Terminator Dark Fate movie review: The film is essentially one long battle against Rev-9, who can’t be cut, burnt, sliced, shot, blasted, or drowned, to death. (Photo: Kerry Brown/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Terminator Dark Fate movie cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davies, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna
Terminator Dark Fate movie director: Tim Miller
Terminator Dark Fate movie rating: 2 stars
Grace, from the year 2042, smashes a mobile phone and this helps her figure out the geographical coordinates of an anonymous text message sent to the device. Terminator Rev-9 dips his hands, literally, into cables at a data centre and images of his prey from across two countries flash through his neural network. As the others, presumably belonging to our current times, look on puzzled, Grace (Davies) explains with a shrug, “Future shit.”
Yesterday, they say, is history, and future a mystery. When neither is neither, as in the Terminator universe, only the churlish would insist on something as banal as explanations.
Still, through its own timeline, of 35 years and six films, the series has had its share of tumbles. For the latest film, Terminator returns to creator James Cameron as producer, immortal Schwarzenegger as guiding light, and heroic Hamilton as warrior. It also largely reprises the story of the first Terminator film — the essence of which involved a destroyed world, at war with a form-less machine entity, which sends back robots called Terminators into the past, to kill anyone who could pose a threat to it in the future.
Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was famously the target then, as the son she was to go on to bear (John) would one day be the leader of the Resistance against the machines. Schwarzenegger’s T-800 was the hunter.
This time round, it’s a Mexican auto industry worker called Dina (Reyes) who is on the hit-list. An improved Terminator called Rev-9 (an unimpressive Luna) has arrived from the future into our present to kill her. Protecting her this time, with all she has got (and the lean, lithe and lonesome Davies adds up to a lot), is Grace. As she explains it, she is an “Augment”, or an augmented human with increased speed and strength. Along the way, Linda, who has been hunting Terminators since 1984, joins their mission. Linda has a long-time benefactor helping her, and while there is really no surprise as to who that would be, it’s ingenious to re-invent T-800 as Carl, a grizzled retiree with a human family, a dog, and the profession of a curtain draper. Carl’s paramount concern is people not paying adequate attention to the curtains they choose for their homes.
However, moments such as these, of conversation involving any sort of concerns, are rare in Dark Fate. The film is essentially one long battle against Rev-9, who can’t be cut, burnt, sliced, shot, blasted, or drowned, to death; can duplicate itself; and still re-assemble itself (this time, as molten tar). There are chases on road, rail and in the sky, and in true Terminator spirit, Rev-9 keeps coming back, back, and back. Director Tim Miller, fresh off Deadpool’s success, has trouble reeling it in.
More than the future, Dark Fate is prescient about the present. It looks for answers in Mexico (spending a good time there), gets its sexual politics right, and suggests that down whichever road we go, we may be headed for the same end. Carl calculates that as things exist, there is “74% chance of humanity descending into barbarism”. You may snigger at that figure, but perhaps not at another one: in this Terminator timeline, a dystopian future is less than 25 years away.