Terminator: Dark Fate

Terminator: Dark Fate ★½

About as lazy and unimaginative as its title. There might not be a director currently working in Hollywood more averse to compelling visual imagery than Tim Miller. Miller's first feature, Deadpool, is one of the ugliest studio movies in recent memory. If you wanted to cut the guy some slack, you could point to its budget⁠—$58 million, chump change for a superhero flick. With Dark Fate, Miller was gifted nearly $200 million with which to work. Given a budget like that, you'd think a guy with a VFX background like Miller could produce an effects-heavy action blockbuster that doesn't look like a poorly-animated PS3 game, but nope! Dark Fate starts well enough, with an opening thirty minutes of action that brings to mind the awesome chase scenes from T2. It isn't long after that opening salvo that things go off the rails. The film wasn't even half over before I began obsessively consulting my watch, resigned to my own dark fate of having to endure a shitty movie. For being what is essentially a retread of T2⁠—two Terminators go back in time, one good and one bad, to track down a future resistance hero⁠—the plot of Dark Fate is nearly as stupid as the utterly incomprehensible Genisys. Skynet's eventual rise to power is halted by the events of T2, however a new evil computerized menace called Legion has appeared in its place. Legion is the First Order from Star Wars: a near-identical enemy force that conveniently takes the place of the previous film's vanquished foe without explanation. If Legion is the new Skynet, then there must be a new John Connor to oppose it. Legion's target is Dani Ramos, played by Natalia Reyes. There's a late in the game revelation regarding Dani's role in the future that is so obviously telegraphed beforehand that it's baffling why the film bothers to play it for a twist at all. Mackenzie Davis' lean physicality is a nice fit for her augmented super soldier and she brings a welcome sense of humor to the role, however her counterpart, the highly-adaptable Rev-9, is basically anonymous. What made the original T-1000 such a frightening villain was the machinery of Arnold Schwarzenegger's body; Gabriel Luna looks like a desk clerk compared to the Governator. It's become something of a cliche that the third act action of these big-budget blockbusters is totally incoherent and Dark Fate is no exception. Bring your night vision goggles if you hope to follow anything that happens in the last twenty minutes. Like so many other movies today, Dark Fate shamelessly courts the woke label by placing three women⁠⁠—one of them being a woman of color⁠—at the center of an action movie. It then spends those woke points on a totally ill-advised joke about guns. While I'm thrilled to see more action movies designed around badass women, the nakedly self-congratulatory tenor of these projects is totally undeserved. In the 30s, 40s and 50s, Hollywood regularly produced vehicles for women without fanfare. That it's only now getting back on track after spending forty years exclusively catering to teenage boys is encouraging, but leave it to us to do the applauding, 'mkay? Don't forget that your industry was built on and continues to profit from the exploitation of women. Can we really claim progress when Harvey fucking Weinstein still walks a free man?

Anyway, I liked it when Linda Hamilton used a swear.

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