“The Terminator” is back, again.
Since 1984, the Terminator films have been set in a dystopian universe where the remnants of the human race unite to form the Resistance and battle the self-aware artificial intelligence system, Skynet. Terminators are members of the Skynet military that are set to destroy human targets.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” picks up where the second film left off. Two decades after the T-800 terminator murdered her son, Sarah Connor is still seeking revenge. She meets Grace, an augmented super soldier, and the two join forces to protect the future leader of the Resistance, Dani Ramos from the nearly indestructible Rev-9 terminator.
The film opens on Halloween, a fitting date for the dystopian tale, and stars franchise favorites Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton as T-800 and Sarah Connor.
The sixth iteration of the killer-robot franchise, probably didn’t need to be made.
Plot-wise, there’s nothing new about robots going rogue or humans utilizing massive amounts of artillery to take down a product of their own creation.
The film’s action scenes are fast-paced and engaging. The accompanying CGI effects were detailed and well executed. But it’s 2019, well-rendered films aren’t difficult to make. There’s nothing new about daring stunts executed at a breathless pace tied together by loose bits of stern dialogue and kitschy comedic one-liners.
The Terminator movies have a set formula for raking in the dollars. They’re packed with enough action to keep the audience awake and step far enough over the border of the improbable for people to genuinely worry about technological threats taking over the world any time soon.
That formula applies to every action movie. That isn’t new.
However, the film’s deeper thematic elements make it more interesting. As the story unfolds, Sarah, Grace and Dani travel from Mexico to Texas to meet T-800. Along the way, they are stopped by border patrol, housed in a detention center and steal weapons from the United States military. The film doesn’t make any explicit statements about international politics, but it almost doesn’t need to. But the setting alone appears to be a commentary on the current state of immigration.
When the three women are thrown into the detention center, they are surrounded by men, women and children stored in metal cages. The attitudes of the border patrol agents in charge of processing the immigration and asylum claims are disinterested at best and aggressive at worst. It’s telling that the main characters didn’t need to be stored in a high-security prison, the cells on the border more closely resemble a jail than a humane transitional facility.
The film also touches on many emotions despite the absence of a romantic subplot. At the start of the film, Rev-9 murders Dani’s father and brother. She is unable to mourn their loss and must instead follow Grace and Sarah while running from Rev-9. The three develop a tight bond and learn how to care for each other’s needs. The lack of romantic entanglements strengthens the story arch. The women aren’t interested in impressing the next person they want to sleep with. They care about each other and are fueled by the purpose of their mission.
Overall, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is entertaining but not groundbreaking. But the film is redeemed by its strong female leads and social commentary. Audiences looking for something to watch on Halloween will be entertained, but not dazzled by something epic.
3.5 Rev-9 terminators out of 5