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‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ (review by Leyla Mikkelsen)

Produced by James Cameron, David Ellison
Screenplay by David S. Goyer,
Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray
Story by James Cameron, Charles Eglee,
Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes

Based on Characters by
James Cameron Gale Anne Hurd
Directed by Tim Miller
Starring Linda Hamilton,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis,
Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta

 

For many, Terminator 2: Judgment Day not only marked the peak of James Cameron’s career, it is also considered a pop culture milestone that showcased the pinnacle of what action cinema can be thanks to its suspenseful story, breathtaking action sequences and groundbreaking effects.

Perhaps a product of its time, the Terminator franchise has, however, had increasing problems with metal fatigue as none of the sequels made after the turn of the millennium have managed to capture any of the suspense or menace that made the James Cameron films so rivetingly intense.

As such, the announcement of yet another addition to the franchise was met with an understandable lack of enthusiasm, but there was nonetheless some intrigue this time around as James Cameron was onboard as a producer, and more importantly, Linda Hamilton was set to return to her iconic role as Sarah Connor.

Unambiguously erasing all the sequels from 2003 and onwards, Terminator: Dark Fate seeks to bring us back to what mattered, namely Sarah Connor’s journey. Aging and absolutely done with everyone and their shit, it is indeed great to see Linda Hamilton step back into the role with such ease, bringing back an energy that alters the dynamic of the franchise for the better.

As such, Termintor: Dark Fate is therefore very much Sarah Connor’s fim, and Linda Hamilton’s return to the franchise proves that she was a vital ingredient of the formula that made the first two films work so well. Having long centered around Arnold Schwarzenegger and the machines, the sequels became further and further removed from what the Terminator franchise is truly about, namely the human protagonists and their frantic fight for not only their own survival, but also the survival of humanity as a whole.

Where the previous sequels had become increasingly frustrating thanks to absurdly bloated plots with headache-inducingly convoluted time travel “logic”, Terminator: Dark Fate strips the plot back down to a basic, but effective narrative about fleeing from a cynical killing machine that does not feel pity or remorse or fear and absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead.

As for the new additions in the cybernetic organism department, Mackenzie Davis brings a determined intensity to the table that serves her well in the action sequences, where she feels vulnerably human yet ultimately well-matched when taking on Gabriel Luna’s REV 9 terminator in the generally well-choreographed fights. Davis leaves you with no doubts about her capabilities as an augmented human, and Luna at times channels Robert Patrick, even if he never quite manages to feel as genuinely menacing as the T-800 or the T-1000 did in the Cameron films.

However, while Terminator: Dark Fate is undoubtedly the best of the sequels made after the first two films, that is arguably not setting the bar very high, and one inevitably questions if the existence of Terminator: Dark Fate is justified. There is not sufficent novelty added to the story, nor is the sense of finality particularly satisfying. This is less due to the failings of Terminator: Dark Fate and more so because Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the perfect conclusion to the story. Thus, the newest film therefore lands in that somewhat awkward territory of being not quite a sequel, not quite a reboot, and Terminator: Dark Fate can easily be seen as the killer robot version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

As much as the Tim Miller-helmed film is a great piece of action in its own right – which at times manages to convey the odd glimpse of what made the Cameron films so great – it is nonetheless evident that Terminator: Dark Fate ultimately lacks the finesse James Cameron brought to his productions. Much like purists will argue that anything made after the first film is nonsensical and that Terminator 2: Judgment Day was already a soft reboot of sorts, one does struggle to find the relevance of the existence of yet another film in the Terminator franchise, even if its erasure of the non-Cameron films is very welcome and seeing Sarah Connor kick all kinds of ass is a decidedly good time.

Verdict: 7 out of 10.

 

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