Another year, another Terminator film that ignores the previous movie from the series and tries to course-correct back to the quality that we expect after the first two excellent outings. Dark Fate has the benefit of Deadpool director Tim Miller at the helm, as well as the return of James Cameron as a producer and co-writer, but it still ends up being disappointing; albeit still a decently entertaining attempt at correcting the wrongs of previous entries.
Tim Miller has proven he can direct quality action with his directorial debut, Deadpool. Dark Fate has plenty of action set pieces that are well shot and mostly engaging, but has major pacing issues and recycles way too much stuff from other Terminator films to keep me engaged during the rather slow and uninspired dialogue. Miller does attempt to give the movie more of the heart and tragedy that made the first two films so great and what the third, fourth, and fifth movies lacked, but it ends up still being an action showpiece with little to say.
I was tempted to give this section a spilled rating. This is because of what the story of this film does to the first two films in terms of its characters. Terminator 3 ruined a lot of what made the 2nd film good, but at least it didn't completely disrespect certain characters. Dark Fate, in its first five minutes, makes the 2nd film feel completely useless. Getting rid of key characters for almost no reason and telling us that all of those struggles and fighting was for nothing. Skynet might be gone, but the Terminators are still here because the studios want more money from a dying franchise that ran its course about 3 movies ago. The only reason I don't give this a spilled rating was because of a few plot points that I really enjoyed. Especially Arnold's character’s plot which I found wholesome and ridiculous in a good way.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
I'm so happy to see Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor. More so after the abysmal Genisys completely messed her character up and Emilia Clarke delivered a pretty wooden performance. Hamilton returns to the role with conviction and convincing badassery, even considering her age which I never really thought about throughout the film. She was game and quite fun even if she was underused and didn't have a ton of purpose in the plot. Schwarzenegger returns as a different T-800 that is connected to Sarah's character and is great like he usually is but also isn't used enough. I actually really wanted to see more Arnold in this one and would've loved to see his story fleshed out more. I found it interesting, fun, and pretty bizarre. I loved it to be honest.
The rest of the cast is more miss than hit with most of the supporting actors turning in bland performances with the only exception being Mackenzie Davis who plays Grace, the cyber enhanced future soldier who gave a pretty compelling performance. Her character isn't the most fleshed out, but Davis is certainly game and delivers some of the best moments of the action of the film. It's just a shame that so many of the characters got the shaft when it comes to development. The mental anguish and physical torture that Sarah went through in the first two films and the dread of what's chasing them really worked. Dark Fate is just an action movie. There's no dread, anguish, or emotion almost at all in the 2-hour runtime. It's boring dialogue in between well-done action set pieces. A real shame.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The Terminator theme is in my top 5 favorite movie themes ever. I hear it in my head whenever someone mentions great scores in film. It's beautiful, haunting, and easily recognizable. Now while the theme isn't used enough in Dark Fate, the new score they do have is pretty great and fits well with the type of film it is… which is a dumb action movie. Speaking of action, boy does this movie sound good. I actually wished I saw it in IMAX because the sound design is on point. My theater has a pretty basic sound system, but even in that I could feel the seat rumble when the action picks up.
One thing that Terminator films always have going for them is their special effects, and that's no different here. The new Rev-9 Terminator, which is both a robotic skeleton and a liquid metal robot, is the highlight. The way it separates into two different robots is pretty spectacular and you could tell the visual effects team was just having fun thinking up what it'll do next and how it'll look doing it. All of the other effects, especially the awesome future segments, are top-notch as well, but I had to give special kudos to the Rev-9 bot. He might not be my favorite Terminator villain, but he's sure cool to look at.
Technically, I have no real problems with Dark Fate. It's a solid action film with some great music, effects, and action set pieces. The problem is that it's supposed to be a sequel to one of the best action films of all time that also ended up being a very emotional story as well. While the action is good, it's nowhere near as powerful on almost any other level. Cameron might be back, but I think it's too late for this franchise to make the comeback it certainly needs. It's easily the best of the 21st-century Terminator films, but that's not saying much.