Going in to see Terminator: Dark Fate I must admit my expectations were not very high. After 3 underwhelming, bland films in a row it is hard for me to get excited for another entry in this once iconic franchise. Coming out of the film I’m afraid to say I felt basically the same. Terminator: Dark Fate is not nearly as irritating as Terminator: Genisysbut it continues on the trend of bland, forgettable action movies in this franchise.
Terminator: Dark Fate tries to spice things up by giving us a trio of female kick butt characters led by Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Connor. Shes campy enough to be a little bit fun but not enough to save the movie. Mackenzie Davis plays an augmented woman named Grace from the future who is sent to save a woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes) from Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) a terminator that can split into 2 bodies and is practically unstoppable.
The strength of this film is in the performances from Davis, Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger (back as curtain selling family man version of the T-800). They may say ‘I’ll be back’ way too many times but they are entertaining in their roles and know how to sell the action scenes. Also the action scenes are well staged especially the long opening chase sequence.
The problem is Terminator: Dark Fate has nothing new to bring to the table and it falls into a predictable rut real quick. Exposition, action, exposition, action. For a film with this much action I should not be so bored but that’s what I was for most of the time. The characters aren’t interesting and the film has nothing new to say about humanity, war, AIs or anything else (I believe all good scifi should have something to say). The Rev-9 brings nothing new to the table as a terminator and the time travel concept isn’t explored well. It’s just action interrupted by people cracking jokes and talking about the past.
I am always bad at box office predictions but I don’t see this movie making much money. People have been burned too many times and this entry is at best a vessel for serviceable action scenes. Why when we’ve had such excellent action movies this year like Avengers: Endgame or Shadow would you waste time watching this? I think time has run out on the Terminators, and we need to let Sarah, John and Carl the drapery man go back to their regular lives. No more!
I debated about posting a review of Terminator Genisys because it is going to be tough to review without some spoilers, so I will just say at the beginning- spoiler alert. I will do my best but you’ve been warned.
Terminator Genisys is our 5th entry in the Terminator franchise and while I wasn’t miserable watching, it is not a good movie. In fact, it is only better than 4 because it is muddled rather than boring.
The story is so silly. I was joking on twitter it should be called Terminator: Plothole City…There is so much in this movie that makes no sense. Some of the big reveals and the actions of characters come out of nowhere and especially when you consider the first movie which it plays into a lot it makes even less sense. Even down to the last line of the movie I was scratching my head wondering what the heck the director Alan Taylor was thinking?
Pretty much it has John Connor in 2029 trying to defeat Skynet after the Judgement Day and War of Machines. As part of the initiative he sends Kyle Reese back to 1984 to try and protect Sarah Connor from the T-800 of the original Terminator movie.
We actually see a very convincing CG version of 1984 Arnold but he is done away with very quickly. That is a problem this movie has in droves. It will introduce an interesting concept and then do away with it or forget about it for long stretches. There is also old Arnold who has raised Sarah and is her protector.
At the beginning we also get a T-1000 who is a pretty cool but a copy of what we had in Terminator 2 with the metal melting and all the same special effects.
But he is also done away with fairly quickly. Then we get moved up 2017 because an app is going to be launched and they need to stop it or Skynet will have control over everyone’s devices. Now if you knew that this was going to happen why wouldn’t you give yourself a year, a couple of months, something with a little bit of time? They have to take down Skynet for goodness sakes and turn off an app that has 1 billion downloads preordered and they give themselves a week I think?.
Kyle Rees is played by Jai Courtney and he is so bad. My theater was laughing at how he delivers the terrible dialogue. The man should not be in movies. Stop it Hollywood! He and Sarah Conner played by Emilia Clarke are supposed to have chemistry but they don’t. It is treated like a given they are going to get together and so there is no tension or witty banter or anything to enjoy.
