Movies & TV / Columns

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column: Terminator: Dark Fate

November 6, 2019 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Terminator: Dark Fate Linda Hamilton

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Issue #530: Terminator: Dark Fate Thoughts

Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to the internets movie review column that has never once thought about getting into the drapery business, The Gratuitous B-Movie Column, and I am your host Bryan Kristopowitz. In this issue, issue number five hundred and thirty, I provide my thoughts on the recently released big hooha sci-fi action sequel Terminator: Dark Fate. This will not be a regular review, but more of a “list” review, similar to the reviews I did for the last two Star Wars movies ( here’s the one I did for Star Wars: The Last Jedi). Basically, I’ll explain what I thought was good about Dark Fate and what was bad about it.

Now, just in case you haven’t seen Terminator: Dark Fate yet, I just want you to know that in the course of this review there will be spoilers. So, you know, you’ve been warned.

Terminator: Dark Fate

TerminatorDarkFatePoster

Terminator: Dark Fate, the sixth movie in the Terminator franchise, hit movie theatres this past week to much fanfare but not that much in the way of box office, both in North America and worldwide. Even with the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Deadpool director Tim Miller directing, and franchise creator Jim Cameron producing/contributing to the story, not to mention a robust advertising scheme (the trailer and TV commercials were everywhere), audiences just didn’t seem to care. Terminator franchise diehards obviously showed up, but with a reported $185 million budget, the movie needed a much bigger paying audience to be considered a hit. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t, and the movie will likely disappear fairly quickly from movie theatres (so if you haven’t seen it yet and you want to see it in a movie theatre you’re going to have to find a way to get to the theatre soon). Dark Fate will probably find an audience on home video and television but, really, who knows? Anyway, here’s what I thought about Terminator: Dark Fate:

The Good

Dark Fate is better than Terminator: Genisys: Terminator: Genisys, which came out in the summer of 2015, was, is, and always will be cinematic garbage. Genisys featured lame action, a bad script, and an incomprehensible story. I’ve seen Genisys three times total in my life and I still have no idea what the hell it’s about. At best, it’s two hours of stuff happening. Thankfully, Dark Fate isn’t as bad as Genisys. I mean, at least you can understand Dark Fate’s story (for the most part anyway). Dark Fate is also more generally engaging than Genisys. That, above all else, is all I really wanted from Dark Fate. I didn’t leave the theatre pissed off.

Linda Hamilton is back and she can still kick ass: When it was announced that Linda Hamilton would be returning for the new Terminator the big question was could she still kick ass? Would she still look good and credible holding a machine gun or a rocket launcher and going toe to toe with the newest cybernetic killer sent from the future? Could Hamilton still be an action star? As we all saw in the trailer for Dark Fate, she can still project the necessary killer instinct to take on a killer robot. She also looked good using a LAWS rocket launcher. That was just in the trailer. In the actual movie she shows that she can still go, still fight and shoot and kick ass and lob grenades and be the ultimate female action star badass. She’s older now, sure, maybe a little slower than in her heyday, but Sarah Connor is still jacked and tough and one woman you don’t want to mess with.

TerminatorDarkFateGrace

Mackenzie Davis can kick ass, too: Speaking of a woman you don’t want to mess with, Davis plays Grace, the soldier sent to protect Dani Ramos (the appealing Natalia Reyes) from the evil cyborg sent back to kill her. Grace is human, but she’s been “enhanced” with various future technologies that allow her to be faster and stronger than the average human. That’s a good thing because, without those enhancements, Grace wouldn’t be able to fight off the new Terminator, the Rev-9. And, for the most part, Davis looks good doing most of the action her character is tasked with. It would have been nice if the movie didn’t use so much CGI and allowed Davis to interact with an actual environment, but that isn’t the movie director Tim Miller made. Davis looks like she can do “real” action so why not let her? It will be interesting to see if Davis gets more action movie parts after Dark Fate. I’d hire her if I was in charge.

