev-9 wants to kill her. Grace is able to temporarily fend off the Rev-9 in order to protect Dani, but she cannot defeat the Terminator. To do that, Grace and Dani will need the help of a mysterious woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and an old T-800 Terminator that calls itself “Carl” (Arnold Schwarzenegger), and even they may not be enough help.
Ten years ago, Warner Bros. attempted to reboot the Terminator film franchise with the film, Terminator: Salvation (2009). I really liked that film and thought that it had saved the franchise, which seemed rudderless in the wake of the entertaining, but superfluous Terminator: Rise of the Machines (2003).
Ten years later, we get Terminator: Dark Fate, and I think this entertaining sequel, reboot, re-imagining can revive the Terminator franchise, as far as the larger narrative is concerned. Can Dark Fate save the franchise financially and in terms of popularity? Outside of a few studios (Marvel, Pixar, Lucasfilm) and one genre, superhero films, predicting box office success of big-budget, “tent-pole,” event films, is a crap-shoot.
That aside, I really like Terminator: Dark Fate. Most of the film is a series of impossible-looking action sequences. The fate of Dark Fate is in the hands of sound editors, sound mixers, CGI artists, and film editors. Dark Fate is an extended thrill ride, a giant thrill machine, a breathtaking race, a heart-stopping chase, etc. The airplane duel and the entire waterfall/hydro-power battle are jaw-dropping sequences. Dark Fate gives its audience second, thirds, and fourth servings when it comes action and thrills.
However, in terms of drama and character, Terminator: Dark Fate is skimpy. Most of the characterization and personalities are copied or are leftovers from James Cameron and Terminator co-creator Gale Anne Hurd's work on the first two films. Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor is good here, but she could have been better. Dark Fate's story material is so underdeveloped that Hamilton seems forced to overact.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the rest of the cast does its best being really intense. I must note, however, that Gabriel Luna does a wonderful job being creepy, chilling, and cold-freaking-blooded as the Rev-9 Terminator. If this film has an actor having a star turn, it's Luna.
My quibbles aside, I think Terminator: Dark Fate points to an interesting and intriguing new direction for the Terminator films. I found myself enjoying it so thoroughly, it wasn't until I started writing this review that I even gave a thought to the character and drama writing. Let's be honest, what you feel immediately while watching a movie is what really counts in terms of entertainment value. And Terminator: Dark Fate is the real fucking deal when it comes to action movies.
7.5 of 10
Saturday, November 2, 2019
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