Review – Terminating for Seniors (“Terminator: Dark Fate”)

Just like in the last Halloween movie, this film takes a backwards step in it’s franchise and tries to re-invent itself by dismissing the other films and starting fresh from movie #2, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. So forget what you saw in the OTHER movies, and pay attention to this one!


*
Sarah Conner won. Yaay! Judgment Day, SkyNet, billions dead? Nope! Never happened. But wouldn’t cha know it, 22 years later in Mexico City, two time-travelers from the future gets zapped there and all because of a young woman named Daniella “Dani” Ramos (Natalia Reyes). What this 20-something doesn’t know is that she’s been targeted by an advanced Terminator called a Rev-9 (Diego Luna), that is like the old liquid metal T-1000, but it can separate from its exoskeleton and become two unstoppable entities. Nice!

However, protecting the girl this time around is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a super bio-enhanced human that almost gets her butt handed to her, if not for an intervening older Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) showing up. Just like in the first movie, Sarah figures that Dani is the target because her future unborn child will lead a human resistance force against the Legion, the army of new droids that replaced SkyNet. Dani’s the new Sarah Conner.

One thing is for sure, this Rev-9 is relentless and keeps finding our heroes as they try and make their way to Texas to find a mysterious benefactor to help them. Turns out that the mystery man is Carl, aka an old T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has lived his life as a human being, and a pretty good drapery salesman! Wanting to make amends for a past indiscretion, he joins the gang to kill the Rev-9, but that’s not gonna be easy; this newer android seems unkillable.

The third act is one long fight/chase/fight again/chase again where your level of suspended disbelief has to be cranked up to eleven to truly believe all the unbelievable and insane action stunts, which are completely implausible, illogical, gravity defying, and beyond any human endurance. Did I say implausible? This movie makes the last few Fast & the Furious films look REAL! It gets to be all too much after awhile and starts to wear thin with 128 minutes of non-stop chases, fights, crashes, and plot holes. The only good parts are the down-times where the actors can… well, act!

Copycatting the first & second movie’s plot (James Cameron DID produce and come up with the story), screenwriters David Goyer (Man of Steel), Justin Rhodes (Grassroots), and Billy Ray (Hart’s War) pretty much let the all-female kick-ass team drive the car this time, while the guys were just relegated to helping out in the background. And the ladies are damn good, I must say. Seeing Hamilton spar again with Arnold is enough to make you giggle like a fanboy. We’ve GOT to get these two together with older Laurie Rhodes & Michael Myers!

Mackenzie Davis is not your paint-by-the-numbers, cookie-cutter enhanced soldier, either. She plays it vulnerable, unsure, and has a great backstory that sets her apart from others of her kind. Hamilton is just phenomenal, owning the movie as if she never left the franchise. Arnold gives it his best shot as the aging T-800, and Diego Luna is silent, but deadly as the Rev-9. The real stand-out here is Colombian actress Natalia Reyes who lights up the screen, going from a fresh-faced girl to a battle-ready woman.

Tim Miller (Deadpool) ain’t no James Cameron in directing, that’s for sure. Where Cameron eases into a shot, Miller just lights a fuse and watches the whole damn thing explode again and again and again. This is one very long and often tedious chase & fight movie and, where that worked for Deadpool because of its blend of humor and superhero content, it gets to be too much in this medium as one outrageous, eye-popping stunt has to out-do the next. The story, while repackaged and well told, is swallowed up by all the ridiculous mayhem surrounding it.

“Come with me if you want to live”. The Terminator franchise has been around since 1984 and was the brain child of super producer/director James Cameron. With this newest (and some say LAST) of the Terminator franchise movies, let take a look back at the enduring, endearing movies that gave us incredible chases, outrageous stories, and made Arnold Schwarzenegger a household name.


*

The Terminator (1984)

There wasn’t another time-travel sci-fi like this one. Sent from the future to protect the yet-unborn baby that will save humanity, soldier Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) finds innocent waitress Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) and tries his best to protect her from the rampaging, murderous Terminator 800 model (Arnold) who’ll stop at nothing (“I’ll be back!” forever being his catch phrase) to kill Sarah. From the doubting police (Lance Hendriksen & Paul Winfield) to some really dopey punk kids (a young Bill Paxton), this movie set the standard for SkyNet, computers taking over the world, and Judgement Day. It made a fortune at the box office and that led to only one thing… a sequel!!

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

In that rarest of cases where a sequel actually bested it’s original film, this film did it. Again written & directed by James Cameron, it upped the ante on plot, action, and characters starting with Sarah Conner’s young criminal son, John (Edward Furlong) who is now the target of a murderous, shape-shifting, liquid-metal T-1000 Terminator (Robert Patrick). The twist? Another T-800 (Arnold again) is sent back in time to protect John, and together they set out to rescue Sarah (Hamilton) from a psychiatric hospital. On the run, John, Sarah, and the T-800 decide to tempt their dark fate and go after Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), a scientist at Cyberdyne Systems that pretty much gave SkyNet its birth. Needless to say, things do NOT end well. This movie was not only a landmark blockbuster, but it’s newest CGI effects were ground-breaking.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

This is where is all went south. With a different writer and director, the story, action, and overall feel of the movie wasn’t there. The plot, about a 20-something John Connor (Nick Stahl) who wants to escape his past, but just can’t because yet another Terminator is after him! This time it’s a very lethal female T-X version (Kristanna Loken). Oh, yeah, that ‘ol T-800 (Arnold) is back again to help John out, but he doesn’t want saving. John’s an anti-hero, on the road with the T-800, a kidnapped veterinarian (Claire Danes), and traveling all over the place trying to stop the SkyNet computer program from going live at a remote government facility. Yes, there are some pretty decent chase scenes, and a quirky cemetery shoot-out, but this movie just didn’t win the hearts of many. Still, another movie was ordered. Hoo-boy!

Terminator: Salvation (2009)

I think this movie will forever be remembered for one thing: the infamous meltdown of actor Christian Bale while shooting a scene on the set of this movie. A real method actor, Bale was intensely into a scene while filming, but the director of photography walked around during shooting and Bale went ballistic! There is no video, but his audio super-rant (laced with F-bombs) went viral and is still talked about.

Anyway, it’s the future and the Terminator robots are in charge, rounding up humans all over the place and John Conner (Bale) is leading the fight against them. Into their midst comes help in the form of Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) who is secretly a Terminator/human hybrid. But is he a friend or foe? While visually striking and having plenty of action scenes, the story just laid there. This just about sunk the franchise, but wait! You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!

Terminator: Genisys (2015)

With a story as goofy and strange as its title (how exactly do you pronounce “genisys” anyway?), this ridiculously weird and dumb movie tried to reinvigorate the franchise by having the past (1984) and present (2015) timelines converge. In this “alternate universe”, they brought back the original Terminator 800 (a CGI de-aged Arnold) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), but this time, Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke) isn’t a silly waitress, she’s a kick-ass women who’s packin’ serious heat. With a time travel gizmo, Sarah & Kyle get zapped to a future where SkyNet is about to launch a worldwide program into everyone’s phone, computer, etc. and take over the planet. Oh, and then there’s John Conner (Jason Clarke) who isn’t exactly what he seems to be. This is one convoluted story and, in a controversial move by the studios, a huge spoiler about John Conner was given away in the trailer! This movie just wasn’t good. Period.

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