‘Ter­mi­na­tor’ fran­chise is re­vived as Linda Hamil­ton lights up ‘Dark Fate’

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - Gregory Wake­man

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

Pho­tos Paramount Pic­tures

Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger re­turns to the ‘Ter­mi­na­tor’ fran­chise in ‘Dark Fate’

Linda Hamil­ton brings an emo­tional heft to ‘Dark Fate’

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