Review – Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Newcomers to the franchise, Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes, look as befuddled as I was while watching the narrative unfold in Terminator: Dark Fate

Release Date: November 1, 2019

Directed by: Tim Miller

Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis

Synopsis: Set over 20 years after the events of T2, an advanced Terminator sent from an apocalyptic future seeks to hunt and kill a target whose very life and existence merits saving.

Rating: 1/4 Stars

[The following review is spoiler-free]

I should have seen it coming. I’ve traveled along the river Denial many times throughout my life, and the Terminator franchise has had its last 16 years go by with attempted fanfare and spectacle only to shed predominant failure and disappointment, one after another. As I entered a near empty theater and watched the film unfold before my very eyes, I was surprised by what I saw and then not surprised by how I felt after. I’ve been here before, and with Terminator: Dark Fate, there seems to be no fate left worth making in this tried and tired universe.

Gabriel Luna, as the formidable Rev-9, goes toe-to-toe with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 model in Terminator: Dark Fate

A new and dangerous Terminator from the future (Gabriel Luna), decked out with all the latest and greatest features, begins its hunt for the unknowing Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), a hardworking, family-oriented seemingly nobody. Meanwhile, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), likewise sent from the future and augmented with enough power to challenge Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel in a spar, hurries to save as the indomitable and deadly Terminator, the Rev-9, moves in for the kill. As Grace serves to protect, familiar characters including a no-nonsense, gun-totting, quip-quipping Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and a mysterious, yet very helpful T-800 model Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) rise to the occasion to offer help on behalf of mankind. As the hunt continues, the stakes increase with more chase and explosions viewers have now come to expect with their blockbusters. Answers are revealed and the stage is set for showdown after showdown until the climactic battle. No new ground here, we’ve all seen this before. Coincidence? I think not.

I could go on and on about this film, but most viewers who have been around since the beginning will likely guess where things are going. Certain story elements either don’t make sense and can’t be explained thanks in part to copious amounts of plot holes throughout, or much of the the narrative beats are as disposable and derivative as the rehashed plot from previous entries that Terminator: Dark Fate ends up becoming. Hollow characters abound including both new and returning faces which ultimately leads to a shallow experience. With missed opportunities and poor execution of character moments, genuine investment is lacking thereby leaving me not caring at all. The action is generic, and the set pieces feel like they’ve been copied and pasted from out of the Fast and Furious template. If you like slow-motion as a means to attract your attention during action, you may not find it as detracting as I did; for me, it was everywhere, and the action was undercutted even in some of the more bizzare moments. All I’m going to say is: poor fly.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, and Natalia Reyes as Dani Ramos in Terminator: Dark Fate

Rarely has there ever been a film I’ve discouraged others from seeing, and for those who are willing to sift through the sandbox of Terminator: Dark Fate, I’m warning you. As a Terminator film, it’s sad and yet simple to say: it sucks. Maybe I’m jaded, but considering the previous three attempts to follow Cameron’s first two, it’s hard not to feel the burn. With a dismal outlook as grim and gray like the future depicted, recent box office receipts point to a similar fate; it’s safe to say that this franchise is dead. However, if there’s anything to learn from the Terminator franchise, old enemies rarely ever die without a fight. There may be some inkling of a narrative left here somewhere like a diamond in the rough, but this time it’s best to bury the corpse before it stinks up the place.

Terminator: Dark Fate is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity.

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