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Terminator is back… and much as before

24 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Dark Fate

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
Directed by Tim Miller
Certificate 15
☆☆

SHAPE-SHIFTING robots that are virtually impossible to stop, a confused target of their murderous desires, and two donkey-kick toughies out to stop said robot: all the ingredients for a new episode of the celebrated Terminator films are here.

James Cameron, who wrote and produced the new instalment, has decided to revisit the franchise that created one of the best sci-fi films of the 1980s, and bring back its two stars in Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton.

This is a Terminator for modern times: Arnie plays something of a bit part as three heroines in Hamilton, Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis combine to save the future of the human race.

A simplistic plot focuses on a Terminator (Gabriel Luna) sent back to the present from the future, this time not to kill Sarah Connor (Hamilton), but innocent Mexican car plant worker Dani (Reyes).

This robot assassin has been followed by human/machine hybrid Grace (Davis), who has come to protect the target of the Terminator’s ambitions.

Meanwhile, we learn since the terrific T2 (released in 1991) Sarah has kept up a vigil to find and kill any Terminator sent to do evil deeds in the present, while keeping off the radar of the American law enforcers.

Arnold Schwarzenegger films of the 1980s had two calling cards: first, hyper gun violence, and second, cheesy one-liners.

Dark Fate pays homage to both these aspects of his film career: big guns abound (setting up a set piece gun ownership joke) while there are also to-camera one-liners.

On top of this, the Terminator films were marked by first-class special effects and some smart action: both areas score well here too, with some stomach-turning moments.

Yet there is a fundamental issue at the heart of this film – and look away now if you really don’t want a plot spoiler, though you’d have to be pretty naïve not to guess immediately from the opening scenes what is about to unfold – and it is this: when they sat down and said: Y’know, let’s get Arnie and Linda back together and recreate the original’, they continued the idea of not changing a winning formula by also basically deciding the original plot should provide the skeleton for some fresh action.

It seems a shame not to pour a little more effort into a new story. Instead, this feels a little like a Greatest Hits reunion tour for the pair, though for such iconic screen characters, their reappearance creates a nostalgic warmth, if not much more.

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