#REVIEW: “TERMINATOR: DARK FATE”
Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is one of the best and most influential films ever made. Period. And since it came out in 1991, we have had three sequels (and a TV series) that all tried to continue that story of man versus machine. They had their own enjoyable elements, but all paled in comparison – mostly because they were made without the involvement of Director James Cameron nor then breakout star Linda Hamilton.
Enter Terminator: Dark Fate, the new Sequel that wipes the slate clean and ignores everything that has happened since Terminator 2 (save for that glorious theme park show at Universal Studios). It brings back Cameron as a Producer and Storywriter, and crucially brings back Hamilton to help save the world again as Sarah Connor. And that alone is reason enough to get excited about Dark Fate.
In terms of story, without getting into too many details, Dark Fate pivots from the old and overdone, and forges a new, albeit familiar direction for the Franchise. It plays on nostalgia, remakes choice elements from before, while taking a few calculated and intriguing risks (including one that will leave fans gasping). It leaves just enough crumbs behind for a sequel, but unlike the previous three, feels like a finite experience that does not lend itself to immediately needing a followup. It gets a little lost in some of the world building, ruminations about humanity’s dark future and commentaries on immigration (likely due to conflicting contributions from the five credited Story Writers and three Screenplay Writers), but still manages to be well-paced and never feels like it is overstaying its welcome.
Where Dark Fate excels is in its action and effects sequences. Some have written them off as forgettable already, but in the moment, they are loud, relentless and downright anxiety-inducing. I screened the Film on a crystal-clear IMAX screen and every single action scene practically sizzled. I am still shaking and giddy days after watching it. Every single element, visual and audible, works together wonderfully, allowing you to feel every explosion, every bullet and every crunch no matter the circumstance. The practical make-up work is great, and though the CGI is a little flaky in some areas, it is truly magnificent in others. The work that brings the new Terminator, the Rev-9 (played by stone-faced killer Gabriel Luna), to life is not as visually ground-breaking as the T-1000 was, but watching this thing in action is still rather impressive.
While some of the dialogue straddles the line between cringe-worthy and melodramatic, the performances from the main Ensemble are anything but. Mackenzie Davis brings a ferocious energy to human/machine-hybrid Grace, commanding the screen and equally balancing compassion with hard-hitting brutality. Natalia Reyes is great as Dani, the newest target the machines want dead. She stumbles a bit at first, but gradually becomes one of the Film’s strongest players. Both pale in comparison to Hamilton, whose first real appearance on-screen will make you instantly realize what a crime it has been to make any of these movies without her. She is precise, calculated and widely-expressive. She has a blast bringing Sarah Connor back to the screen, and will leave fans cheering with excitement.
And as expected, Arnold Schwarzenegger lights-up the screen again as the T-800. He has some winking fun with the role, but there is something truly bittersweet in watching him get to show a bit more range than usual.
Terminator: Dark Fate is far from perfect, but it is the first Terminator film in nearly 20 years that feels worthy of following up Terminator 2. The action and effects are great, the acting is strong and the story pivots are intriguing enough to leave you wanting more. This is the Terminator Sequel we always wanted but never thought possible. Enjoy and savour it on the biggest and loudest screen you can find.
Paramount Pictures Canada release TERMINATOR: DARK FATE on Friday, November 1, 2019.