Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) focuses on a group of individuals facing off against a futuristic force. Grace, a human soldier, is sent to the past with the intent of saving Dani, humanity’s chosen one. Together they evade the Rev-9, a modified Terminator. As the journey begins, they team up with Sarah Connor, a woman accustomed to Terminator mythology. These women team up, creating a team which may hold the key to future perseverance.
Creator James Cameron (the director of “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,”) has finally returned to the world that made him a household name. In many ways, “Dark Fate” sidesteps cinematic ineptitude, and becomes a film that possesses shades of admirability. Right off the bat, director Tim Miller captures the gritty, fast-moving nature of Cameron’s earlier films. For all intents and purposes, “Dark Fate” starts with a bang, giving us an opening battle overflowing with conflictual creativity and intense collision.
Sadly, none of the set pieces live up to this introduction. An over-reliance on computer-generated imagery minimizes the film’s sense of entertainment, ushering in effects that seem unpolished and self-indulgently generated. Years ago, Cameron’s Terminator films were full of proper effects work, strategically utilized at opportune times. When the digital effects were presented, they were legitimately convincing and tailored. Apparently, Miller and company have thrown this cinematic methodology by the wayside.
In this case, we have a film that feels more like an animated feature than anything else. Whereas the earlier films felt real and atmospherically charged, this flick feels bland and uninspired. On a consistent basis, the story feels like a retread of “T2.” And ironically enough, the film minimizes “T2’s” emotional impact, scratching out the vital elements that came before.
I have to give the film credit for its inclusive elements. As a whole, the Terminator franchise has always been a source of female empowerment. Miller, a science fiction fan, takes this female blueprint and runs with it, providing us with a crew of female combatants. These women are portrayed as strong human beings, brimming with loyalty and talent. However, even with such superiority, the primary characters are imbued with elements of vulnerability. Thus, these characters aren’t just cool action heroes, devoid of relatability. They are human beings, complete with hardships, imperfections and internal pain.
Mackenzie Davis plays Grace, the woman sent back in time to protect humanity’s savior. In this film, Davis is able to play the role of brute strength. And boy, does she nail the part. Her physicality is wonderfully portrayed, and when it comes to soldier mythology, it’s nice to see a healthy dose of female representation.
Joining Davis is Linda Hamilton, who plays Sarah Connor, an older warrior. It’s a nice change of pace having an older woman in an action movie. For years, male stars, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, have continued to play action roles in their elder years, so why can’t women? Hamilton steps into this role with ease, expanding the pain-ridden existence of Connor. Unsurprisingly, Hamilton’s gravitas and ferocity paint a subtle portrait of advanced age, telling females that they can still be active in their later years.
Natalia Reyes, a Columbia actress, plays Dani, humanity’s only hope. Even though her role is a bit underdeveloped, Reyes gives the character an abundance of innocence and responsibility. From the get-go, we latch onto this female figure, because of Reyes’ warm personality. I just wish that Reyes’ character was layered with more personality. As the film wears on, the character becomes extremely one-note.
Latin American Representation
I also have to focus on the film’s utilization of Latin American performers. Miller’s flick gives Latino performers the opportunity to make their mark on the blockbuster industry. Cameron’s films always teased the idea of going South of the border, so in the case of “Dark Fate,” the Mexico setting feels like a natural progression. It’s a fresh atmosphere, perfectly in line with our need for equality and representation.
Gabriel Luna, a Mexican-American actor, plays the villainous Rev-9. While the film doesn’t give Luna a whole lot to do, he expertly plays the part. Like Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick before him, Luna excels at playing an unrelenting force of technological terror. Unfortunately, the film essentially makes Luna’s character into a carbon copy of Patrick’s character in “T2.” If Luna was given more of a chance to stand out, the stakes might have been higher.
Overall, “Dark Fate” is a run-of-the-mill flick. Together, Reyes and Davis have excellent chemistry, but their characters’ story is nothing new, lacking surprise and deep emotion. During the middle points, the film drags considerably, and when the action hits, it feels consistently tight, eliminating the rhythm and fluidity of conflicts. I am sad to report that Miller’s sci-fi tale continues the series’ trend of disappointing sequels, and for the first time in my life, I am coming to terms with the fact that maybe there shouldn’t be anymore sequels.