Expect a big ping, brother. My whole body's a weapon.

Terminator: Dark Fate ( 2019 )

  |   Nov. 17, 2019

While the first two Terminator movies stand on their own as action classics, it has been a struggle to find a worthy successor. Having struggled with Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genisys, Dark Fate reboots the franchise once again. It's the first to claim the involvement of James Cameron, with the hope that he can steer it in a direction everyone wants to see. Of course, we're not required to simply discard the other sequels, time travel provides a convenient tool to reconcile failed sequels, alternate timelines. In Dark Fate, we pick up directly after Terminator 2. Sarah and John Connor have won and Skynet has never come into existence. However, it seems the human race is nevertheless doomed to destroy itself, and the future world has suffered a very similar fate. The culprit in this case is an artificial intelligence system known as Legion, which has wiped out humanity and hunts it down systematically.

Twenty two years after the events of Terminator 2, Legion sends back a Terminator from the future, a Rev-9 model, and the resistance sends their own saviour, Grace. Grace is a human resistance fighter from the future, augmented for her mission, resembling a Terminator but with real feelings and emotions. Their target is Daniella "Dani" Ramos,  a factor worker living in Mexico City. When Rev-9 attacks at her workplace, Grace arrives just in time to help her escape, and after a chase, when it looks like they have been cornered by Rev-9 they are rescued by Sarah Connor, equipped with an assortment of military weapons to  blast away the assailant. They escape, for now, and must work together to find a way to defeat this seemingly unstoppable machine.

Aside from some neat action scenes, there's very little to recommend about Terminator: Dark Force. It is predictable and uninspiring, with no real ideas of its own. The dialogue is clunky and laden with a childish obsession for hamming variants of "I'll be back" throughout. The exchanges between Sarah and Grace are particularly cringeworthy, including such classics as "If you’re Mother Mary, no wonder I so want to beat the shit out of you". Of course, what's a Terminator movie without Schwarzeneggar, who's been an ever present in all the Terminator entries and Dark Fate is no exception. However, it's becoming increasingly difficult to present an ageing Arnie as a Terminator, and Dark Fate's solution, the idea that a Terminator has learnt to live like a human and raised a family, is played out to such an extent as to strain all credulity. Another issue Dark Fate struggles with, shared in some part by every entry since the original, is that it presents such advanced Terminators that it's not possible for a human to face them. Hence, when faced with Rev-9, all the audience can do is wait for Dani and Sarah to be rescued, robbing many scenes of any sort of tension.

Despite some renewed optimism at the return of Cameron and Hamilton, Dark Fate is a poor attempt, and unlikely to be the sequel to Terminator 2 that fans were looking for. Whether that means it is to be the end of such a valuable franchise seem unlikely, but new ideas are clearly needed.