The film failed to attract enough of a significant audience, being declared a box office failure. Despite this, in 2015, the “Terminator” franchise was revived again with eyes, once more, towards creating a new trilogy of films. This reboot also failed to attract enough ticket-buyers and did not launch a new expansion of the franchise. A mere three years later, another attempt has been made to reboot this time traveling killer robot saga. And, yes, “Terminator: Dark Fate” has also been a box office failure. It's almost as if the public isn't interested in a reboot of the “Terminator” franchise.
So why the hell did the Hollywood deal brokers and money men decide the world demanded a new “Terminator” film, despite all evidence pointing to the contrary? James Cameron regained the rights to the series in 2016. This prompted a desire to – as has become trendy – make a new sequel that would ignore the later films and instead focus on following up the originals people actually liked. “Dark Fate” was intended to be the real “Terminator 3.” Cameron would have a hand in writing the film, with “Deadpool” director and supposed “Terminator” super-fan Tim Miller directing. But you knew that already. Let's see if “Dark Fate” is the return to form some fans seem to think it is.
“Dark Fate” endeavors to replicate the extended chase scene plotting of the original “Terminator.” Once the shape-shifting kill-bot arrives, our heroes rarely stop moving. The scenes of peace, such as Sarah getting to know our new heroes in a hotel room or Dani and the gang hanging out at “Carl's” house, are short stop-overs on an endless race towards the next action sequence. The pacing is almost always up-hill but the execution lacks the grim tension of Cameron's original. The result is a noisy experience that wares the audience down, instead of exciting or thrilling them.
In form and function, “Dark Fate” is basically a remake of the original “Terminator.” The familiar beats of a heroine and a futuristic protector running from a Terminator all appear. This lack of creativity is evident in the film's latest evil Terminator. It's absolutely gulling to me that it's been twenty-eight years since “Terminator 2” and nobody has been able to think of a better idea for a killer robot than the liquid metal T-1000. What gimmick differentiates the Rev-9 from all past Terminators? He has a robotic skeleton, like Arnold's original, that can separate from a nano-tech “skin,” both able to function as separate entities. Essentially, the Rev-9 is just a lazy mash-up of the first two Terminators. He attacks with guns or stabbing CGI tentacles, both of which are very boring. Surely, a person as creative and inventive as James Cameron could've come up with something cooler than
this? But I doubt Jim had as much input on the script as has been advertised.
So what is there to like about “Dark Fate?” Well, the cast is pretty good. Mackenzie Davis proves to be a surprisingly effective action hero. Though CGI effects allow Davis to perform all sorts of superhuman heroics, her performance is largely characterized by vulnerability. Grace has weaknesses too, her superpowers-granting battery running low quickly. This allows Davis to bring a great deal of humanity to the role. There's even a sweetness at times, as she attempts to bond with Dani. Natalia Reyes is also decent as Dani, even if the character's transformation into a solider is never believable. (Which has more to do with the script than Reyes.)
There's a half-assed attempt at social commentary here. The heroine is Mexican, the Terminator disguises himself as an immigration officer, and crossing the border factors into the plot. But it's hard to care too much about that when the plot is uninteresting and the action is deeply uninvolving. “Dark Fate” is the first “Terminator” movie to be a full-blown bomb, as “Salvation” and “Genisys” at least broke even. Yet I suspect the “Terminator” brand is destined to be back. (Though probably not as a streaming series or something and not a big budget movie.) Producers clearly believe this franchise has too much name recognition to let rest forever. So it looks like we'll be haunted by mediocre “Terminator” spin-offs until Judgment Day finally arrives for real. [5/10]