The third time is not the charm. For the third time in 10 years, Hollywood is once again trying to revive the Terminator franchise with “Dark Fate”. They do not succeed.
Like its ceaseless namesake, the Terminator franchise just keeps coming. Someone somewhere keeps convincing themselves that people want a new series of Terminator movies. But “Terminator: Salvation” did not succeed in 2009. “Terminator: Genisys” did not succeed in 2015. And “Terminator: Dark Fate” will not succeed in 2019.
Someone somewhere has also convinced themselves that new subtitles are the answer.
The new film is a return to the original story. A young woman is the key to saving the human race in the future, so that future has sent back a Terminator to kill her and a hero to protect her. This time, Hollywood has brought back original “Terminator” actor Linda Hamilton to try and use nostalgia to put butts in seats.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is also back, but then he hasn’t missed any of these.
The new film, “Terminator: Dark Fate”, is a non-stop action scene. I do not mean that as a compliment. The film never slows down long enough to get us attached to its characters. It careens from one action spectacle to another, unconcerned with things like character development.
It’s a basic rule of storytelling that action scenes just aren’t as good if we don’t care about the characters involved.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is remembered as an all-time classic in part because of scenes where the young John Conner bonded with the big, burly Schwarzenegger Terminator. “Dark Fate” doesn’t offer any such bonding. It’s all guns and explosions, with Hamilton and Schwarzenegger around just to say “I’ll be back” a bunch of times.
The action scenes aren’t even that exciting. There are now six Terminator movies where a robotic skeleton survives explosions and keeps coming. It has gotten old. In “Dark Fate”, the robotic skeleton now wears a second, liquid metal Terminator like a skin, so now there’s two of them. This does not improve the picture.
Nostalgia is not enough to make a good movie. And after so many failed sequels and reboots, the nostalgia well for the Terminator franchise has run dry.