Saturday, November 02, 2019

Terminator: Dark Fate

I've got a bad habit of not buying tickets for the IFFBoston Fall Focus in advance (because who knows what's going on a week from now, right?), so by the time I was checking things at work on Friday, Marriage Story was already sold out, but like a lot of those movies, it'll be out in regular theaters soon so catching it isn't quite urgent. So, what the heck, let's see the new Terminator.

It's bad, of course, and is bad in the same way the previous sequels have been: It's the same movie, more or less, with a powerful sensation of running in place. I joke often about how other franchises reboot and this one restores from the backup they made after T2, but they can; I don't really miss any of the directions various people have taken some then as they're thrown out. And I'm fairly sure I won't miss this when the next group to get their hands on the Caralco library decides to keep going because these sequel rights are the most valuable part of that acquisition. Nobody seems to regret any of the retcons other than The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and I haven't heard that much lamenting its consignment to alternate timeline status this time around. The fans must have gotten it out of their systems with Genisys.

Terminator: Dark Fate

* * (out of four)
Seen 1 November 2019 in AMC Assembly Row #2 (first-run, Dolby Cinema DCP)

This Terminator is such a nullity and retread that I can't even bother to type a joke I've been making to friends about just what sort of retread it is again, like it would make me just as lazy. Dark Fate somehow manages to be a paradox of pointlessness - a sequel that draws what life it can from its predecessors but which has nothing new to offer, even as it explicitly notes that it's just doing the same thing with different names.

So now "Skynet" is "Legion" and they've sent a Terminator "Rev-9" (Gabriel Luna) back to kill Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who works in an automobile plant in Mexico and seems as innocuous as Sarah Connor was thirty-five years ago. The rebels send back Grace (Mackenzie Davis), whose cyborg augmentations allow her to put up much more of a fight than most humans would against a killer robot - though they probably still would have been dead in fifteen minutes if Connor (Linda Hamilton) didn't show up. She's been hunting Terminators full time since one that had apparently been around for years found and killed her son in 1998, after "Judgment Day" was supposed to have happened. She's been receiving text messages about where time-traveling killing machines will materialize for years, but coordinates tattooed on Grace's body will finally lead her to the person sending them.

It would take depressingly little editing to tweak that description to describe four other Terminator movies or the TV show, and while it's not inherently bad to follow a formula, this series has spent the past twenty years having no idea how to handle the way it has lived past the date of its future doomsday and just doing the same thing anyway. A more ambitious movie could do something with that, making a point of how the point is not a single savior but rather the steady work of pushing the apocalypse back, or playing with how The Terminator was the product of Cold War fears of Mutually Assured Destruction, so maybe by now we're talking about troll-bot server farms hastening environmental disaster, but this is not that movie. The filmmakers do the minimum to upgrade to the twenty-first century, and why bother when the first couple movies are out there?

Full review on EFilmCritic

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