Terminator: Dark Fate

I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Sure, its more stripped down, thriller-oriented predecessor may be superior, but T2 will always be a sentimental favorite. My family was fortunate enough to be one of the first in our neighborhood to own a DVD player when the technology was still new, and my dad, who was always a big film buff, made sure to invest in a proper home theater system after doing hefty amounts of research. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the first DVD he ever bought to showcase the system, and it turned out to be one hell of a demo disc, and more importantly a fantastic sci-fi/action film that blew my adolescent mind away. The kindest words I can offer Terminator: Dark Fate, the (groan) sixth film in the franchise is that, by ripping off so heavily what made that sequel such a classic of genre filmmaking, it ultimately proves to be the best of the last four entries the series has afforded. However, that’s not really saying much. Dark Fate sticks close to the formula of what people expect in a Terminator movie: An unstoppable cyborg from the future (Gabriel Luna) is sent back in time to assassinate a pivotal figure in the human resistance (Natalia Reyes) while another soldier (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back to protect them. This time around Linda Hamilton is a welcome returning face in her career-defining role as Sarah Connor, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger turns up a bit later for good measure. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) handles the action scenes like an assured pro, but they nonetheless lack much of the tension that marked the first two films, perhaps in part because this is such well-trodden territory. The special effects work and CGI imagery is similarly impressive, but does little to make up for a clear lack of interest the film has in doing anything new with its human characters, nor does it raise the bar considering what the best action films in recent years, such as Mad Max: Fury Road, had to offer. Sure, it’s nice to see another action franchise continue to put strong female protagonists front and center, but in the end Terminator: Dark Fate feels like a largely inconsequential work that will be similarly forgotten as the last few entries in this tired franchise were. At this rate someone might need to send a Terminator back in time to stop James Cameron from producing any more of these films.