27 October 2019 2429 Views

When I said I would not review TERMINATOR: DARK FATE? I lied..

by James Murphy

I Changed my Mind. Here are some points about that new film about the killer machine robot type thingies..


  • Tim Miller is an effective action choreographer. A visual visionary, one can see a clear collaboration with and extension of Jim Cameron’s work, without merely copying it. Tim would do a great job on a proper super-hero flick (no, not a Deadpool style spoof).
  • This is some of the most atmospheric and tense action in the series. You feel this. It’s a thriller again!
  • Succinct, linear, logical storytelling. Simplicity is virtue. No more shifting timeline over-explanation /exposition. 


    • Arnold is BACK! Sadly in it less than before but that’s key to why he’s so good. Less is more. He is funny but critically, not a joke anymore as they’d portrayed the character in previous attempts at sequels beyond part 2. This is some of his finest work since he came back from politics. This man can act; he gets comic timing and vigour /clarity/economy of movement. He’s also in better shape than he’s been in a long while. Yes, he looks his age, but not ‘old, old’ and not trying to be the same shape /style as he was when much younger. They have pitched his look, poise and architecture of the body just right.

  • Mackenzie Davis is a STAR. Beautiful, brilliant, brimming with possibilities. Some of her line readings are a little flat, but that’s very much in character? Think a female Leeeeeoooo DiCaprio, crossed with Brie Marvel and..that’s kind of what we are looking at with this adorable actress.


  • Some great shots of Mexico: the heat, the dust and then the contrast of the night and the cold. You FEEL these locations and that’s a great achievement in film. It makes every beat of the story more engrossing and worthier of re-watching. The location adds to the menace of the baddie Terminator (Gabriel Luna). 
  • Linda Hamilton is genuinely hilarious and moving and compelling as an action heroine. And you believe her impact on the characters she cares for , notably Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who one sees develop, as the film progresses, with Linda/Sarah Connor her accidental mentor. You’ll know it as you see it. Subtle yet sure.



  • There is STILL nothing ‘new’ here! For all its abandoning inferior previous sequels post T2 and this film now involving Jim Cameron, properly, creatively,  at last..there is no new meat. No rigorous reinvention of the old saga’s mythology. This is not a reboot or a remake but neither is it truly working its hardest as a continuation.


  • Without spoiling anything? They STILL take away the victory /good will of T2, even if they say they don’t do that, they do! THAT was the main problem with ALL and ANY sequels to THAT film. Its ending was so perfect, so self contained and both logical and moral. The ONLY way to extend it is to somehow undo parts of it, even if you still avert Judgement Day, you reduce humanity to a predestined constant loop.


  • Without spoiling anything (again)..John Connor is in this..briefly..and yet..he sort of, isn’t? There was no need for that. And in turn, a knock on effect has them completely misunderstand what Sarah Connor stood for as a character. She had started as a vulnerable, feminine, young waitress who was thrust into action beyond her will. She morphed, against a threat, into a tactical super-woman.
  • The logical thing therefore would have been to have Linda Hamilton play a kind of third way Sarah; tougher than in the first film but not a full on human Terminator one line spouting badass action heroine we get here. Think Dante’s Peak!
  • It’s shockingly myopic writing to pigeon hole her as ‘tough’. I am very surprised Jim Cameron signed off on that as producer /co-writer? The actress is also un-flatteringly shot and lit and that’s a shame because she has clearly worked out a LOT to get a great bod and even television interviews show her to be very pretty and charming. 


  • Some movies today build up a world too much in advance of sequels. This one fails to do so enough. We see the future; we want more of it because it’s very well directed and visualised. It should have played a bigger role here and there are the usual unanswered questions, left hanging, as though presuming there will be further sequels to come in this continuity.
  • Isn’t that just the very same mistake made by the previous three films??


  • Politics are ‘there’. I notice Helen O’Hara of Empire magazine awarded this film FOUR stars out of a possible five? And notice she mentions the political subtext. Because that’s what Helen O’Hara does with EVERY FILM IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.
  • It’s true, yes, that this Terminator film has a reality to it and a grimy grit amidst the border wars that are all too real as much as ‘reel’. But that either trivialises the genuine plight it reflects and /or..takes one out of the fantasy?


    • Either way, it’s not quite ‘there’ in addressing / redressing the treatment of the Mexican people. And whichever way one looks at it, there is an implication that oppressed / Mexican = goodie and that it is the class warfare and political ambiguities as much as any compassion, charisma or competence that will define the future war against the machine’s leading victors? So, were these AI machines then a product of ..some white supremacist fantasy? Some misguided wall building programme gone rogue?
    • The film as good as begs us to play, directly, into the kind of militia survivalist fantasy one would hope it cautions us against embracing? There is even an awkward joke about Texan gun laws. Go there. Or don’t ‘go there’. But don’t half arse it in bad taste. It’s tonally illiterate; you will know it when you see it! 


As a tribute to / extension of brand ‘Terminator’, DARK FATE is every bit as bad and disappointingly bathetic as any preceding sequel since T2, while lacking the laughs /brave twists of T3. It’s not closure, it’s not a tribute act, it’s not even necessarily setting up a whole new universe of possibilities. And great though Arnie is, it’s a shame they took so long to figure out how best to deploy him in films like this as he gets a bit older. Just like seeing Harrison Ford back as Han Solo / Indiana Jones etc.

But it’s certainly a better return to action than Stallone in that recent Rambo. Think less of this as a Terminator film though and more as a new film entirely that simply uses the IP /name? And you enjoy an action film, with real, raw, urgent, epic yet intimate thrills in every scene and plenty of laughs and the occasional cry in between. Like a misused cyborg machine, this is a movie that fails in its primary mission to reinstate or reinvent an old franchise yet thereby discovers its own identity and is THAT which fascinates, compels and is entirely worth a watch on its own terms as a self contained and satisfying entertainment.






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