The T-800 is back on the big screen in Terminator: Dark Fate. On the basis of the previous three films, that’s not the most exciting statement, especially since the last good film in the franchise was T2: Judgement Day. However, there was a great sense of optimism with the latest release, mostly due to James Cameron and Linda Hamilton returning. The good news is that the new release also brings with it better special effects, a decent storyline, the ever-present Arnold Schwarzenegger, but, most importantly, great and believable action.
The screening of Terminator: Dark Fate doubled as the relaunch of the newly revamped Ster-Kinekor cinema at Carnival City. The event was attended by various media and VIPs, as well as a number of competition winners from around the area, with the organisers booking out the entire cinema for the relaunch.
The most obvious talking point about Terminator: Dark Fate and the franchise is how it fits into the bigger picture. Most of the story conflicts between this film and the previous films are resolved with time travel.
Of course, it’s easy to pick apart almost any film that has ever dealt with the topic. It is immensely complicated to explain, let alone build an entire story around. Thankfully, while there may be one or two aspects of that in Dark Fate, the film doesn’t spend too much time on things that occur in the future. There’s a nice audacity to this concept, both in protecting the franchise for future growth, as well as drawing a line in the sand as to where we stand with all that preceded it.
Having said that, the story isn’t all that deep. The future is bleak as the battle between humans and robots kicks off. Billions of humans lose their lives as a result of the uprising. Dark Fate touches on how this comes about, the result of an AI designed for cyber warfare going rogue, leading to the rise of Legion.
What has happened to Skynet, you ask? After the events of Judgement Day, the then-future apocalypse didn’t happen. However, while Sarah may have changed the future, she wasn’t able to change the fate of the humans and their inevitable battle with the robots.
As with pretty much all the films in the franchise, there are two entities sent back to the past to attempt to tilt the battle in their favour. The humans have sent Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a cyborg/human hybrid, to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). And on the opposite side, the robots have sent its newest Terminator, the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), to take out Dani. So, we’ve seen this story before, multiple times, but its a tried and tested formula that works well.
After a quick expositional opening scene, complete with an overlapping monologue, we’re straight into the action. And it’s great. The high-intensity opening battle between the Rev-9 and Grace makes for quite a precursor of what’s to come. Despite the lengthy runtime, the intense action always leaves you with a sense of dread that anything could happen. The stakes are high.
The Rev-9 has a few new features we haven’t yet seen in the franchise. At the same time, Grace has quite a bit more than all the previous protagonists from the human perspective. Arnold is still Arnold.
Besides the storyline, action and the likes, there is quite a lot happening in the film to also consider. The writers and producers have pushed for a more female-centric story in Terminator: Dark Fate. Instead of the woman simply being the mother of the would-be saviour, as was the case with Sarah and John, Dani herself fights back. This is a nice change, and in all honesty, while it’s obvious to see, it doesn’t feel forced. It plays out as a natural development rather than some major talking point, as was the case with the all-female scene in Avengers: End Game.
Where the movie did lose me was the stiff acting, even by some of the more seasoned actors and actresses. In fact, some of the dialogue that made me cringe quite a bit.