New ‘Terminator’ Has Great Action, But A Weak Plot

‘I’ ON CULTURE

The new movie Terminator: Dark Fate is a decent addition to the Terminator franchise. Once again, we have a seemingly immortal killer robot going after a good human who will save humanity in the future. It’s the sixth in the series, but I gave up after the first two. However, in this movie, director Tim Miller keeps things moving at a rapid pace that prevents any lag time, even though we know everyone is going through the motions.

Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) has a problem when she finds out her brother is being let go from his factory job where they both work. But her problems get worse when she sees her brother cut to pieces in front of her by an evil man, who she later finds out is a terminator robot, an R9 (Gabriel Luna), who seems invulnerable, can change shape and even become two robots. Her chases her, but she is saved by a young woman, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), who seems able to take on the robot to some degree because she is an augmented human from the future. After a wild chase, just when things seem at their worst, they are rescued by Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, still tough after 30 years).

After a period of adjustment, the three women flee to Texas to find out who is sending messages to help Sarah kill terminators. Again, there are a few set chase and battle scenes, constantly demonstrating how tough both Grace and Sarah are. Finally, they come to Carl’s home. Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger) makes and hangs curtains but is sending useful info to Sarah.

Of course, he is a terminator. In fact, he is the one who eventually killed John Connor. (For those who stopped watching after Terminator 2 where he saved him, more of him were sent out and one eventually did the job.) Sarah wants to kill him; both Grace and Dani point out that he would be useful in the battle. And the battle begins soon after with close to an hour of nonstop action.

One of the interesting twists to the film is how feminist it is. Except for Carl, who after all is a robot, the men are generally useless, not much more than targets to be wiped out. Mostly by the terminator, but a few do get in the way during battles. Dani’s protectors are both women, and it is constantly stressed that Grace is human. She is augmented, of course, and that also creates weaknesses. But the three women are scrappers, and all of them get their blows in, not to mention bullets, grenades, chains and a variety of other fun weapons. There are some other twists, and writers David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray are able to incorporate more emotion into this film than we have seen before, although some of it was so over the top as to be weird.

The acting is OK at best. Granted, the actors are not called in for that many complex emotions, but Reyes is somewhat over the top, moving from grieving to action to eventual badass. Davis was not as good. She handled the physical end of the part but was emotionless even in scenes where it was required. Hamilton was one note as the tough lady, and Schwarzenegger was, as he says in the film, funny. But he handled the action well, although it might have been stunt doubles and computer-generated effects.

Of course, there were major holes in logic. The basic notion of time travel to disrupt things has its own issue within physics (see Tony Stark in Avengers: Endgame), so this seems like just another timeline where the names have changed but not much else. Also, our heroes constantly waited for the bad robot to reform itself, no matter how shattered the guy was. Wouldn’t it have been far more intelligent to prevent all the parts from getting together? Or smashing it down a few times while its head was so mashed it could not even see? But, no, they always waited. And why do the bad guys always seem to have just the advanced technology necessary to handle everything thrown at them?

On the other hand, things keep moving quickly. The chase begins pretty close to 10 minutes in and doesn’t stop for the next two hours. If you don’t mind going brainless for a couple of hours, this film is for you.

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