Terminator Dark Fate

Skip this one. It has a few moments of pure popcorn pleasure, but it’s not a good movie. It’s a pretty dismal example of why they should have stopped making Terminator movies in 1992.

If you’ve seen one Terminator movie, you’ve seen them all… literally. Every Terminator movie has had the exact same plot as the original movie. A robot is sent from the future to kill the leader of humanity before he can rise up to defeat them. The second movie adds a second robot. The third movie makes that robot a girl. The fourth is just a war movie with robots, so it doesn’t count. The fifth movie is trying so hard to be different, but it’s still just multiple robots going back in time to kill the same characters. This one is no different. This repetition is why it’s impossible to talk about one without referencing its predecessors. When a much better version of this story exists, it’s difficult not to think of it when watching this movie.

The twist this time around is that John Connor, the central character in all of these movies is killed in the first five minutes of this movie. That’s not a twist or a big reveal. It happens before the opening credits are done. This means that someone else has to get murdered in the past in order for the robots to win in the future. This time their target for termination is a girl named Dani. She is Mexican. This is a big deal in this movie. It is filled with hints at political commentary without ever having the courage to make any actual political statements. A very polite terminator is sent back in time to kill her, and a super-powered woman named Grace is sent back to protect Dani. Before anything is really established, the terminator shows up at Dani’s factory job and tries to kill her. Grace also shows up and they duke it out. They then get chased in a car then a truck. Things blow up and mayhem occurs.

The first problem with the movie is that Dani is never given any personality or identity aside from being an attractive Mexican girl. Grace’s main trait is that she’s tough? I mean she’s kind of tough, and kind of desperate, and kind of mean, but mostly she’s just kind of there. The terminator has more personality than either of them. He is very polite. He is gentle until he stabs someone in the face.

The second problem is that the action moves too quickly. It’s not too fast paced, it’s that things move unnaturally fast. Cars move at what looks like 500 miles per hour at all times. Punches are thrown and bodies fly faster than they could in real life. Occasionally the movie shifts into slow motion, and the slow motion looks like everything is moving at a more natural pace. This was done to ramp up the intensity, but it just makes it harder to enjoy. It detracts from the weight and importance of the action. Nothing looks like it could ever be real. It’s so hard to get into something that is so clearly not trying to look realistic. It doesn’t have to look real. It is essentially rock ’em sock ’em robots, but action without weight or consequence isn’t fun to watch.

After a lot of sound and fury, Linda Hamilton is introduced once again playing Sarah Connor, the badass mother of the future. She totes large guns and tough guy one liners. She is okay. Her performance is mostly one note. That one note being grizzled bitch, but she plays that note really well. She has an intensity in her eyes and a real emotion that comes out every once in a while.

The third problem with this movie is that there are no scenes. There are a lot of moments and a lot of dialogue, but no real scenes. It’s difficult to define a scene, but essentially it is two or more characters in a single location who begin at one stage and end in a different stage. Mr. A and Mr. B walk into a bedroom and after some arguing Mr. A reveals his secret. Ms. C and Ms. D get in the car and debate the best road to take. They agree and leave. This movie has a scene in which Sarah and Dani sit in the woods. Sarah begins talking about sadness, then the movie cuts away. It’s just that fast. She doesn’t reveal anything about her own sadness. She just talks for a minute then the movie cuts away. There aren’t really many scenes here. There is just dialogue that doesn’t reveal much or advance much of the plot. Some of it does, but that is just exposition, just information that needs to be shared with the audience in order for the next thing to happen.

The best part of the movie is when Arnold Schwarzenegger returns. He is a domesticated terminator. He is a robot sent back in time for one purpose. Once that one purpose was fulfilled, he had no more reason to exist. He had to find his own reason to exist. He married a woman and helped raise her son. He became a drapery salesman. Hear Arnold monotonously discuss the finer points of draperies is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. It is almost worth watching this dumb movie just for Arnold’s scenes. He is hilarious and delightful. His character could have provided a really interesting perspective and is genuinely full of interesting ideas about what life means and living beyond your stated purpose and reinventing yourself. Alas, the movie has no interest in ideas because it rushes into the next series of violent set pieces. A lot of guns are fired, a lot of people are murdered, and a lot of explosions are set off.

The movie just fails at story telling. Dani doesn’t have a story. She is a passive macguffin for most of the movie. Sarah kind of has a bit of an arc, but that’s it. There just isn’t anything else here. It’s just a bad version of the first two Terminator movies. Just watch those instead. Not my cup of tea. – D+

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