Terminator: Dark Fate Review: Recycled plots and uninteresting characters presents a dark fate for a fading franchise
The Terminator franchise has truly been the little engine that could over the last couple of years – even though most fans probably wish the engine would’ve just died after T2. From messy timelines to recycled plots, the franchise has lost its luster and is in some serious need for fresh new ideas. This is what made the franchise’s newest entry, Dark Fate, so interesting with Deadpool director Tim Miller signed on to helm the film and Linda Hamilton returning to play Sarah Connor. However, even the prominent return of Hamilton can’t save Dark Fate from being one of the more boring and unoriginal entries in the franchise that thinks it’s giving the series a new legacy to stand on, but actually ruins the old one in the process.
To describe the plot of Dark Fate is honestly like explaining any of the other films: someone is going to be a prominent rebellion figure in a future against a deadly A.I., someone sends a terminator back in time to kill that person while someone else sends another person/thing back to keep them safe, and then a lot of action and on the nose nostalgia happens alongside incredibly similar story beats. With Dark Fate, only a few things are added to this to make things a little more interesting. The augmented soldier, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), is kind of an interesting idea and Davis gives a strong performance that qualifies her to be a future name in action. The new terminator (Gabriel Luna) that’s sent to take this movie’s new future rebellion leader, Dani (Natalia Reyes), is also pretty cool and the modified liquid skin it has to create a second version of itself always looks awesome and is played with nicely.
I’ll even say that seeing Hamilton return as Sarah is awesome and she reclaims her title as an incredible badass instantly. It’s actually as if no time has really passed with her and she brings a sense of confidence and charm that will please any viewer. Even seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger return as another terminator was a lot of fun and he brings a lot of good humor to the film. However, how and why these characters return, completely undercut the strengths they bring to this film because of how it messes with the best iterations of this franchise. While I won’t spoil what the issue exactly is, even though it’s literally the opening of the movie, it completely makes the first two films in the franchise completely pointless and ruins the emotion and feels they’ve brought for years. With James Cameron returning to produce, I honestly can’t imagine how he approved this to happen.
Worst of all, though, is that it happens for this film’s plot to implement the same exact ideas as the first two and pass it off as if they are “new ideas.” They literally call Dani the “new John Connor” and she definitely doesn’t earn her title because of how poorly the character is written. Dani is meant to gain her strength and constantly talks about no wanting to run and fight, but none of the other characters ever take her seriously enough to allow her to find any strength. Instead she’s all talk and then cries over everything. Even the moment at the end where Dani has a chance to prove herself by stopping the terminator herself is completely botched and the film falls back on old trappings that leave no emotional impact whatsoever.
Really, Dark Fate is just the first film and T2 combined with a worse script and the dialogue is so bad that there were times where I would predict what they were going to say, say it out loud to myself, and nail it exactly right. The effects are also somehow just okay compared to other entries in the series as the CGI is clear as day and the action effects are okay at best. The action sequences are even reminiscent to previous films and are oddly more boring and ridiculous than ever. The action never gives you the pulse-pounding feels you’d want in an action movie, especially Terminator, and it was easily one of the most unentertaining and uninteresting action films I’ve seen this year.
Dark Fate is just a mediocre rehash of much better films that also ruins them in the process with how it attempts to leech off of their strengths. Frankly, Dark Fate reminds me of why other franchises, like Jurassic Park and Star Wars, have been so disappointing to me because of how they are adding “new things” that are just mediocre hand-me-downs of the same old stuff. You know, “Dark Fate” is actually an apt name for this entry because, if the box-office and fan reaction is telling, it’s likely that we won’t see anymore Terminator films for quite some time – which is probably for the better.