‘Terminator’ franchise is revived as Linda Hamilton lights up ‘Dark Fate’
Terminator: Dark Fate
Director: Tim Miller Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mackenzie Davis
Terminator: Dark Fate is far from the perfect blockbuster. But while it has a derivative plot and lacks the genuine thrills, surprises or thematic depth to rival James Cameron’s first two instalments in the franchise, the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor almost single-handedly makes the film compelling.
Hamilton’s involvement also brings such a resonance and emotional heft to proceedings that it is immediately apparent why the three maligned sequels to The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day
felt so hollow and inconsequential without her.
The importance of Hamilton to the Terminator franchise is underlined with her introduction in Dark Fate. We see a boot slam down on to the tarmac followed by a slowmotion shot up to reveal her face, which should be more than enough to provoke a jubilant response from even the most cynical cinema-goers. That moment also makes it clear that director Tim Miller wants this film to be a crowdpleasing romp.
Dark Fate is never dull, delivering action set pieces and teasing out its plot points at the perfect moments to keep audiences hooked. But it doesn’t come close to eclipsing Cameron’s thoughtprovoking predecessors, either. That seems like a missed opportunity given that there is so much material to explore and play with when it comes to our reliance on technology. Unfortunately,
Dark Fate seems too afraid of boring its audience to really dive into these potential topics, which ultimately makes the film satisfying rather than memorable.
But there’s still more than enough to make Dark Fate a worthwhile watch, while it also lays a foundation that might help to make the franchise as relevant as it was when it first hit the big screen.
Set more than 20 years after the death of John Connor at the hands of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800, Connor’s mother (Hamilton) teams up with time-traveller Grace (Mackenzie Davis) to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), who has been targeted by an incredibly advanced Terminator known as Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). Together, Sarah, Grace and Dani must travel from Mexico City into the US to track down the one person who can help them defeat their relentless foe.
Davis and Reyes, in particular, prove themselves to be enthusiastic and energetic additions to the Terminator franchise. Their effortless, yet still fraught, camaraderie with Hamilton during their trek to the US helps to keep Dark Fate buoyant and enjoyable during its downtime between action sequences. But Luna, who spends most of his scenes either dissolving into a liquid, scanning several screens with his eyes or simply staring intently, is unable to impose himself and never quite generates the menace necessary to make his presence felt.
Behind the camera, Miller managed his second blockbuster relatively successfully, having directed 2016’s Deadpool. While there are admittedly some clunky action sequences in Dark Fate, it is obvious they have been heavily edited down to help streamline the film. Further, with Cameron returning to the franchise as a producer for the first time since 1991’s Judgment Day, and Miller confirming that the Avatar filmmaker made the final cut, it would be unjust to simply blame Miller for these shortcomings.
Instead, the director should be praised for the opening action salvo in Dark Fate, a scene in which Grace and Rev-9 seamlessly and breathlessly turn their fight in a factory into a high-speed car chase. Miller makes each tussle that follows feel distinctive by embracing the locations in which they take place, while he also deserves praise for how he injects comedy into Dark Fate to prevent the film from lagging. That’s especially true when Grace, Dani and Sarah come face-to-face with the person that assists them in their fight against Rev-9, as Miller leans heavily on humour to break the tension and maintain momentum.
But, when all is said and done, this is Hamilton’s movie. Simply put, without her, Dark Fate would not work at all.
By showing us the death of John early on in the film, Miller, Cameron and the team behind the screenplay make sure that Sarah has the same resentment and anger she had in Judgment Day burning through her from the get-go. That means that over the course of her relationship with Grace and Dani, cinema-goers are able to reconnect, feel closer and understand Sarah more than ever, especially as Hamilton plays her as a wiser and more wistful mentor figure.
Hamilton is so increasingly mesmeric in Dark Fate that by the end of the film audiences may feel even more resentful towards Judgment Day’s sequels for omitting her from their stories. But fans may also be able to see a brighter future for the Terminator franchise, with Hamilton at the centre.
Terminator: Dark Fate is in cinemas across the UAE now
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the ‘Terminator’ franchise in ‘Dark Fate’
Linda Hamilton brings an emotional heft to ‘Dark Fate’