Terminator: Dark Fate

 

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He never said he’d be back, but thank God James Cameron is.

 

Terminator Dark Fate

Pole position: Mackenzie Davis

  

James Cameron understands the future. The future is not deep fakery, nanotechnology or global facial recognition. All that is so today. The future is a material world. Scientists have already developed such astonishing materials as graphene, an allotrope of carbon that is a hundred times stronger than steel and yet is just one atom thick. And then there is aerogel, a synthetic solid material that is actually lighter than air, one gram of which can absorb up to 900 times its own weight. Aerogel is also extraordinarily elastic, returning to its original shape after being completely compressed. In his book Physics of the Future, the theoretical physicist and futurist Michio Kaku described the Terminator T-1000 killer robot as “the most dramatic example of programmable matter.” Adopting this technology, the antagonist of Terminator: Dark Fate – the so-called ‘Rev-9’ – is an indestructible, self-healing killing machine.

 

James Cameron was the creative force behind The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), two of the most mind-boggling sci-fi thrillers ever projected onto a movie screen. But then he jumped ship and the franchise dragged on with ever diminishing impact, culminating in the ludicrous, dog-tired Terminator Genisys (2015). Cameron is now back, producing the new film from his own story, co-tweaked by Charles Eglee, Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer and Justin Rhodes. And it’s a ride and a half.

 

Skipping the plot diversions of the last three movies, Dark Fate jumps in where Judgment Day left off, complete with the monolithic presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger – just where he belongs. In his guise as a grizzled version of T-800, he has gone from terrifying to borderline loveable, with a neat line in deadpan delivery. Asked what his human partner sees in him, he replies: “I'm reliable, I’m a very good listener and I'm extremely funny.” And asked why he’s got a well-stocked armoury in a secret room, his answer is: “This is Texas.”

 

But this is really the story of a kick-ass trio, all of whom happen to be women. Linda Hamilton returns as a weather-beaten, hard-cussing Sarah Connor, whose mission is to protect a young Mexican woman, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes, from Birds of Passage). The latter is complaining about the local car factory’s workforce being replaced by machines, when her life is changed forever with the arrival of a cyborg from the future. Neither Sarah nor Dani know why she is the running target of the chameleonic and unstoppable Rev-9. It is Grace, an ‘enhanced’ human fighting machine, who fills in the gaps, embodied by the film’s ace card, Mackenzie Davis. Davis previously played the replicant prostitute Mariette in Denis Villeneuve's fresh, complex and intoxicating Blade Runner 2049, almost eclipsing memories of Daryl Hannah’s not dissimilar Pris in the original. Here, her balletic, elongated form – criss-crossed with scars doubling as coordinates – marks her out as a major star of the future.

 

The film itself is a non-stop, pulse-pumping adrenalin rush, with laugh out-loud gags and a surprisingly moving finale. There’s the odd lapse of credibility – such as when Sarah chucks Dani’s phone out the car window, while her own is secured in a silver foil protected bag – but Tim Miller’s direction drives the narrative along so fast that one barely notices. The stunts are breath-taking and the special effects relentlessly state-of-the-art, none less so than a computer-generated appearance of Edward Furlong as the 13-year-old John Connor.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, Tristán Ulloa, Brett Azar, Alicia Borrachero, Daniel Ortiz.

 

Dir Tim Miller, Pro James Cameron and David Ellison, Screenplay David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray, Ph Ken Seng, Pro Des Sonja Klaus, Ed Julian Clarke, Music Junkie XL, Costumes Ngila Dickson.

 

Paramount Pictures/Skydance Media/20th Century Fox/Tencent Pictures/Lightstorm Entertainment-20th Century Fox.

128 mins. USA/China. 2019. Rel: 23 October 2019. Cert. 15.