“Terminator: Dark Fate” went down smoothly at first. The action was enjoyable, and it was exciting to see a more violent “Terminator” movie after the lackluster “Terminator: Genisys.” Then I thought deeper about the film, and all its goodwill falls apart.
I realized that some of the character development was ridiculous. Don’t believe me? In this movie, Schwarzenegger plays a Terminator named Carl, who grew old, married a woman, and started a drapery company. The “Terminator” movies have been laughable in the past. In “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” Schwarzenegger puts on Elton John-inspired shades before hopping on a motorcycle. However, Carl the drapery salesmen is a step too far.
Why would a merciless robot ever love a woman or drapery? It’s honestly surprising that Schwarzenegger was willing to play this role, but I think it’s safe to say that money talked, and he answered.
I was able to initially ignore this character detail because the movie’s screenwriters nailed the return of Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton. Hamilton is fantastic in the role, and her development from the crazed savior of humanity to stoic Terminator hunter seems natural. She holds massive guns with confidence, intimidates any who oppose her, and speaks boldly.
In “Terminator: Dark Fate,” Sarah Connor encounters a new Terminator who is chasing two other characters, Grace and Dani. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is a warrior from the future sent back to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), whose role in the future is a mystery.
Davis is less stoic than the veteran actress and freely expresses her emotions. This was a smart choice by the actress and writers because action heroes don’t have to be emotionless automatons. If they wear their hearts on their sleeve, they might even be more relatable to the audience. That is certainly true when it comes to Grace.
Davis’ Grace is desperate to protect Dani, and she doesn’t hold back when communicating that. This motivation naturally conflicts with Connor’s plans.
Connor is desperate to kill Terminators who dare come to the past, and she doesn’t care if a human is in her way. She has become what she most hates, a heartless, killing machine. I wish this was explored in greater detail, though, because it would have made her a more interesting character. Instead, she’s only somewhat committed to that philosophy, so when she changes, it’s not nearly as powerful.
Reyes, as Dani, is fine in her role. She doesn’t particularly stand out because she mostly runs away from the Terminator. However, she does have a few defiant moments in the movie, but they come a little too late. I would have liked the screenwriters to sprinkle in some of that defiance in the screenplay earlier on; this would have made her a more compelling character.
The character that is least compelling of all, though, is the Terminator played by Gabriel Luna, who hunts Dani. Luna is not perfect for this role because nothing is particularly menacing about him. The only time he’s frightening is when we see his robotic exoskeleton underneath his soft demeanor. Robert Patrick played the emotionless Terminator in “T2: Judgement Day” and his performance was convincing. He naturally looked like a man with an edge. Luna looks somewhat likable, and a few dead-eyed side glances aren’t enough to counter that likability.
Luna’s performance is further blunted because the action sequences featuring his character are jerky and over-edited. Director Tim Miller is best known for making “Deadpool” which doesn’t have jumpy action scenes. Unfortunately, with “Dark Fate,” Miller relies too much on chaotic camera techniques to create tension. Instead, he should have given his stunt performers space to show off their skills.
Regardless, I can’t hate this movie because it easily entertained me for two hours. That said, there were terrible screenwriting choices made that I’m 100% against. I wish I could write about them, but I can’t because they would be massive spoilers.
This is not the best “Terminator” movie, and it’s certainly not the worst. I wish it was better because this franchise desperately needs a jolt of energy and creativity. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before this whole series is terminated.