Friday, November 1, 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) - Review

Besides "I'll be back" and "hasta la vista, baby", perhaps the other memorable quote from the Terminator franchise is: "There's no fate but what we make". But the underlying message of the latest entry, Terminator: Dark Fate, is that regardless of what these characters do (or make), the fate is still going to be the same!! Let me elaborate:

As shown in the trailers (no spoilers), there is a terminator and a guardian sent from the future to fight over someone's life. This plot device had been used in four of the previous five Terminator movies. The only 'supposed' novelty of Dark Fate is that it ignores Terminator 3-5 and goes on an alternative timeline that branches out of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Regardless of continuity (whether Terminators 1-5, or 1-2 and then Dark Fate), the fate of humanity remains the same: robots rebel against humans sometime in the future. It only may get delayed, but seems inevitable... In that very future, even though the robots have the upper hand, they still send a machine back in time to kill a human who might end up being important on day. In response, human rebels send a guardian back to protect that individual.

As someone who used to be a fan of the franchise, I have recently realized that the logic makes no sense - at least the plot of the five out of six Terminator movies (i.e., all except for Salvation). Why the robots, who are dominating in the battlefields, need to change anything in the past? From their point of view, the status quo must be perfect! Why do they (i.e., robots) need to take a proactive role in this scenario?

Those highly intelligent robots must be familiar with the butterfly effect! With the smallest change, the robots may cease to exist. At best they may eradicate a troublesome human leader, but worst case, is that their domination might end..  It would have made much more sense if humans decided to rewrite the past and sent someone (whether machine or human) in the terminator role to change/terminate the timeline, and then the robots (i.e., SkyNet or Legion) sent a guardian to protect/guard the chain of events leading to their supremacy!!

Now back to Dark Fate: I went to see this movie with great enthusiasm. The first two entries in the franchise (logic aside) are masterpieces in my opinion. In particular, Terminator 2 is (or maybe was... need to sleep on it) one of my favourite movies of all time. In T2, Arnold (T-800) was an unstoppable bear sent to protect John Connor from a fast and elusive wolf, T-1000 or the mercury man - played by Robert Patrick. Dark Fate, does a good job of replicating T2's animalistic dynamic between the guardian and terminator. The terminator is of the Rev-9 model (Gabriel Luna) and is more like a Jaguar with unlimited stamina, can leave a copy of himself behind, and instead of mercury, perhaps 'tar' could be the substance that you associate it with. The guardian, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), is almost as relentless and strong, but can only operate in short bursts - very much like a video game character that has a special move and you need to replenish it before it can be used again - and also moves like a fast feline predator (I'll let the reader pick the animal).

These two characters match up really well, and make a few memorable scenes, particularly their confrontations in the first act. Throughout the movie, the fight choreography was fast, smooth, and beautiful to watch. More positive comments can be said about Linda Hamilton's return as Sarah Connor and the always impressive Arnold Schwarzenegger. Their limitless charm is on full display. The pacing of the movie is good too. I only looked at my watch once, and it was after 1hr 45mins - only 15 minutes before the credits started rolling.

Overall, Dark Fate is an entertaining movie, but my gripes are with overuse of computer-generated images (CGI), and the flaws in the plot of endless attempts at sending guardians and terminators back in time, with a seemingly unavoidable fate. I'm also disappointed in the marketing team for overhyping James Cameron's involvement. Has Cameron become creatively bankrupt? Is he out of fresh ideas? Is he going to repeat and contradict himself from now on? I wish Cameron and the studio stop milking this cash cow before it reaches the very last drop... The cast, budget, and choreography should have been utilized to build a new franchise (rather than rehashing this old story). In case of staying with this old Terminator story, Salvation was the freshest idea that we had. Showing how the future pans out is much more interesting than yet another foolish attempt at rewriting the past.

At the risk of sounding redundant (much like this movie), Dark Fate's biggest sin was to tarnish the reputation and impact of Terminators 1 and 2! All it does is reaffirming that this loop or vicious cycle (or dark fate) is inevitable; the gender and race of characters might change, but the roles stay the same. So... why care at all? Clearly there will be sequels, but they will become void one day when the a new war between humans vs. machines begins.

As an entertaining Fast and Furious clone, Terminator: Dark Fate is a 6.5/10.

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