There is something utterly devastating about the fact that Terminator: Dark Fate completely bombed at the box office. After three movies and a TV show to replicate James Cameron’s epic action movie, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, this finally succeeds in living up to the legacy of the original to a certain degree.

It is derivative, and there are some plot holes. But no other sequel was able to conjure up the emotional sophistication, high stakes plot and elaborate action sequences of the Cameron-directed Terminator movies. Unfortunately, the only passable sequel we get after almost three decades is such a box office disaster it may lose over 120 million dollars, according to The Hollywood Reporter, dashing all hopes of any further sequels.

The strength of the movie lies in its decision to completely eliminate a central character from the plot, John Connor, and make this movie about a new generation of heroes. Much like Star Wars: A Force Awakens, it allows the original characters, who are now older and wiser, to pass the torch to a culturally and racially diverse set of heroes in a plotline that is similarly woke. This is a way of paying homage - or as some like to think of it, banking on the nostalgia of the original - while also updating the themes of the franchise.

This movie is the actual sequel to Judgment Day, according to Cameron. In contrast to what we had thought all along, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines took place in an alternate universe. Although the film’s explanation of time travel can be used as a justification for this movie’s plot (which automatically does away with that of Rise of the Machines) to take place, it should not be forgotten that it is also a lazy excuse to spawn a whole new trilogy.

In Judgment Day, the rise of Skynet, the artificial intelligence that evolves to threaten the existence of humankind, was thwarted, and thanks to the sacrifice of a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Sarah (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong) are finally safe. An apocalyptic war between machines and humans did not break out and billions did not die.

Or so we thought. It seems that the machines had learned a lesson from their first attempt to kill Sarah by sending just one terminator and had decided to actually send two to assassinate John that time around. One of these does fulfill its mission, although its timeline was cancelled by the actions of the protagonists.

How a machine that is sent from a future that does not exist can still exist to carry out its mission in the present day is completely kooky, and I love it.

This film’s plot takes place in 2020. Humankind’s unquenchable thirst for curiosity has led to the creation of another AI, Legion, which also almost destroys the species and, like Skynet, sends Terminators back in time to assassinate future resistance leaders. The tactical resemblance by both the AIs is uncanny. It is also one of the reasons why this movie, as engaging as the new characters and the action sequences are, will never rise above being just a passable movie.

Legion sends its version of an unstoppable Terminator to assassinate Dani (Natalia Reyes), whose importance is not revealed until the end of the movie but is obvious to anyone that understands how important political correctness has become to Hollywood. To protect Dani, the human resistance of the future sends back in time Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a cyborg with increased speed and stamina.

But the Terminator, model Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) sent by the AI, is too advanced for Grace alone to handle. Fortunately, the duo is aided by Sarah and a mysterious person that helps her find them.

The plot is a great deal more ambitious and interesting than any other of the sequels since Judgment Day. The characters are also two-dimensional and the themes of resistance, courage and sacrifice resonate well. More importantly, the action sequences are graphic, Schwarzenegger’s casting does not seem forced and Sarah gets the best character entrance of the year.

However, it is very hard to overlook that the film is really a slightly refurbished version of the first two Terminator movies. While this has been a fantastic strategy used by the smartphone industry to sustain its existence, I doubt it will work as well for cinema as exhibited by the blistering failure of this movie at the box office.

PUBLISHED ON Nov 09,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1019]

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