Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalie Reyes
Directed by Tim Miller
Review by Tim Robins
Sarah Connor and a hybrid cyborg human must protect a young girl from a newly modified liquid Terminator from the future….
The Terminator (1984) and Robocop (1987) stand as the two best Hollywood movies to capture the spirit of 2000AD, notwithstanding Hardware (1990), which just lifted a “Tharg’s Future Shocks” story wholesale in the hope no one would remember from where the plot had come. I have a particular fondness for the first Terminator movie as watching it gave me a real sense of discovering a cinema classic in the making as it arrived, without the arty credibility of Blade Runner.
After what seemed like an interminable number of attempts to provide a fitting sequel to ‘T2’, comes Terminator: Dark Fate. Why the film is called this is anyone’s guess, although presumably not because half the final act, involving a dam, an aircraft disaster and a product placement ‘Humvee’, takes place in a dank and dark murk of engine smoke, turbulent water and an unfortunately hazy shade of night.
Terminator: Dark Fate apparently consigns all previous attempts to create a trilogy to the dustbin of history, which is a shame because Terminator 3 was good fun and had some great imagery, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator being smashed through buildings and a scene involving his Terminator carrying Sarah Connor’s coffin, filled with weapons, out of a tomb. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines also had a great dystopian ending, which is up there with the dénouement of Planet of the Apes.
The latest offering succeeds in reproducing the key elements of Terminators One and Two, notably a relentless and a compelling series of set pieces which the trailers haven’t given away. On the other hand, it is no surprise to discover Schwarzenegger living off the grid in a wood cabin or that he is behind text messages directing Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) to newly-arrived Terminators, fresh for the killing.
It is at this point we are asked to swallow a mind numbing load of nonsense about what happens to Terminators when they fulfil their mission. Fortunately, the film picks up pace before the audience can become totally incredulous.
Much like Terminator and T2, the plot involves protecting a human, not John Connor but Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who will one day lead the resistance in an alternative future in which the same mistakes have resulted in yet another rise of the machines. Protecting Dani is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an augmented human from the future, just a future we haven’t seen before… or rather one that, to all intents and purposes, we have seen before, but with added Mexicans.
Tim Miller, director of Deadpool, works with a script that captures the deadpan, sardonic humour of the original. There’s even some sense of social commentary as our heroes seek to cross the border between Mexico and the United States, only to be held against their will in a detention camp. This had particular resonance for me, as I had spent the morning watching Nothing to Declare and Border Patrol, the US version of which often features American Officials on horseback, hunting down migrants in scenes that bear an alarming similarity to the gorilla soldiers’ human hunt in Planet of the Apes! In Terminator: Dark Fate, Sarah Connor is considered so badass that she warrants her own private cage.
Terminator: Dark Fate is driven along by the car on truck, plane on plane action and a string of one liners: “Did I say you could look at my private parts?” asks a wounded Grace. Schwarzenegger is also game for some fun at the Terminator’s expense: the machine has been making a living as an interior designer, and at one moment of tension begins giving a lecture on the correct soft furnishing for a child’s bedroom.
Terminator: Dark Fate also gives us some iconic close-ups of Schwarzenegger’s increasingly battered face, while the actor himself looks as ‘hench’ as ever. There is a possibility that the sheer physicality of the film will appeal to the new, body conscious Love Island generation .
Producer James Cameron has spoken of further movies in the series, but, with nothing really new to offer by way of plot, I’d be happier if the franchise was finally terminated on this reasonably high note.
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide.
His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip. He reviewed comics and films in posts and podcasts for The Mindless Ones until he became a net diva and forgot to name check the rest of the team at a San Diego Comic Con panel. The Mindless Ones gave him the nickname ‘Tymbus’
• Terminator: Dark Fate on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)