Ahnold is back and he still has it: You can’t really have a Terminator movie without Ahnold, can you? Of course not. He is the franchise. But what the heck would he be doing in a new movie? The T-800 that Ahnold usually plays wouldn’t be the villain in the new movie, so what sort of “hero cyborg” would he play in Dark Fate? Basically, Ahnold plays a T-800 that was sent as back up for the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day and who ends up killing John Connor a few years after the end of T2. After killing Connor, Ahnold’s T-800 basically continues to exist as a cyborg that, having fulfilled its original mission, tries to blend in with humanity. And doing that allows the T-800 to basically grow a conscience. So Ahnold becomes Carl, a drapes salesman that lives with a woman and her son out in the woods of Texas. Ahnold also starts sending Sarah information on the other Terminators that were sent as back up so she can kill them (which she does off screen). Who the hell ever thought we’d see a Terminator with a conscience and, hell, feelings?

Ahnold gives a terrific performance as Carl. Carl is kind of goofy, funny (his drape selling story is hilarious), but he’s also still a Terminator and still has that killer robot mentality. He may be from a future that no longer exists and be obsolete, but he can still destroy things and put up a fight. That’s what we want to see out of Ahnold, especially in a Terminator movie.

TerminatorDarkFateSarahConnorLAWS

”Sarah Connor hunting Terminators since the end of Terminator 2: Judgement Day: This is such a great idea I wish this was its own movie. I’d love to know how many Terminators Skynet sent back and I’d love to see Sarah Connor, seething with revenge, taking them on and destroying them. That movie would likely never get made because it’s kind of small sounding and franchise movies are now always meant to be big and huge, even if doing that is ridiculous. But, come on, who wouldn’t want to see Ahnold play multiple Terminators in the same movie and get owned over and over again by Sarah Connor? Of course you want to see that movie. If only I had like $30 million. I bet you could make a kick-ass movie out of this plot for less than that. It’ll never happen, though, at least as a movie. Maybe as a comic book?

The Rev-9: As portrayed by Gabriel Luna, the Rev-9 is the newest Terminator, sent back to the past by the killer AI known as Legion (it’s sort of the new Skynet) to take out Dani. The Rev-9 is basically two different Terminators in one; both a tough as nails exoskeleton and a new liquid metal creation that can morph into almost anything it wants (it’s more advanced than the T-1000). When it needs to, the Rev-9 can attack as both the exoskeleton and as the liquid metal blob, which means unless you’re enhanced like Grace or have heavily armed, killer back up, you’re probably going to die. Because, really, how the hell are you supposed to fight two Terminators, two different Terminators, at the same time? You can’t. You just can’t. And that’s why, on paper, the Rev-9 is easily the scariest Terminator of all.

Car chase in Mexico: This is the big hooha car chase scene that starts in the factory in Mexico and ends on the highway with Sarah Connor arriving to save the day. This car chase features some big, car crushing stunts and is easily the most exciting action sequence in the movie. It looks like a good chunk of the chase is done practically, with actual cars and trucks and whatnot driving and crashing and exploding on a road somewhere. Sure, there’s plenty of CGI on display here, too, but it blends well with the live-action stuff and is, again, the best action sequence in the movie. This sequence also showcases the Rev-9 in all of its terrifying glory: splitting in two while driving a big ass truck, with the exoskeleton behind the wheel and the liquid metal part on the hood of the truck, waiting to strike. This sequence will, no doubt, live on on YouTube for many years to come.

”Spanish” version of the classic Terminator theme: I don’t remember exactly who is credited with this version of the classic Terminator theme created by Brad Fiedel, but it plays over the end credits and is a pretty cool reinterpretation of a classic movie theme. Be sure to sit through the end credits to hear the whole thing. It’s damn near transcendent.

The Bad

The story isn’t very good : Dark Fate is, basically, two potentially great stories mashed together into one story that isn’t as involving as it probably should be. The “Sarah Connor hunting Terminators” story could have made for a great movie, and Grace protecting Dani from the Rev-9 could have made for a great reboot/remake of the original movie. When you put those two ideas together, they don’t really mesh well. Both parts seem incomplete or not quite finished yet (the producers need to have someone take another pass at the script. It’s almost there, but it needs a little more time to gestate).

