4K Blu-ray/DVD review: “Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019)

“Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019)

Science-Fiction/Action

Running time: 128 minutes

Written by: David Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray

Directed by: Tim Miller

Featuring: Arnold Schwarzenegger , Linda Hamilton,  Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna

Grace: “Why do you care what happens to her?”

Sarah Connor: “Because I was her. And it sucks.”

Critical Commentary

Released today on 4K blu-ray/DVD is the latest in a long line of movies from the ‘Terminator’ franchise in the form of the ultimately disappointing science fiction/action movie “Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019) which brings back Linda Hamilton as well as the always (almost) present Arnold Schwarzenegger, both, for me anyway, a welcome return offering more than the run of the mill action characters we are used to seeing as there is more humour than we have seen before from this tired franchise.

Like the relatively recent “Halloween” (2018) that was able to overcome some of the very worse sequels by stating from the outset that it would be a direct sequel to the original movie, this new “Terminator: Dark Fate” does something very similar. The very reason for the existence and the selling points are that this new movie has been designed as a direct sequel to the high point of the series “Terminator 2” (1991) which does make the movie more palatable but still asks the question, Does this movie really need to exists? The answer depends on your point of view as well as your affinity for this series. There is in truth some good news as well as some bad news about this new entry.

Firstly the good news, that is James Cameron, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger return in what are very different capacities. Firstly Cameron is back as producer and has a story by credit so his involvement is cursory only which might not have been the best use for him as he had input but possibly not as much as he wanted or should have which robs us of what a true sequel may have been, however it is still much more coherent than any of the sequels following “T2”. Then there is the retun of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor who has not really missed a beat, she looks amazing and her characterisation has not missed a beat which I loved, her humour is much more on point than ever before, something she has never had a chance to show. Finally the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a terminator is something we have never seen before as he has been ‘domesticated’ to a point that he has a partner and a child, but pushes that all aside for his final mission. I for one enjoyed seeing Schwarzenegger in one of his seminal roles doing something different with it, these two elements are, for me, the highlight of this movie.

As this is a sequel to “T2” there has to be something new to get audiences to care about what is happening onscreen, unfortunately it is not the plot or narrative that has been invested in, in fact both of those cinematic elements are here just retreads of “T2” as well as elements of other sequels which for me is a disappointment. The producers and director have decided to up the ante in terms of effects and action which seem the obvious way to go which is what other sequels have attempted with very little interest in plot. The other aspect where originality has been attempted is in the introduction of the new terminator, the REV-9, the hybrid in the form of Grace and the introduction of the new saviour character in the form of Daniella. None of these three are that well thought out and the denouement is not particularly original or a real surprise.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is set in 2020, an advanced Terminator, called Rev-9, is sent back in time to murder Daniella “Dani” Ramos, who will become a threat to the machines in the future. A cybernetically enhanced soldier, Grace, is sent from 2042 to protect her. From here this movie becomes so similar to the rest of the franchise it really isn’t worth going in to, however there are a few surprises as well as a few big action set pieces.

Directed by Tim Miller who is best known for directing the massive hit “Deadpool” (2016) but not much else it may have seemed like a no brainer to tap Miller for this reboot or sequel or whatever you want to call this. What is evident however is that while the action set pieces are mostly pretty good, the actual parts in between those as well as the story leave much to be desired. If you are wanting nothing more than an action genre movie then I would recommend this one very highly, this however is not just another genre movie, it is a ‘Terminator’ movie, one that purportedly is a sequel to one of the greatest action science fiction movies ever made so the bar is set very high. This is where the directors very real lack of experience comes into play as well as being subservient to James Cameron so the skill of being able to weave a plot and narrative together needs to be present, it is not and so this movie suffers for it.

In terms of the new actors to appear in the ‘Terminator’ franchise they are all relatively untested in the form of Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna who all perform very well for what they are asked to do although they all seem to be copies of previous characters that have appeared before with either gender or culture changes. So we have Mackenzie Davis as Grace who is a copy of the Kyle Reese character from the first movie, Gabriel Luna who is most obviously a T-1000 copy and Natalia Reyes who is a Sarah Connor/John Connor hybrid. Once again there is nothing wrong with any of this, genre movies steal from other each all the time, but with this franchise there really needs to be originality which is what has been lacking for decades so for the filmmakers to recycle old characters for me is unforgivable especially when it is so obvious.

All in all “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a perfectly acceptable genre movie and fits into the franchise as well as any of the previous sequels, for me it is marginally better than the previous three sequels but only because it has a coherent plot that makes sense, sticking to a formula that does work, but because it is the same thing with nothing really new audiences have had enough and its box office reflects that. In my mind if the plot had some real originality with a bit less action this could have been a very good movie especially with some different character motivations and of course just a bit more thought. Even saying that I would still say give it a watch there are some very good parts to it so it does not deserve to be written off.

Technical Commentary

Video

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is sourced from a 4K digital intermediate, it has a great 2.39:1 2160p transfer with Dolby Vision HDR – HDR10 is likewise also available. The amount of added detail this image gains over the 1080p release can be a little of a blessing or a curse. On one hand – you can see and appreciate all of the fine facial features and costuming and set design work. However, here this level of resolution combined with HDR is that when the CGI becomes weightless – as the Gabriel Luna REV-9 leaps off the truck high into the air like some kind of balloon.

Audio

“Terminator: Dark Fate” has a great Dolby Atmos track. Throughout the show the action sequences get the biggest punch for obvious reasons – they’re the main draw for a movie like this. When Grace is slamming away at the REV-9 with the sledgehammer – each hit has such a distinct impact with a great LFE punch. Levels are spot-on for this track. While I recommend you crank it for full impact, you don’t need to go out of your way to ride the volume while you watch. Dialog is clean and clear throughout occupying the front/center channels while the surrounds carry the heavy load of active sound effects and atmospherics.

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