‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ has emotional depth

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It’s almost impossible to kill the Terminator; the best you can do is slow it down. That applies to the robotic villain, but we’re really talking about this movie franchise. Not counting the ill-fated TV show, this is the sixth and assumed final picture of the series. However, if a box office hit, we could see an entirely rebooted franchise, ka-ching!

Thirty-five years ago, “Terminator” (1984) served as the breakout performance for James Cameron’s brilliant career as the Academy Award-winning director, producer and writer. He also created its sequel “Terminator 2” (1991) However, sat out of the remaining Terminator features until now. Cameron suggests “Terminator: Dark Fate” is the real sequel to “Terminator 2” while the others simply played out in an alternative universe.

After 28 years since she last played the role of Sarah Connor, Linda Hamilton makes a nostalgic return, which is worth the price of admission alone. “Ahnuld” (Schwarzenegger) is also back, as a much older T-800, which answers the question of whether Terminators age over time. Kinder and gentler, this “retired” former Terminator impassively states, “I’m a very good listener and am extremely funny.”

As a quick update, in the near future, artificial intelligence will create robotic human-like machines far superior to humans. The machines of Skynet deduce that humans just take up space, so they resolve to hunt down and obliterate human-kind. It’s like Robo-Cop meets Westworld minus Wall-E’s compassion.

As the people mount a resistance, the bots send a Terminator back in time to kill the woman who would eventually give birth to the leader of the resistance. Got that? Now, this episode takes place in Mexico, more than two decades since Sarah Connor prevented “Judgement Day,” and rewrote the fate of the human race.

We are introduced to Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) living a simple life in Mexico City. She and her brother discover assembly line jobs are being displaced by robotics. What they don’t know is this is the least of their problems. A highly advanced and deadly new Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna) has traveled back in time to hunt down Dani to kill her.

Thankfully, the entire look and feel of this action-thriller has that James Cameron touch sorely missing from the latter sequels of this series. There is an abundance of chase scenes (maybe too much?) and mano-a-mano battles that kept us breathlessly on the edge of our seats. With a patented monster walk, Luna plays the shape-shifting role every bit as cold and ruthless as Robert Patrick’s T-1000 from “Terminator 2.”

Fortunately for Dani, a genetically enhanced human has also traveled back in time to protect her. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) plays this role with as much courage and gravitas as Linda Hamilton so many years ago. But, when the Terminator has them both cornered on the highway, enters an unknown renegade, kind of like a female Yosemite Sam (ask your parents). Yep, that’s Hamilton making her big entrance.

Sarah Connor asks “Amazing” Grace, “When are you from?” Grace responds, “2024, why do you care what happens to her?” Sarah explains, “Because I was her and it sucks!” Then offers, “I’m wanted in a couple of states, fifty to be exact.” Finally says, “I changed the future and saved three billion lives, enough of a resume for you?”

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is 128 minutes and rated R for violence, language and brief nudity. After so many misfires, it’s good to see Cameron take the reigns again and “end” this on a positive note. Be warned, the audience must suspend logic, especially with the time continuity, but Schwarzenegger fans have been doing that for years anyway.

The Terminator is such a convincing killing machine, so we do plan to be much nicer to Alexis and Siri, just in case. We were pleasantly surprised with the thrills and spills as well as the emotional depth that allowed us to actually care about the protagonists. This movie is entertaining, but for the franchise, we are ready to say, “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Ron’s Rating: B+
Leigh’s Rating: B

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Ron & Leigh