Thursday 31 October 2019

Film Review: Terminator – Dark Fate

Just like he promised, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the T-800 in the sixth Terminator film, Dark Fate – but rather than providing a shot in the arm, Tim Miller’s (Deadpool) attempt to revive this ailing franchise sees it further tangled in a time loop of its own creation.

After the critical mauling Terminator: Genisys received back in 2015, 20th Century Fox have hit the reset button yet again. Gone are Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney; in their place are Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis as Dani and Grace respectively. 

Dani is a Mexican labourer who works on an assembly line that is slowly being phased out in favour of robots; Grace is an augmented soldier sent from the future to protect Dani from a more technologically advanced Terminator (Gabriel Luna) for reasons unknown. Sound familiar? 

After an opening salvo set on the factory floor where Dani works, the duo cross paths with a grizzled older woman called Sarah Connor (a returning Linda Hamilton). Connor takes it upon herself to join them in their fight, as they journey from Mexico City to Texas in search of an ally who can stop the Terminator on their tail in its tracks.

Much like the unstoppable cyborg hunting Connor and her posse, there’s an eerie sense of inevitability to Terminator: Dark Fate – the creeping feeling that you’re once again watching a Terminator film that can’t think outside the box or stray from the established formula.

Plagued with the same derivativeness that audiences derided in Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys, Dark Fate at times feels less like a sequel to Judgement Day than an uninspired remix of it.

Once again, we’re treated to bubbles of lightning that spawn naked time travellers, unstoppable shape-shifting cyborgs who simply shrug off missiles and some catchcrys about ‘being back’ or there being ‘no fate but what we make for ourselves’. Dark Fate, essentially the third (or fourth, but who’s counting?) attempt to adequately make a sequel to 1991’s Judgement Day, is the same-same, but different – just like all the others were.

Much like last year’s Halloween do-over, Dark Fate fiddles with chronology in the hope that audiences will forget all about the sequels it hopes to supplant. And if it wasn’t for the three other sequels that have now been struck from the record, Dark Fate might be worth your time – maybe.

Hamilton, who like Harrison Ford and Jaime Lee Curtis has been tempted back to an ageing franchise for bonus nostalgia points, is a welcome sight as the original and the best Sarah Connor (sorry Emilia). Even with two new lead characters, the film gives Hamilton plenty of character stuff to work with, particularly in the second half opposite Schwarzenegger.

Meanwhile, audiences are made to wait a while for the big man to arrive, but it’s worth it – he’s by far the best part of Dark Fate, bringing some much-needed oomph and levity to an otherwise turgid slog of overlong action sequences.

The Verdict: 4.5/10

Another case of failure to launch, Dark Fate tells us the Terminator series isn’t in need of another reboot – it needs to be left on the scrapheap.

Terminator: Dark Fate is in cinemas across Australia now.

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