The story is too big: The first Terminator was a down-and-dirty, sci-fi action slasher movie. Terminator 2: Judgement Day, while a much bigger movie than the first one, still took place in a world that the audience could recognize. Dark Fate only seems to exist in a real, recognizable world for about twenty minutes or so. Once the CGI fights ramp up, the action just continues to escalate and, suddenly, our heroes are fighting for their lives out the back of a military cargo plane in mid-air and not once does it seem like it’s happening anywhere except a soundstage with a huge green screen. The flashback to Grace’s future, where we see her in a warzone fighting the machines, should be big because it’s the future and there are giant machines and whatnot, but the whole movie shouldn’t be like that. Why not keep it as small as possible to make the action more intimate? That’s what worked so well in the first movie and for a good chunk of part 2. Hell, even Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had its share of small, intimate scenes. The heroes in a Terminator movie may be trying to save the world, but we don’t see them flying all over the world in order to do it. It usually happens downtown, doesn’t it?

There’s too much CGI: Just about every fight scene in Dark Fate is “enhanced” with the kind of CGI that one normally sees in a big superhero movie, which works well in those superhero movies but always looks like shit in non-superhero movies. And damn near every fight scene in Dark Fate is shit. When Grace and the Rev-9 have to do battle you’re not watching two actors going through a choreographed hand-to-hand fight scene; you’re watching a series of special effects. That kind of thing might be cool to see once, maybe twice in this kind of movie. When you see it in practically every fight scene, it just gets tiresome. And that’s not cool. I know modern event movies have to bring the sizzle and whatnot when it comes to special effects, the audience expects to be dazzled, but is it really necessary to always go big, big, big, and then even bigger when the story really doesn’t need it?

TerminatorDarkFateRev9

Gabriel Luna isn’t allowed to act: He really isn’t. Most of his Rev-9 scenes are CGI fests, with the liquid metal part of the cyborg melting and forming into various blobs and whatnot, and the exoskeleton looks like a piece of really expensive animation. The exoskeleton never looks like a real, tangible thing that a person could touch, and the liquid metal is just a blob. The few times Luna is allowed to act, he’s quite good. He makes the Rev-9 a more focused Robert Patrick as the T-1000, which is terrifying because Patrick was goddamn intense in T2. Luna also knows how to do that smart ass thing where it doesn’t look like he’s being a smart ass but you know he is (check out his brief scene talking to the Texas Rangers, when he asks about the helicopter). The Rev-9 needed more of that kind of thing in the movie. As I said earlier, the Rev-9, on paper, is the scariest Terminator ever. In practice, the Rev-9 is just a piece of expensive animation that gets boring quickly. That’s a shame.

It’s hard to believe that Dani Ramos is the leader of the future resistance against the machines: I like Natalia Reyes as Dani, the woman who finds out that her future self “saves” humanity from complete annihilation by Legion. One day, she’s caring for her father and brother and working in a factory, and then the next her family is dead and she’s on the run from a killer robot and being protected by a gigantic woman named Grace. Kind of reminds you of Sarah Connor in the first movie, doesn’t it? If Dark Fate had mimicked that character progression, where we see her slowly morph from a spunky but kind of weak young woman up against a killer robot from the future to a young woman who has to kill the robot with her own two hands at the end because that’s the only way she can survive, I’d have no problem with Dani Ramos. But we actually see Dani in the future via one of Grace’s flashbacks to the future, and we see Dani rallying humanity and it’s completely ridiculous. She hasn’t physically changed, become more buff and badass and whatnot. Dani hasn’t become more cunning or scary (scary in a good way because she’s good at being a solider and a leader and killing robots and shit). She’s exactly the same person in the future and in the past and, again, that’s just ridiculous. The movie probably shouldn’t have had that scene in it. Grace could have just said “You, Dani, are the future leader of humanity” and left it at that.

It takes too long to get to Texas: Texas is where Ahnold’s Carl lives, and that’s where Grace. Sarah, and Dani are headed once they get out of Mexico. It takes them seemingly forever to get there. Does the movie really need to spend so much time on the U.S./Mexican border, with our heroes in the detention center? Do we need to see our heroes arranging transport over the border? This whole segment of the movie could have been streamlined so the plot could get to Ahnold faster. It’s not like anything particularly interesting happens here.

The movie really has no reason to exist: Well, it exists so it can exploit the title, which obviously still has some value in the marketplace. But is this really the movie Tim Miller, Jim Cameron, Linda Hamilton, and Ahnold really wanted to make? A half-baked mess of a story filled with a slew of incomprehensible CGI special effects? I doubt it. And based on the lackluster worldwide box office so far, it seems like the movie watching audience isn’t all that interested anymore, either. Perhaps it’s time to retire the franchise, or at least figure out how to reboot it so people care about it.