The characters are all pretty stupid. They know the T-1000 and other Terminators can’t be stopped by bullets and yet what do they grab? More bullets and guns!. I kept thinking ‘try something else!’ In an underground lair there is acid in 1984 that will kill the terminators (I guess put there by Sarah) but why not take them immediately in that room and have a room like that built in your underground spot in 2017? Why bother with the guns and stacks of ammunition? Why not spend your time creating acid guns that will spray at the terminators?
Plus they have a terminator with them. Why not use the one you have to convince other people to support them? They are continually chased by police officers and other humans when they could have had tons of support. They could have had the US government get tons of acid or magnets and destroy Skynet or something that was slightly smart!
Magnets also destroy the Terminators. Never did I think an MRI would be a weapon in a movie! Go figure. Surely they could have come up with something powerful they could carry with magnets with all this time? Arnold says he was even working in Skynet when it was being constructed. You think he could have come up with something more helpful than crashing through walls and destroying security rooms?
Skynet is also so poorly designed. It looked like the smoke and catwalk factories we’ve seen since the 80s. I don’t know if they were trying to go retro but it did not look like 2017 in any way. And wouldn’t Genesis be developed in China in 2017? Would everything all be in one compound? The execs manufacturing and labs all there together? Plus wouldn’t they have the Genesys upload in some kind of server off-site if it was going to uploaded to a billion devices in one instant? That’s one heck of a compound! It doesn’t make any sense.
John Connor is played by Jason Clarke from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and he is so bland. He is supposed to be dealing with his parents and yet none of them show any emotion or conflict. It is all shooting and explosions and a pretty cool bus crash. Furious 7 (also with a bus crash teetering on the edge of a precipice…) had way more heart than this film and this deals with the end of the world! It’s not really his fault though because he has very little dialogue and most of the time is shooting at our heroes and getting beat down by an MRI.
JK Simmons is also completely wasted as a cop who meets the trio in 1984 and spends 30 years trying to convince everyone alien robots do exist. He is the equivalent of the damsel in distress in a Superman movie. Someone that exists to be rescued and to cry out ‘No way! You’re real!”.
The redeeming factor in Terminator Genisys is Arnold Schwarzenegger who has a lot of fun with the part and I enjoyed. He does a few call backs to the original movies but most of it is him behaving in a way consistent with a father figure robot for Sarah Connor. His personality actually makes sense- something I can’t say for the rest of the characters.
There were so many missed opportunities in Terminator Genisys. They could have done really cool things with the time travel in both 1984 and 2017 but it is all so dopey. And like I said a lot of the times I felt like sections had been left out and I was thinking ‘what?’
The acting is terrible. The special effects are lame (with a few exceptions). Part of it felt like they were trying to look like Edge of Tomorrow- a movie that is actually smart and kind of involves time travel. Jai Courtney is no Tom Cruise. I can tell you that much.
Emilia Clarke is not nearly tough enough to be Sarah Connor and they do not tackle a single element of time travel messing things up. Like they meet the young Kyle Reese so wouldn’t Kyle recognize Sarah Connor when he see’s her and wouldn’t he know Arnold isn’t a bad guy because he saw both as a kid? He has a picture of her but only because of what John told him about Sarah. Well and if Kyle Reese is a kid in 2017 and his kid John Connor is an adult in 2029? Even if Kyle is a very young Dad that doesn’t work? And if it is an alternative time dimension having 2 Kyles and Johns should cause some kind of space-time continuum problem?
Anyway, like I said it doesn’t make any sense. It’s really stupid movie.
That said, you won’t be bored. Arnold is kind of charming. I’ve seen worse movies but especially when you’ve got such great movies in Terminator 1 and 2 it is very disappointing. Just stay home and watch those (or give Edge of Tomorrow a shot).
It’s also clearly trying to do what X-men Days of Future Past did but that had amazing fight scenes, great acting, cool special effects and focused on getting one character Mystique to make one different choice. Not destroying a billion app downloads and all of Skynet and having 2 characters fall in love and ‘mate’ etc.
But then again, I wasn’t miserable while watching it. I can see why you might have fun with it but I was frustrated by it. Arnold is a lot of fun so that’s always good…