Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)
I’m going to preface this review with a cinema etiquette question.
You know when you go into a cinema and it’s completely empty, huge too, and so you and your friend take your seats smack bang in the middle. Seems reasonable, right? Another guy comes in, looks around, and sits directly in front of you.
Is this person?
A purebred psychopath
Answers on a postcard. Or Tweet.
On with the review!
Terminator: Dark Fate was not a film I went into with any expectations for. I might have been disappointed (I was fully braced for that, in fact), I hoped to be entertained. I certainly did not expect it to match either of the first two films, if it was better than the three between it and T2, that would be nice.
I review films not based on where I think they rate as art, but how much I enjoyed the experience of watching them. This rationale is why my scores for films can go up or down.
Weirdly, Terminator: Dark Fate is only the second Terminator film I’ve seen in the cinema. The other one was Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which is by far the worst of the six films. I was buoyed about Dark Fate by the return to grown up ratings for a grown up film series, and the involvement of Deadpool director Tim Miller.
At first it follows very much T2’s blueprint, but that’s no bad thing, the Terminator films work best as a game of cat and mouse, and there is real thill in the Dark Fate’s chase. The new model machines and their subsidiaries are nice additions, I particularly enjoyed the “Rev-9” future killer. The “enhanced” human was a nice idea, and did add something to the film, but as yet I haven’t decided quite what.
Mackenzie Davis has some nice lines as the aforementioned enhanced human sent back from the future to help save Natalia Reyes’s Dani. Davis is good, and Reyes has her moments. Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Conor and is pretty on the nose, painting a rather bitter, ageing loner with masses of baggage. I thought she was the pick of the bunch. Gabriel Luna plays the Rev-9 with the icy detachment obligatory in the role. Arnie is Arnie and where you fall on Arnie will affect what you make of Arnie in Dark Fate. I like Arnie, so…
Dark Fate’s 15 certificate definitely was a good decision- and I’m not just being a gore hound here- it helps add to the fear and believability. Dark Fate is nasty in places and it not feeling sanitised like the last three films helped me buy into the fear more than if it was the same film but cleaned up. The action escalates to the point of ridiculousness, but I was able to suspend belief. Also although there clearly are lots (hundreds) of effects shots the CGI is very convincing.
Some critics have moaned about ham fisted efforts for cultural relevance and efforts to insert the Holy Grail of a "strong female character" (or three). Frankly none of that crap crossed my mind, I was in the cinema to watch death, destruction and explosions as humans run from futuristic robot killers. That should be what you go to see Dark Fate for, too, or you'll be disappointed.
Overall a welcome return to the series, some new ideas and clever twists, as well as a few very obvious ones. Somewhere nearer to T2 than the last three Terminator films, Dark Fate was never going to break any ground, but it does cover plenty of it pleasingly. I was entertained the whole way through.
Perfect popcorn cinema. 7/10