So, this is another time that I wish that I could use typical spoiler tags (<spoiler></spoiler>) on the blog as it would make writing this mini-review much easier. A cursory search on google shows that it is possible on WordPress, but you need to be a paid user to access the feature (at the time of writing). I scanned through all of the “embeds” and wasn’t able to find it, but did run across what I wanted to do on a forum. However, this being the case, I will try to discuss the movie in a non-spoiler way.
Know this, however. There is a major spoiler within the first five minutes of the movie. Your reaction to the movie is largely going to depend on whether or not you buy this particular scene. Fans of the classic two movies Terminator and Terminator 2 probably won’t like this scene, while those of the newer generations may care less/may forgive what happens in the scene, and may find this one a good or decent movie. A lot of it depends on your frame of reference, point of view towards, and attachment to the original two movies that are well regarded.
Okay, as I mention periodically, I don’t watch the reviews for a movie until after I’ve seen it as I don’t want to be influenced by any perceived biases on the part of the reviewers. That wasn’t always the case as I remember watching Siskel & Ebert movie reviews as a child for their opinion on the latest genre fair–except for Star Wars and a couple of other major exceptions, they always tended to be mixed or negative from what I remember.
However, afterwards I watched the reviews to see how closely my opinions matched with reviewers. In this, both the reviewers and myself are closely aligned. The actors/performers were awesome (“on point,” I believe is the current, soon-to-be dated reference), and did an amazing job. The new actors and the return of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger really worked well and they all gave solid and believable performances. I thought the establishing scenes with the protagonist and her brother and father were witty, charming, and fun, not necessarily because of the script, but because of the actors and the way they portrayed their characters.
As usual, the script/story. This seems to be a repeated meme and one that you’d think Hollywood would work harder at getting right. You can’t get through the door unless you’re part of the Writer’s Guild (or Director’s Guild, or Producer’s Guild), but the story has 5 credited writers (for the story & 3 for the screenplay), and yet the scripts continue to (often) be the weakest parts of the movie. This is probably a blog topic for another time, so I’ll save it, but Hollywood is too entrenched (in my opinion) in trying to find a magic “formula” that guarantees success. It’s a business wrapped around art–sometimes you’re going to hit it big (The Lord of the Rings 2001-2003) and sometimes you’re going to strikeout (Dungeons & Dragons – 2000). The best you can do is put up the best you can in terms of talent and story and swing for the fences–which Hollywood would argue isn’t a sustainable business model–but which gives you movies like Terminator: Dark Fate.
So what’s actually wrong with the script? It is basically a “callback” to ideas presented in the first two Terminator movies. While not a one-to-one recreation, there are scenes right out of the two movies that newer viewers might think are original, but have actually been done before (and better) by the older movies. Small vehicle (insert protagonists inside it) vs “Big Bad” vehicle, check. Helicopter scene, check. I had to physically clamp my jaw down to keep from sighing or reacting when I saw yet another scene that had a reference point from one of the other movies.
This is a no spoiler mini-review, but we have to talk about the first scene in the first five minutes. This is an Alien 3 level scene. If you want to know absolutely nothing–then maybe skip to the next section now . . . . . .
Okay, still reading? This scene destroys the themes of the first two movies and makes those movies seem irrelevant, in exactly the same way that Alien 3 did for Aliens (and to a lesser extent, the way the Disney Star Wars movies have done for the the original trilogy). There’s this “thing” in Hollywood that says if you don’t want to deal with things in a previous movie, its okay to write your beginning (or whole movie) in such a way that completely drops that whole set of themes so that you can do what you want to do. And that’s not what we, as an audience, want. Ideally, we want you, the creators, to advance the plot, in novel and unique ways that we never thought of (Empire Strikes Back–>Star Wars, Aliens–>Alien, Terminator 2–>Terminator, Bourne Supremacy–>Bourne Identity, etc.). Less ideally, we’ll accept (or at least I will), same character/plot (or different characters with same basic plot) inside a different setting (Home Alone 2, Karate Kid 2, Jaws 2, Predator 2, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, etc.). Not okay (in my book) are the movies that destroy characters, themes, and mythology just because you don’t want to be bothered with them (Alien 3, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and now Terminator: Dark Fate).
Overall Grade: C (although this really should lower)
Above Average (B) for the actors’ performances, but well below average for the script/screenplay (D) = a C. However, the fact that it really plays hard and fast with the continuity of the overall Terminator series really does annoy me and while it is a movie I could actually get through (unlike Terminator Genisys), it is one that, while full of action like other Terminator movies, makes me wonder if I should rate it much lower than I have as I don’t feel that it was a very good movie in the overall Terminator “franchise” (for the business people) or “canon” (for the audience members).
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