Going in, my expectations for Terminator: Dark Fate (2019, 2 hrs, 8 min) were already pretty low. If you’ve read any of my past reviews and have seen the trailer for Terminator: Dark Fate (below), then you have a pretty good idea of what I mean.
Sure, one could argue that my lack of enthusiasm is the result of my subjective personal perspective on certain socio-cultural issues. However, I know I’m not the only reviewer who thinks that Hollywood’s interjection of social and political agendas into movies has been disastrous. If films like Ghostbusters (2016) and Ocean’s Eight (2018) have shown us anything, it’s this: when Hollywood attempts to force an audience away from a narrative you can get lost in and into a political perspective instead, it ruins a film altogether.
As the credits rolled after Terminator: Dark Fate ended, I was left with an emptiness. Where was the awe and thrill of suspended disbelief? Where was the narrative that drew me into its world-building process?
Unfortunately, nowhere. Aside from the fact that it felt like a retextured version of Terminator 2, I was constantly being reminded of the film’s obvious political agenda. At one point (spoiler warning), a protector sent from the future asks an officer stationed at the Mexican border, “Where do you keep the prisoners?” to which the officer replies, “We refer to them as detainees”. The protector (called Grace) disagrees, hits the officer in the head, and moves on.
If the screenwriters were attempting to be subtle, they weren’t doing a very good job of it.
Terminator: Dark Fate’s self-indulgent dialogue about neo-feminism and the toxic male patriarchy kept reminding me that I was merely watching a movie. Rather than getting lost in the narrative of an imaginary world, I was pushed back to everyday reality, forced to listen to and process the leaden political and social philosophies from which I had sought escape through the medium of film in the first place.
Honestly, I wish I could have focused this review on the comedic portrayal of AI by Hollywood and popular culture. That, at least, is an ideology that still makes for good narratives and great worlds. The Matrix (1999) for example, once you think about it, is a somewhat absurd reality. Surely there are more efficient methods of harvesting energy than using human biology? Human bodies generate very little electricity (about 100 watts, which is 200 watts less than my kitchen blender). However, suspending belief and getting lost in a world dominated by AI was no problem with The Matrix and that’s part of what made it an incredible experience for me.
Movies like Terminator: Dark Fate, however, don’t seem to be made by people who care about the narrative. They seem to think that they need only make something that looks like a movie but acts as a medium for broadcasting their message to the masses.
I wish there was more I could say. I wish there was more about this film’s portrayal of AI that would inspire me to clever insights. But there isn’t. Let’s hope that this trend is just a phase in film-making fashion. In due time, we will get back to valuing and making good films.
My Rating?: Watch Terminator 2 instead.
Here are some more of Adam Nieri’s reviews, brought to you by Mind Matters News Sci-Fi Saturday:
The Outer Worlds—A Mind Matters Game Review: You must discover the dark secret of the Halcyon space colony, despite the greed and corruption of a handful of powerful corporations. After the raging dumpster fire that Fallout 76 (2018) turned out to be, I hesitated to invest my time and money in another role-playing game (RPG) epic. But I am glad I did.
Another Life All fun and games till an AI falls in love. Then it descends into a convoluted drift of uncertain storytelling. And the victim is not primarily the viewer, who has other options. The victim is the art itself.
Alita, Battle Angel A Mind Matters Review: If you love anime and felt betrayed by the flop of Ghost, I would highly recommend Alita.
Ad Astra: The Great Silence becomes personal. The film images the fate of those seek significance in the stars and may well wait indefinitely. In a world where the divine touch of extraterrestrial intelligence doesn’t elevate human existence to any level of significance, we are left with Ad Astra: a slow, methodical decay of human significance.
Love, death, & robots Despite the trash and ruined expectations, several shorts were enjoyable and downright fun to watch
Simulation: Would a simulated universe even make sense? A well-crafted short sci-fi film suggests, intentionally or otherwise, maybe not. I’ve seen quite a few sci-fi short films over the years and Simulation is certainly one of the better ones. However, beyond that, I’m not sure this film knows what it is; it’s an identity crisis.
Sprites: Will plausible robots replace movie stars? A short film prepares us to think about it