Terminator: Dark Fate

I don’t understand why this movie exists. It’s a perfectly fine action trifle and it’s perhaps the best of the recent “Terminator” films. But was there a great thirst for another “Terminator” installment?

That said, here’s what I like about “Dark Fate”:

  • Sarah Connor’s return is welcome. A “Terminator” film is always better when Linda Hamilton is in it.

  • Having an old Terminator evolve into a caretaker is a good twist. Stuck in the past with nothing to do, the old fella studied humanity and decided to adopt its better traits.

  • Trapping the “Terminator” story in an eternal-return loop is interesting. Turns out, Sarah stopped Skynet in “Terminator 2,” but that opened the door for a separate rogue AI to bring about a different but equally apocalyptic apocalypse.

  • Past “Terminator” movies leaned hard into the male hero archetype. That’s not the case here. Boy savior John Connor doesn’t factor in (I won’t say why) and “Dark Fate’s” obligatory super soldier from the future is an augmented woman (Mackenzie Davis) who could best Kyle Reese in any form of combat. “Dark Fate” is a largely dude-free story about three women who try to save the world.

And here’s what I don’t like about “Dark Fate”:

  • The callbacks to past films are clumsy. The worst offender comes toward the end when Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the T-800 who grew a conscience) picks up a pair of wrap-around sunglasses (sorta like these but with a touch of this abomination), stares at the sunglasses for an eternity, then puts them down. See? He’s changed!

  • The killer robot in “Dark Fate”–a REV-9 (whatever that is) played by Gabriel Luna–can reconfigure and grow spiky things and spawn a second robot (gross). It’s also immune to extreme heat and pressure (and water and fire and, I’m presuming, the vacuum of space). The central struggle in any “Terminator” film is for the heroes to figure out how to kill the mean robot. But if that process is unclear, and the antagonist appears to be indestructible, it’s hard to get invested in the conflict. The action sequences in this movie are well constructed, yet I didn’t care about the outcomes because I was watching feeble humans and a feeble old robot fight a god.

And finally, a few random thoughts on the “Terminator” universe in general:

  • Why do homicidal AIs never integrate flight capabilities into their murder bots? We see Terminators reconfigure at a near-atomic level, but these suckers never fly. Seems like a missed opportunity.

  • My understanding is that “Dark Fate” is a direct sequel to “Terminator 2.” It (mostly? completely?) ignores the events of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” “Terminator Salvation,” and “Terminator Genisys.” Think about that for a second. There are six films in the “Terminator” franchise, but 50% of them do not align with the original story. I’m all about time travel and deep mythology and dense storytelling, but the “Terminator” timeline is a continuity disaster.