Terminator: Dark Fate ★½

Despite being the sixth (and hopefully final) installment of a franchise that hasn’t really been relevant since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tim Miller’s competent but coma-inducing “Terminator: Dark Fate” has no reason to feel this far past its expiration date. In a studio age of intellectual property where nostalgia and innovation are tugging us so hard in either direction that it doesn’t seem to matter what happens right here, nothing this side of a “live-action” Disney remake could possibly be more “now” than an unsolicited $150 million sequel in which the present is literally reduced to a turf war between the past and the future.

And “Dark Fate” does everything in its power to embrace the 2019 of it all; from its self-congratulatory emphasis on strong female characters and (far more graceful) focus on people of color, to its pandering fan service and soul-numbing parade of weightless special effects, this isn’t just another mega-budget “requel” that nobody asked for, it’s all of them. Perversely, however, the ways in which “Dark Fate” is such a slog du jour only help to underline why the “Terminator” series has always felt so timeless; in a saga about how people never learn and never give up, it’s fitting that the final chapter should be such an undeniable testament to both of those truths. If this movie is a minor improvement over the unwatchable installments that inspired James Cameron to come back and retcon his baby a measure of redemption, that’s because it recognizes that we always have to save the future for ourselves.

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