Terminator: Dark Fate

 

            Yes, this is the last in a long line of Terminator movies---six, to be exact—and the first one was 35 years ago, so it's not only not a new idea, it's tweaking a veritable cultural iconography.  But then again, some stories are interesting enough to bear repeating.

            Some time in the not-too-distant future, the humans build a combat robot, called a terminator, so lethal and life-like that it's virtually indestructible.  Then, kind of like nuclear “mutual deterrence,” the humans build a lot of them, supposedly to make themselves feel more secure.  Except what they don't count on is the robots themselves deciding they don't need the humans.  What follows is an unprecedented apocalypse. The humans are reduced to increasingly desperate clandestine cells of resistance.

            The other evident technological advance is time travel.  So the robots, figuring out who the human leaders are, send one of their own back through time in order to prevent the human leaders from even being born.

            Yes, it's a grim supposition.  And typically of a time travel movie, you have to not think about the logic too much, because it won't hold together.  Just go with it.

            Add to the drama the element of the humans deciding to send their own soldier back through time to intercept the terminator.  And the poor humans in the present day are suddenly confronted with not one, but two aliens from the future, neither of whom bother to play by the rules.

            Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sara Connor, the woman who was originally targeted by the terminator because her son was going to be the leader of the resistance.  Give credit to the current filmmakers for paying homage to a previous plot.  This time, though, the targeted young woman is Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who appears to lead a fairly simple, ordinary life.  She lives with her father and brother.  She and her brother work at a nearby plant where jobs are being jeopardized due to increased automation (a nice little foreshadowing).  Then the cyborgs suddenly crash in, literally, and things quickly descend to mayhem and chaos.

            Dani Ramos begins the movie as a young innocent, but her naivete takes several big hits in a hurry.  A terminator is after her, but she doesn't know why.  Her rescuer, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), has to try to explain things while also attempting to convince Dani to run away with her, while everything is exploding around them.  When they run out of resources, here comes Sara Connor, gun-toting and foul-mouthing her way through her new role as grand dame of the jaded princesses.  Grace tells her she can't decide whether to accept her or just smack her around, and we find ourselves feeling the same way.  When all of them run out of resources, there's the original terminator, yes, good ol' Arnold  Scharzeneggar himself, playing Carl the custom drapes man, a cyborg gone to seed.  Somehow, devoid of his terminator instructions, he's stuck in the present and left to his own devices, whereupon he decides to settle down and grow a conscience?  Well, sort of.  Maybe there's a human element to these indestructible machines, after all.          

            But we're way too busy smashing things, and doing explosions and chase scenes and gunfights and ham-fisted combat to consider the subtleties of machine development.  That's left to the cerebral aftermath, along with not-so-veiled references to immigration and cyber-security issues. Meanwhile, all the sci-fi is really just a good excuse for an unapologetic action movie. 

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association