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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 2, 2019

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE movie review: Linda Hamilton and James Cameron back, but not in each other's arms

arnold s & linda hamilton

the women of terminator dark fate: natalia reyes/ mackenzie davis/ linda hamilton

’TERMINATOR: DARK FATE’ is the 6th movie in the Terminator franchise. The series started in 1984 or exactly 35 years ago with “The Terminator”, with Arnold S, then in the peak of his career as an action star, playing the title role. This was followed by “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), “Terminator: Salvation” (2009), “Terminator: Genisys” (2015) and now, “Terminator: Dark Fate”.

In the very first movie directed by James Cameron, a robot hitman, Arnold as T-800, is sent from the future to kill a woman, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, a waitress whose son would be the savior of mankind against the robots of the evil Skynet in the future. It’s a combination of sci-fi and action with a lot heart supplied by the kick-ass Sarah who just refuses to die.

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is still directed by James Cameron and one of the best in the history of cinematic sequels with stunning ground-breaking CGI effects then. It proved to be a much bigger hit than the original. Arnold as T-800 now becomes the protector of 10 year old John Connor (Eddie Furlong) and the new killer is T-1000 (Robert Patrick). Linda as Sarah now looks like she spent so much time in the gym, being ripped and fit to do a lot of stunts herself to protect her son. She saves not only her son but all of humankind from extinction while Arnold learns about compassion.

“Terminator 3” is no longer directed by Cameron but by Jonathan Mostow and shows John Connor growing up, played by Nick Stahl with Claire Danes as his leading lady. The robot from the future is now played by a woman, Kristanna Loken. Arnold is still here trying to be campy.

“Terminator: Salvation” is directed by McG. Christian Bale now plays John Connor but he’s no longer the leader of the resistance. The lead actor is actually Sam Worthington as a death row inmate who is transported to the future as a cyborg, with Bryce Dallas Howard and Moon Bloodgood as the leading ladies who do nothing much.

“Terminator: Genisys” is a reboot of the franchise directed by Alan Taylor, with Emilia Clarke (Khaleesi of “GOT”) playing Sarah Connor and Jason Clarke as John Connor. Everything we know from the first two films is retold in a different manner, with an older Arnold playing a re-programmed T-800. A new villain is added, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, wonder whatever happened to this Aussie actor.)

And now, we have “Dark Fate”, directed by Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) and co-written and produced by THE James Cameron. It starts in Mexico with a female soldier who becomes an enhanced or augmented cyborg, Grace (Mackenzie Davis, a Canadian actress who made an impression in the last “Blade Runner” and in “Tully” with Charlize Theron), arriving from the future in the year 2042 to protect a Latina factory worker, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes, a real Colombiana) who’ll be the leader of the resistance in the future.

The new terminator is Rev-9, a shape-shifting liquid-like killer (Gabriel Luna), who is practically unkillable and pursues Dani and Grace relentlessly. The two women then get unexpected help from, surprise, Linda Hamilton reprising her Sarah Connor role, and later on, Arnold as T-800 who now has an adoptive family living in the backwoods of Texas and is called Carl who specializes on drapes. Just like in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, the older protagonists now act as mentors to the new members of the cast led by Hispanic actors.

The action scenes are so intense and we are barely given room to breathe, making it a great popcorn flick. It’s a series of chases by foot, cars, trucks, drones, and even a helicopter and a cargo plane that is shown zooming down back to earth to plunge into a dam where some metal-crushing machines figure in the climactic finale involving the showdown between the two terminators.

Linda and Arnold, bantering like lions in winter, effortlessly steal the movie from their younger co-stars. They’ve made some drastic changes in this movie. The evil company sending machines to kill men is no longer Skynet but Legion. And also, John Connor is shown actually getting killed by Arnold as a 10-year old boy, which makes Sarah want to take revenge on him.

So what happens now to all the sequels where John Connor grew up to be played by various actors like Christian Bale and Jason Clarke? This one creates a new timeline and Cameron obviously intentionally negates the things that have happened in the previous sequels of the Terminator universe and just sticks to his original premise in the first two films.

But it’s really nice to see Linda Hamilton back on screen. She’s now 63 years old, looking a bit wrinkled but definitely a grizzled, weathen-beaten true survivor, still looking very fit and agile. And yes, she’s back working with James Cameron. They became an item in 1991 after Cameron divorced his wife, Director Kathryn Bigelow of “Hurt Locker”, for her and they and had a daughter. They officially got married in 1997 but it quickly ended in 1999 with a $50 million divorce settlement. And now, they’re working together again and Linda truly brings a lot of gravitas to “Dark Fate”.

Linda and Arnold get great support from Mackenzie Davis as Grace, who really has a gracious screen presence and looks like a young and sprightly Robin Wright from “House of Cards”. We just wish they got more charming Latino stars. Natalia Reyes gained fame for the acclaimed Colombian movie about their drug trade, “Birds of Passage”, that made waves last year at the Cannes filmfest, but what we need here is a young J Lo or Eva Mendez.

Even more lackluster is Gabriel Luna, who has appeared in various TV shows. He just lacks the deadly charisma of Robert Patrick in “Terminator 2”. But the movie, whether you acknowledge it or not, is obviously making some sort of a statement in making the messiah of humankind a Hispanic woman at this particular time in American history when Trump is so prejudiced against colored people. Take note also of that sequence at a border detention center where all the prisoners are colored people.