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The excellent judgment of Terminator: Dark Fate

 

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
directed by Tim Miller

Terminator: Dark Fate goes back to the past to pick up where T2 left off.

Perhaps the best thing about a time-travel movie is that if you don’t like where sequels have taken subsequent interpretations of the story, you can simply turn back the clock and carry on as you would have wished.

Twenty-eight years after the release of Terminator 2: Judgment Day – still the best outing in the six-film, one-television-series franchise – Dark Fate makes the excellent decision to ignore the three clunkers that followed T2 and pick up again in that original universe.

Now, an older, grizzled and even more bitter Sarah Connor (played by a brazenly older and grizzled Linda Hamilton) spends her days bazooka-ing a new wave of machines that have been sent back in time to kill our future.

In the year 2020, in Mexico City, with spine-tingling familiarity, a lightning flash heralds the arrival of a naked being (Mackenzie Davis). She’s here as protector against an advanced model Rev-9 Terminator (the charismatic Gabriel Luna), who sports the most disarming smile and a deadly shape-shifting ability.

Deadpool director Tim Miller throws us into the action immediately, with chase scenes on freeways and in factories that evoke the best of James Cameron’s T2 set pieces, as we are introduced to another key player. The female-heavy cast also includes up-and-coming Colombian actress Natalia Reyes, making her Hollywood crossover with aplomb as Dani, the object of the Rev-9’s murderous intent. Reyes gives her damsel in distress plenty of chutzpah.

It’s a thrill to see the 63-year-old Hamilton reprise her role as one of the seminal kick-ass action heroines, as much because it acknowledges movies needn’t just be peopled by pretty young things as for nostalgia value. However, Davis, who was excellent alongside Charlize Theron in last year’s Tully, is a standout.

Although the film doesn’t do anything particularly innovative with its photography or editing, and the character set-up and script feel distinctly 90s, Miller and Cameron (here as producer and also co-credited with the film’s storyline) can be thanked for maintaining the Terminator franchise’s core delights. The machines, with their glowing eyes and snarling gnashers, will never not be scary; and the jokes, by a certain other old-timer making a welcome reappearance, still deliver. As a bonus, Dark Fate is resolutely pro-women, pro-immigrant and pro-ageing. Imagine a future where that wasn’t a surprise.

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★★

Video: 20th Century Fox NZ

This article was first published in the November 16, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.