Terminator: Dark Fate: Film ReviewCast: Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Natalie Reyes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna
Director: Tim Miller
Dwelling in the past while simultaneously dismissing everything which happened post 1991's Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator: Dark Fate wastes no time in steeling itself as homage to the films, and twisting and repurposing some of the best bits of Judgment Day.
In this latest, which sees the return of James Cameron, Reyes' Dani is the latest target of robots from the future, this time in the form of Gabriel Luna's Rev-9. Singled out for assassination, Dani finds her humdrum life in the hands of agile new saviour Grace (a strong Davis, easily the best addition to the series in a long time, androgynous, sympathetic and wearing similar gear to Sarah Connor's original white tank top) and Sarah Connor, whose life has been turned back to tragedy in the years after she and John averted Skynet's future.
Forced on the run, and with promise of help coming from a mysterious cabin in the woods, it's a fight for survival for the trio.
Terminator: Dark Fate isn't really content to go its own way.
It proffers up plenty of tantalising ideas, and gets into the action straight away with a factory-based fight and freeway chase with trucks.
If that sounds familiar it is - later on the film chooses to use a chase sequence involving a helicopter and a Terminator pouring its liquid form through its window. It's essentially Terminator 2: Judgment Day writ large for the 2019 audience. Much of it feels familiar, in the same way that any sci-fi robot-chasing-you-to-death film is going to - there's little room for nuance character work in between fits and bursts of popcorn baiting action.
Hamilton hovers between spitting, snarling and chewing the scenery with her damaged Connor; a few quieter moments allow her some depth, hinting at the ongoing effects of being caught in this eternal hunting game and are all the better for it. Schwarzenegger dabbles in some usual humour and nostalgia moments, but is largely there for set-dressing; and Reyes' Dani oscillates wildly between being terrified to becoming her destiny. Luna has little to do other than appear relentless, and be the subject of some occasionally iffy CGI.
Thankfully, Davis as the augmented super soldier, makes a valuable case of a vital new addition to the franchise, meshing both robotic like steeliness to the cause, and moments of humanity as reality sets in. It's no shock she radiates a younger Sarah Connor's determination, and even echoes her wardrobe.
Some of the action set pieces creak from obvious CGI, and Deadpool's Miller is competent enough at rolling them out, even if occasionally they feel perfunctory and all too familiar. (No one needs to ever see a Dunkirk style Terminators rising sequence ever again) That said, some of the live action ones are never less than thrilling, and offer a strong case for the Terminator's continuing popcorn appeal.
But the urgency of the dread fear of an unstoppable hunter on your tail has gone in this latest - and even echoes of contemporary themes such as detainee centres, electronic surveillance and immigrants try to add some urgency, they're not enough to detract from a film that pursues its core objective with dread precision, yet proffers no real reason to keep going back to a universe that seems destined to repeat itself ad infinitum.