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"TERMINATOR: DARK FATE"
(2019) (Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi/Action: An augmented woman from the future, a veteran robot killer and the terminator who killed her son decades ago team up to save a woman -- who's the hope for the future -- from an advanced terminator that's intent on killing her.
PLOT:
For Mexican factory worker Dani Ramos (NATALIA REYES), her biggest concern is having automation replace her brother's job at their factory. But that all changes when an advanced terminator from the future -- a Rev-9 (GABRIEL LUNA) that's comprised of liquid metal and seemingly can't be killed -- shows up intent on killing her. But another figure from the future, Grace (MACKENZIE DAVIS) -- a technologically augmented human -- has also arrived with the goal of keeping Dani alive for the sake of the future of all humankind.

Stepping in to help is Sarah Connor (LINDA HAMILTON), a woman once in Dani's shoes who previously had to avoid being killed by a T-800 terminator and later had to keep her son alive from a more advanced model. With anonymous tips about the arrival of more terminators, she seeks them out and destroys them, but may have met her match in the Rev-9. That is, until they team up with the T-800 unit that did kill Sarah's son in the past, a now fully domesticated terminator that goes by the name of Carl (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER).

Promising to kill him once they're done, Sarah reluctantly allows Carl to join their team as they try to figure out a way to defeat the hard to kill Rev-9.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
I'm generally not a big fan of movie sequels, but I certainly understand that both studios behind original films and fans of said picture often want to continue the experience with the general premise and central characters. Naturally, most sequels aren't as good as their predecessors, but occasionally filmmakers manage to knock such follow-ups out of the park or, more accurately, movie theater.

James Cameron did that when he delivered the sequel to "Alien," and much of that was due to changing the tone from that of what was essentially a horror movie in outer space to a kick-butt action flick that expanded upon the main character.

Years later, he managed to do the same with the sequel to an earlier film that he directed, "The Terminator," by again shaking things up. In the follow-up, the film's villain suddenly turned into the good guy and related humor was added, the heroine turned from a hapless victim into an action figure, and Cameron significantly upped the sci-fi action ante with Robert Patrick's liquid metal T-1000 terminator model.

For better (on Cameron's part) or worse (that being ours), the director with the golden sequel touch didn't return for the third, fourth or fifth outings in the franchise. All of which means while I can recall most of "T2" nearly thirty years after it was released, I can't remember a thing about the subsequent follow-ups and had to look up their plot synopses just to jolt my memory.

Thus, when I heard that yet another "Terminator" film was being released, I wasn't exactly jumping up and down in excitement. But then I learned Cameron was involved once again helping write the story -- but not the screenplay that's been penned by David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray -- where installments three through six never existed, that the director of "Deadpool" (Tim Miller) was at the helm, and that Linda Hamilton was returning to the fold. And thus my interest was piqued.

With a brief prologue scene that's a bit startling in terms of who does what to whom, we then settle into the main story of a young Mexican woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes), who learns that she's the target of a Rev-9 terminator from the future (played by Gabriel Luna with appropriate menace, but not quite to the same degree as what Patrick did in "T2").

Just like in the immediate storyline predecessors, a hero from the future, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), also arrives to protect the bewildered and endangered woman. But they also get help from Hamilton's Sarah Connor who's even more of a toughened, military-grade warrior than before who's dealing with her own issues but feels a kindred spirit in Dani and her plight.

And she's not exactly pleased to be reunited once again with an old-school terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who's not the same one from "T2 (or the first film for that matter) but has continued his progression of becoming domesticated, if you will, over the years. What follows are scenes of all of them trying to kill the Rev-9 who's trying to kill Dani, with lots of weaponry, chases and more in play.

The result might just recycle a bit too much of the "T2" story elements in telling its new tale, and the incredible progression we saw from the original to the sequel in terms of storytelling, action choreography, character depth and humor doesn't take the same sort of giant leap forward that we all got to experience back in 1991.

That said, it's still an entertaining and occasionally enthralling experience with good action scenes, solid comedic relief, a decent continuation of the original tale and enough loving homage to the first two flicks that anyone who enjoys humans shooting up robots acting like the Energizer Bunny -- in taking a licking and continuing their mission -- will probably find more than enough here to enjoy. "Terminator: Dark Fate" rates as a 6 out of 10.




Reviewed October 29, 2019 / Posted November 1, 2019


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