Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Movie Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate ** ½ / *****
Directed by: Tim Miller.
Written by: David S. Goyer & Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray and James Cameron & Charles H. Eglee & Josh Friedman based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd.
Starring: Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Arnold Schwarzenegger (T-800/Carl), Mackenzie Davis (Grace), Natalia Reyes (Dani Ramos), Gabriel Luna (Gabriel/REV-9), Diego Boneta (Diego Ramos), Tom Hopper (Hadrell), Steven Cree (Rigby), Stephanie Gil (Young Grace), Edward Furlong (John Connor),
I don’t like to tell filmmakers what they should do – not that they’d listen anyway -because I want great filmmakers to make whatever movies they want to make. When it comes to James Cameron however, I have to say that I’m more than a little sad that one of the best directors of large scale Hollywood blockbusters has basically decided not to make much anymore. He’s only directed one film since his Oscar winning Titanic (1997) – and although we keep hearing about new Avatar films, who knows when they will come out. Cameron is, I know, a divisive figure – but he really does do these types of massive blockbusters better than almost anyone – in particular when he doesn’t write them. But there has not been a film in his career since The Terminator (1984) that isn’t great, or doesn’t at least have major technological advances (perhaps both). I would love to see him direct more – and show others how it is done.
I thought about all of this while watching Terminator: Dark Fate – which apparently is Cameron’s return to the franchise he started, in part because there was little else to think about in the movie. Is it an improvement over the last two installments in the franchise – 2009’s Terminator: Salvation and 2015’s Terminator: Genisys? Yes, but that’s not much of an accomplishment now is it. But the film isn’t even half as good as 2003’s unjustly maligned Terminator: Rise of the Machine – let alone the first two films in the series, legitimate masterworks both. Yes, it’s nice to see Linda Hamilton back in the role that she made her own – and realizing perhaps that she is the real anchor of those first two films, not Arnold – but it’s disappointing how little they give Hamilton to do. They would have been better to follow the lead of Halloween (2018) – which made the film all about Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie, and the PTSD she has lived with for 40 years. There are nods to that in Terminator: Dark Fate – but it gets quickly shunted aside. This is a film that seemingly wanted to take the lead of Terminator 2 – and essentially be a chase sequence stretched to feature length – but forgot to make us care about anything in the film for that to work.
In this new film, we once again get two people from the future war sent back to protect a woman that will be vital to the revolution in the future. That woman is Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) – a Mexican woman, working in a car plant. Her protector is Grace (Mackenzie Davis) – who is human, but a human that has been “upgraded” into a hybrid of person and machine. The Terminator sent back is a REV-9 – who takes the name Gabriel (Gabriel Luna) most of the time, and is basically an even badder ass, more unstoppable version of Robert Patrick’s T-1000. And Arnold is back again as well – having succeeded in his mission, he has “retired” and has been living as drape installer named Carl for decades – raising a family (not his own). But he has a debt to pay, so he’ll pay. And Sarah Connor (Hamilton) shows up as well – wanted to protect Dani, the new her.
The film is essentially one big chase sequence, with stops along the way for the heroes to try and fight off the REV-9, which they don’t think they can kill, but they just try and get through (why doesn’t either side ever send more than one back? The bad guys send five REV-9’s back, the movie’s over in 10 minutes). Perhaps in Cameron’s hands, the film would work. He’s clearly a director who knows how to do action sequences better than anyone, and suspect they he wouldn’t have done with Tim Miller does here – which is to speed everything up to make it seem more exciting, when really, it’s just a distraction more than anything. I won’t even mention the fact that while Cameron can clearly lay it on too thick in terms of sentimentality at times – he would have made you care about Sarah Connor, Dani, Grace, and yes, even Carl. Here, you don’t care about any of them.
It’s sad to see the Terminator franchise go out like this. Those first two films are legitimately great, and yes, I’ll say it again, I quite like Rise of the Machines – an unapologetically bleak blockbuster if ever there was one. But it’s clear now that the people in charge don’t understand what made the films work – or perhaps they don’t care, and are just trying to make money. But audiences are staying away now – which is sad. The Terminator films should be the type of blockbusters we need – not generic, by the number superhero films, but films with a real point-of-view, and something to say. But they haven’t been that in a long time now. Hopefully, they’ll just let the franchise die now.

No comments:

Post a Comment