'Terminator: Dark Fate' Review: Tim Miller Augments a Crashing Franchise
Saturday, November 02, 2019 10:30 IST
By Shaurya Thakur, Santa Banta News Network
`How do we win?`

Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, and Brett Azar

Director: Tim Miller

Rating: ***

(Possible Spoilers Ahead)

With an increasing dependence on technology every passing moment, it is no secret that humankind has cultivated a fear of being overthrown by machines, artificial intelligence in particular. As we feed machines with our data, this fear is becoming alarmingly rational. This fear of Artificial Intelligence is no longer fiction. Visionaries such as Stephen Hawking have said that the continuing progress of A.I could mean the death of mankind while Eon Musk has already called AI `our biggest existential threat` Even back in the old days, science fiction, particularly the idea of machines acquiring sentience is something writers such as H.P Lovecraft, H.G. Wells, and Arthur Clarke have mentioned in their many proses.

Their writings weren't merely stories contrived out of the gift of vivid imagination, but in retrospect have foreshadowed our unhealthy obsession with toying with something that goes beyond our conscious understanding. In science fiction movies, notably Stanley Kubrick's opus `2001: A Space Odyssey` we see how the superhuman H.A.L. 9000 takes charge of mankind while investigating the sudden appearance of massive monoliths. This taking over of the creator by the creation termed as `Frankenstein Complex` was also seen in Alex Garland's `Ex Machina` where the robot Ava turns the table on its master Nathan.

Born on August 16, 1954, in Ontario, Canada, James Francis Cameroon went on to study Physics California State University, Fullerton. But something convinced that he wasn't meant to be there, so he left in search of greener pastures elsewhere. This `elsewhere` turned out to be the world of movies, as Cameroon who worked as a truck driver would pull over the truck to work on his screenplays. He would also learn about the technicalities with late-night sessions at the local libraries.

After long periods of grunt work, he made his first short film `Xenogenesis` in 1978 which lead him to work for Roger Corman. Cameron proved to be a man of many talents as he did everything from visual effects to art direction, and eventually his first directing gig `Piranha II: The Spawning.` The experience, however, turned out to be a bitter one due to constant clashes with the producer Ovidio Assonitis. This wasn't the end of the road for Cameron, who then wrote Terminator a film that made a megastar out of him and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It also gave us Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, one of the most iconic female action heroes in the history of cinema.

Both Cameron and Schwarzenegger have gone on to become big-time Hollywood celebrities, but it was this futuristic tale of a cyborg sent to kill a human that got the ball rolling for them. Now 25 years later, they are back to prevent this flame from going out (incidentally the movie is titled Dark Fate). James Cameron, busy with the upcoming `Avatar` franchise serves as a producer. Tim Miller, who did a pretty damn good job on `Deadpool`, is behind the latest chapter of this dystopian tale of revenge, robots, and time-travel.

Set in 2020 after the events of `Terminator 2: Judgement Day` this movie finds a genetically engineered human soldier, Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and an advanced Terminator model, Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) simultaneously transported into Mexico City. Legion, a variant of Skynet, has ordered the termination of Dani (Natalie Reyes). It is up to Grace to protect her from Rev-9, as the entire future of humanity rests on Dani's survival. And what do you know? Ghosts of past come up, the continent-wide manhunt begins and all of it turns into one of the least fun road trips ever! Wait, are we sure this has no similarities with `Last Blood`?

It is hard not to be skeptical about `Dark Fate` as it is not free from the taint of franchises being dragged on for too long. With an insipid `Last Blood` Stallone, once Schwarzenegger's foe did nothing to make to assuage out fears of sequels and reboots. Not that I hold it against sequels, because `Logan` turned out to be an excellent ending note; but this year's entries such as `The Angry Birds 2`, `47 Meters Down Uncaged`, and `Maleficent: Mistress of Evil` speak for themselves, with its overall disinterest in producing a labor of love.

So does `Dark Fate` work? Turns out, it's surprisingly good. While the trailers made it look as generic as possible, the movie towers the franchise by being a highly resurging and poignant addition. Like `Logan`, `Dark Fate` also touches upon the idea of the old paving the way for youthful exuberance and vitality. You can feel their melancholy too, the tiredness from running away, not knowing when to put the weapon down. But as one departs, another one comes along.

Its gentle look at growing old and watching the world pass by almost takes you away from its nod to the current political climate. Yes, the Mexico City and border-crossing add political dimensions to the movie, but it doesn't beat the viewer's head senseless with the manipulation of these elements. These moments are seen and acknowledged without overstaying their welcome. There's no rhetoric here, as everyone is focused on their respective missions.

The performances of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are praiseworthy. They are still the fierce fighter they were years ago, but what's praiseworthy is watching them coming to terms with the choices they've made in their lives; which gives a fascinating depth to them. Mackenzie Davis and Diego Boneta are exceedingly brilliant as the new age robots, while Natalia Reyes also gives a powerful performance.

Tim Miller does a great behind the camera, with a noticeable CGI work at times not distracting from the overall brilliance of his sequences. The script by the trio of Billy Ray, David Goyer, and Justin Rhodes while being derivative, gives its character their share of memorable moments and at the end of the day is not an overall fiasco.

`Dark Fate` is not only an optimistic end to Dani's future but also to the future of `Terminator` movies.
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