Movie Review: Terminator Dark: Fate is the Terminator for Millennials
An unstoppable killing machine from the future sets out to terminate the key to humanity’s survival as the latter is being protected by a human from the future. With very minor twists or tweaks, this has been the plot of very nearly every Terminator film. It was a winning formula in 1984 and 1991, with progressively more variations and progressively less winning results in each succeeding sequel. In Terminator: Dark Fate, James Cameron returns after leaving his creation in the hands of others for the past three films to take over the story and bring it back to its roots. In fact, it goes back to its roots so much that we basically get the same movie all over again, except this time with women and Mexicans.
Terminator: Dark Fate is basically Wokeminator 2019 where a young Hispanic woman named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) takes the place of the white Sarah/John Connor and a Hispanic Terminator (Gabriel Luna) takes the place is the white T-800/T-1000. Meanwhile, an enhanced human from the future, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), plays the role of protector, the film’s Kyle Reese or Good T-800. Grace is white, but it’s okay. It’s a woman this time.
None of this is a problem. If anything, these changes are probably the best thing about a film that retreads all the same ground that its predecessors already covered. If making a political statement isn’t clear enough from the Hispanic cast, Dani needs to cross the border illegally to Texas because that’s where the coordinates tattooed on Grace’s belly tells them to go. The new Terminator even puts on a border patrol uniform in case you haven’t figured out what Cameron’s stance is on immigration and big, beautiful walls.
Dark Fate opens with a sequence that ties it directly to the end of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, effectively retconning all other sequels and resetting the timeline. Sarah and John Connor were successful in eliminating Skynet, so the future with Terminators running around killing the stragglers of a post-nuclear world never happens. Until, of course, it still does. Skynet may be dead, but the new AI has been rebranded to Legion now and has pretty much the same agenda as the old humanity-hating superintelligence and even the same idea of sending back humanoid Terminators to kill potential threats.
You’d think that with the advancement in robotics future AI would send killer Roombas or those unsettling robotic dogs by Boston Dynamics but no, of course not. Send a human-looking Terminator that combines the best features of the T-800 and T-1000 called a Rev-9. Similar to the T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, the Rev-9 has a metallic endoskeleton and a mimetic alloy outer shell, but this time around the Terminator can split both parts and have them operate independently of each other, which results in some pretty cool moments.
Of course, when you have potentially two Terminators after you on the loose, you’ll need a little more help than an augmented human. Enter sexagenarian Sarah Connor, who’s made a life mission of killing stray time-traveling killer robots, and an older T-800 with whom she shares an uncomfortable past. A still-ripped Linda Hamilton and still-jacked Arnold Schwarzenegger reprise their iconic roles and come to the aid of Dani and Grace.
There’s not much to tell about the plot. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) makes the best of what he’s got and crafts an action movie that hits all the requisite beats of a blockbuster with some social conscience thrown into the mix. The new Terminator is more annoying than terrifying, like a cockroach that just won’t die, and in the beginning, it’s exciting to see Grace kick his Terminator ass until you realize it’s going to be 128 minutes of him getting all banged up and still keep going. It’s an Energizer Bunny commercial if the Energizer Bunny was a mimetic alloy killer robot from the future.
The good news is that this can be the Terminator for millennials. Cameron has terminated the white savior trope and taken John Connor completely out of the picture, although Edward Furlong returns to play the role in one of the film’s coolest scenes. Furlong’s cameo is one of the many Easter eggs and homages to the old films but new viewers who know nothing about the 1984 original can enjoy the film with a clean slate. It feels less like a sequel and more like a remake, one made for audiences in 2019.
Is it enjoyable? Yes. Davis as an augmented human going toe-to-toe against the Rev-9 is an exciting update to the original matchup between Arnold and Robert Patrick. There are a lot of crazy action sequences here that up the ante, including fending off the Terminator on a flying C-5. Hamilton is just as badass as she was in 1991, maybe a little more because it’s nearly 30 years later. A Terminator that’s both a liquid metal and skeletal robot is very, very cool. Old man Arnold was already amusing as “Pops” in Terminator Genisys, but he’s even older and gruffer in Dark Fate. There’s a lot to be enjoyed about the film whether or not you’re a fan of the franchise.
Is it pointless? Also, yes. Wokeness notwithstanding, Dark Fate is a film that didn’t need to be made. If Sarah and John had succeeded in averting the end of the world, why does it still happen? Is Judgment Day inevitable? If the answer is yes, then the franchise should’ve ended with Rise of the Machines, which delivered the best twist endings in the series. At some point, the story needs to end, especially when there’s no more story to tell. And the Terminator franchise has run out of stories to tell.
Now that Cameron has corrected the political incorrectness of Judgement Day, including a rant from Sarah Connor about being protected solely because of her womb (she compares herself to the Virgin Mary giving birth to Jesus), it’s time to stop all the time-traveling foolishness and hope the Terminator movies will never be back. It’s time to say, “hasta la vista, baby,” to this franchise once and for all.