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Review – Terminator: Dark Fate – “Bombastic, relentless action, but with something far more impressive, especially in 2019. Heart.”

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Nostalgia is a funny old thing, isn’t it? I’ve noticed as the older I got, that certain things can mean more, due to the distance of time.

Not to get too profound here, but when the newly remastered Terminator theme kicked in right at the end, I was glad the lights hadn’t gone up yet. We’re not talking ‘Blair Witch’ snot levels, but put it this way… I know now why you cry.

Despite what’s been a pretty horrendous set of trailers and posters, they’ve managed to cobble/bastardise something that has no right to be more than the sum of its parts.

At times, it’s an exhilarating, breathless action film. Truly relentless, in a way you’d imagine James Cameron would be sat chuckling to himself. Not just because they lobbed a load of money at him to use his name. His fingerprints/grubby mitts (delete accordingly) are all over this.

We’re reminded of something that the sequels all missed — and, for what it’s worth, I’m mostly a fan of everything that came after — and that’s heart. Huge amounts of it.

In its quieter moments, the film is elevated even further because of this. That’s what ultimately makes it far more credible than I imagined. I’ll forgive anyone thinking ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ was trying to sprint to its finish line — but I’ll also argue that for the payoff, it was worth it. Here? They actually take their time.

There’s new backstory, to a story that had been told a million times. As fussy as I am, I bought it all. In fact, one decision, in particular, is so bold, I can’t believe they actually went there. Credit for whoever sat in a board room, and fought for it, because it’s fundamentally not a Hollywood film, at times. Certainly not a processed one.

It’s got flaws, sure.

Much like ‘Terminator: Salvation’ it has far too many starts, but to be fair, they’re all great. Including the retro distribution cards, and a well-recognised video from yesterday. Far from just trying to nail a nostalgia shot to the arm, it serves a purpose. To reaffirm that this is Sarah Connor’s story.

The CGI, whilst pretty awe-inspiring in scale and scope, becomes a little bit much. I was praying for a Stan Winston smackdown at the end, that sadly wouldn’t be enough for most modern moviegoers. Although I get it, the final shot didn’t quite resonate.

Other than that? It’s not just about how much they knock it out the park – it’s by how far. Bombastic action scene, followed by ruthless action. Proper 15/18 rated action. The pace is relentless.

Several action sequences are audacious, while the comedy is far more suited to the film, and tone. No more starry glasses. In fact, maybe no more glasses full stop. The film knows what came before, and knows that you know. One play on a favourite phrase was the first time I knew I was going to choke by the end. Several beats were perfect, in both reimagining, and paying homage. I’m not sure anyone’s got that this right since JJ. (Take your pick on what franchise).

And no more inflatable boobs.

Instead women – and me – get not one hero, but three. And this for me is where they bodged the trailers most. The fight sequences played out much better, with better CGI, and more acceptance of what the Rev-9 can/can’t do. But the three leads? They’re all fantastic. I’m not sure many would expect that based on what we’d seen so far. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not pushing the “girl power” button either. But it would be wrong to not call out that this film is infinitely better, and stronger, for its female leads. Not just because that’s rare – even in 2019, ffs – but because they make several decisions that buck the trend.

No thanks, T-800. I don’t want your help. Because I don’t need it.

Credit also for keeping so much under wraps. All of the questions I wanted answered, were answered in both a full, and well thought out way. ‘Terminator Dark Fate’ is that rare thing. A film that will also enhance the reputation of its predecessors, and not in the way we thought — because it fell well short. Instead, because it gets you to rethink what those original films meant and what they stood for.

Hope.

I’m off to reminisce about the good old days. About 1986 or whenever it was that Nan and Gramps had to rebuy my Dad a VHS copy of ‘Terminator’ as it was faulty (maybe he didn’t rewind it properly?). Or to that Christmas nearer ‘93 when Nan and Gramps got my Uncle a tin set of ’T2’ on VHS. With set photos and everything. My jealousy was only usurped by my Dad’s. Almost red behind the eyes. I wonder what would’ve happened if you’d said I could watch a 4K version of it on a pocket device in 20 or so years. I’d probably have freaked out. That’s how Judgement Day started, right……?

PS No spoilers, but if you wait until the end credits for Michael Biehn — and who wouldn’t? — you’ll lose 6 minutes of your life you could be spending booking to see it again. Join my Michael Biehn fan club, instead.

Dun, dun, dun, dunnun.

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