TERMINATOR: THE MACHINES AWAKEN….wait a minute, whoops, wrong assumed title there. Let’s start over…TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is okay. But it is not okay enough to consider it canon, and will have most fans just claiming that the first two films are the only ones that really, truly happened. While the movie was entertaining enough to get me through its 2 hr run time, none of it is really anything you haven’t seen before, it’s the same ol’ shit. It’s basically a soft reboot that takes just enough elements from the first two films to get out of being called a straight up remake. However, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did it much better and had a lot more different elements to disguise the fact that it had a lot of the same beats as A New Hope. Dark Fate’s disguise wouldn’t even get past Mr. Magoo. That’s not to say its a terrible film, it is at least better than Terminator Salvation and Terminator (what the fuck were they even thinking?) Genisys, but I’m still on the fence whether or not it was better than Rise of The Machines. One thing is for certain, the franchise should’ve been terminated back in 1991.
The thing that I’m on the fence about whether this is better than Rise of the Machines or not, is the tone of the two films. Rise of the Machines has a very weird, zany, looney tunes light tone, but the non stop action and that dark as fuck ending more than makes up for it. The tone with Dark Fate is much, much better here, but the problem with the movie is that the action is kind of repetitive, jarringly edited, and there were no scenes that made me go, “OH SHIT YEAH!” Let’s face it, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the best action sequels ever made. A lot of people, including me, think it is one of those rare sequels that completely demolishes and is better than the original film. There is no fucking way in hell any Terminator movie after Judgment Day could even be on par unless James Cameron came back and FULLY committed to it (maybe not even then, since his dick wants to always be inside a Nav’i on Pandora these days). And while James Cameron came back to produce and has a “story” credit, I don’t feel like he had much of a hand in actually contributing all that much to this final product.
**beginning of major spoiler paragraph** Another glaringly huge problem is that the very beginning of the movie flips Terminator 2 on its head and kind of shits all over it in a way. Kind of like what Alien 3 did to Aliens (Remember that this film completely ignores the events of 3, Salvation, and Genisys). Now in this paragraph I’m just going to say what the film does so if you don’t want to know, skip to the next paragraph and we’ll get out of spoilers. At the very beginning of Dark Fate, using incredible de-aging and digital effects, it is revealed that another Terminator than just Robert Patrick was sent during the events of the 2nd film before Skynet’s ultimate demise, and a couple of years later, after Sarah and John Connor changed their fate, that second sent Terminator finds them, and just fucking kills John Connor right in front of Sarah, and there is nothing she can do about it. I know that Edward Furlong probably sucks as an actor now, but was there not a way to not fuck up the events of the masterful second film, and maybe somehow include John, hell, maybe even get Nick Stahl to come back and reprise his Rise of the Machines role? I think that killing John Connor was a major misstep in trying to revitalize the franchise, and it will have a lot of fans screaming and tearing their hair out. And yes, it bothered me too, but I got past it though mainly because of Linda Hamilton’s performance. **ending of major spoiler paragraph**
The acting in this does save a lot of the film from mediocre and ridiculous Salvation and Genisys type levels. The scene stealers of course are Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor, and Mackenzie Davis as the new human/robot hybrid Grace. Everybody saying that having Linda Hamilton back makes us all realize how vital she was to the first two Terminators and that she is more of what the franchise needed to come back than Arnold, are completely right here. I loved watching Linda Hamilton back in action, she is one tough bad-ass in this film and I think she really kept this movie from being a true snooze fest. But let me be clear, everybody in this is good. With Davis’ Grace character, I really I haven’t cheered this much for a great protector since Arnold in T2. By smartly making her a human hybrid combined with her acting skills, I actually cared about this character, instead of wanting them to just shut up and die like Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke in Genisys. Looking back I think I gave Genisys a somewhat favorable review. What the fuck was I thinking? I think I wrote that review literally the second I got out of the theater several years ago, with this, I’ve had a little more time to get my bearings straight.
Gabriel Luna is good as the new bad Terminator model Rev-9. Rev-9 is like a combination of all the Terminators you’ve seen before, but this one can split itself into two successfully. And Natalia Reyes plays Dani, the regular human being protected this time for some reason (don’t worry, the film eventually reveals the reason, which end up being better than what you think it might be, although I saw it coming from a mile away) and her arc transitioning from strong yet innocent woman to strong and bad ass fighter was very realistic. And then there is Arnold, who doesn’t even show up until more than half of the movie is over. I’m glad they didn’t just force him in at the beginning of the story on this. His character’s arc I enjoyed the best. I will not reveal who he is, but when his character Carl shows up on screen, the movie definitely elevated itself a little bit from what it was for me at that moment. In Genisys, it looked like Arnold was sleeping through his role, and in Rise of the Machines, it seemed like he was sort of into it, but was there for the pay check. Here, he fully commits to his performance, and is at his best since Judgment day.
While some of the CGI is shaky, yet forgivable, and while the action scenes are good in concept, in execution, they are a little jarring. Except for the late in the film airplane crashing sequence, that one was actually pretty great. But the rest of the action sequences, particularly the beginning one (the highway one you’ve seen in marketing with the initial return of Sarah Connor), the border detention center one, and the one at the very very end just seemed edited a little weird. Like the filmmakers and director Tim Miller were trying to fast cut shit so they could hide any discrepancies and hide the fact that maybe, just maybe, Tim Miller can’t film action scenes very well. This is his first film after his very first film, Deadpool, and if you really look closely at that movie (admit it, Deadpool 2 is better), you’d realize it only has two action scenes: the highway one, which went on too long and extended, and the very end sequence, which was very tame by comparison, blocked kind of weird, and editing wise is kind of wonky and too fast paced too. Action scenes need to breathe better, like in films like The Force Awakens, where you can tell what is going on with everything. Trying to do shit like Michael Bay and Paul Greengrass just doesn’t get you anywhere anymore. We know all the tricks of the trade to hide the fact that you can’t shoot action and just try to hid it up with shaky cam. It’s all a “tsk-tsk” affair now.
So while writing my review, I think I am going to give the edge to Dark Fate over Rise of the Machines, the goofiness and too light hearted tone of the latter being the deciding factor. Unfortunately, I’m still going to go back and only consider the first two films of being the only ones that truly happened. To me, Dark Fate is just fan fiction, but at least it is stronger fan faction than what we received the past three films. This is just a franchise that has far surpassed its expiration date. It literally is just the same ol’ shit. Same story of Terminators being sent back into the past, one to protect, and one to try and destroy something vital to the future. Same ending. The only difference being a couple of small arcs here and there, all playing it safe though and taking no risks that should’ve been taken. It’s like painting a fresh coat onto a house but you do nothing else to the foundation to try to change and make it better. And like a T-800 in action, that paint, or synthetic skin if you will, starts to peel and chip away very fast, revealing that same exoskeleton underneath, one that you have grown tired of seeing.
My ranking of Terminator Films:
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day
- The Terminator
- Terminator: Dark Fate
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
- Terminator: Salvation
- Terminator: Genisys