Conclusion

In an overall sense, I liked Terminator: Dark Fate. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I did. In fact, I’d like to see it again. Even with all of the issues I have with it, it’s still a good/almost decent movie. There’s enough good stuff in it to make it worth seeing. Linda Hamilton is back and kicking ass. Ahnold is back and showing everyone that, despite being older now, he still has it. But it also looks like that The Terminator franchise is over. And I’m okay with it. The franchise has three really good movies in it (1, 2, and 3), two decentish movies (4 and 6) and one absolute bomb (5). I’d say that’s a pretty good track record.

So, yeah, let Dark Fate be the last one, at least for a little while. Let the franchise rest and then, when someone has a good enough idea to reboot it, do that. I think that’s the real future of The Terminator. A reboot.

It was damn cool to see Ahnold wielding a machine gun, and losing part of his face to show the world the scary chrome robot underneath one more time, though. It really was.

Rating: 7.0/10.0

**

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column The Facebook Page!

Please check out and “like” The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page, which is here.

TerminatorDarkFateCarlMachineGun

The Gratuitous B-Movie Column Facebook page! Yeah!

**

Things to Watch Out For

PickaxeDVD

Pickaxe: This is apparently some sort of low budget slasher flick where a bunch of dumbass teenagers manage to resurrect a long thought dead monster serial killer/mass murderer using black magic or some bullshit like that. And, of course, when that killer is brought back all hell breaks loose. The great A. Michael Baldwin is in this, as is scream queen Tiffany Shepis, so at least you know there are some cool fucking people in it. And the killer looks both gross and cool (he also kills people with a giant pickaxe so there will probably be some cool looking pickaxe to the face scenes and shit like that). Definitely worth a rental, just to see if it’s actually as good as it looks.

UndercoverBrother2DVD

Undercover Brother 2: I had no idea that this direct-to-video sequel to the 2002 original was even a thing, but it is and the great Michael Jai White is starring in it, so that makes it an automatic must see. MJW has shown that he has a knack for comedy, with Black Dynamite and the upcoming comedy western Outlaw Johnny Black, so he’s perfect for this send up of the spy genre and Blaxploitation movies. The great Barry Bostwick is in this, too, as The Man, and Jeff Daniel Phillips is also in it (man, he seems to be popping up in everything). I’m surprised that it’s taken 17 years for this movie to happen. I hope it’s as fun as the original and, well, funny.

HobbsAndShawDVD

Hobbs & Shaw: Also known as Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw, this is the big hooha spin-off that came out this past summer and, I guess, was a big hit. It looked ridiculous, like most of the Fast & Furious movies (I’m not a fan of the franchise), but I was intrigued by it having just The Rock and Jason Statham in it taking on a cybernetic Idris Elba (he was basically a cyborg, right? That’s what all of the commercials for the movie seemed to suggest). I wanted to see it in a movie theater, on a big screen, but I never got to the theater to see it (it just never worked out). It probably won’t be as spectacular on TV as in a movie theatre, but, still, with the cast, I want to see this. I mean, it’s got to be as insane as it seems, right? Who out there saw this? Is it any good?

**

Check out my Widow’s Point set visit!

Read it here!

WidowsPointEye

**

Next Issue: Escape Plan 2: Hades!

**

Most Recent Interviews

Steve Latshaw
Rick Hurst
Douglas Burke
Jeff Farley
Fred “The Hammer” Williamson
Nico Sentner
Everett Ray Aponte
Max Martini
Tom Huckabee
Jason Kellerman
David Tarleton
Roxy Shih
Jesse V. Johnson
Tamas Nadas (2)
Jesse Thomas Cook
Adam Seybold
Liv Collins
Bryan C. Winn
Jeffrey Combs
Ezra Tsegaye
Alexander Nevsky(4)
Sebastian Wolf
Dana Gould
Janet Varney
Richard Brake
Steven Lambert
Rolfe Kanefsky
Robert Donavan
Lukas Hassel

**

Follow me on Twitter!

**

Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

B-movies rule. Always remember that.