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TERMINATOR: DARK FATE (In Theaters) By Victoria Alexander

All hail the triumphant return of Sarah Connor. They got it right. Let’s ignore the ridiculous previous – financial, rather than heroic, attempts to keep the franchise going – and just say here is the sequel to that money-making name recognition brand.

It must be a Hollywood rule: never let a global phenomena die. Will I live long enough to see Keanu Reeves play John Wick when he’s 80 years old? You know, like the flu, the Baba Yaga underworld will still be around and Wick will be forced to come out of assassin retirement when his dog breeding business is robbed of all its puppies and his assistant, identifying as a young genderless robot with an attitude, is shipped along with the pups to the Disneyland of Asia, now known as KimKorea, for the Leader’s birthday festival. Wick doesn’t want to go but he’s been bottle-feeding his sick puppy and he must get it back before it’s next feeding. The clock is ticking.

Back to T:DF. Directed by Tim Miller, and with 5 credited screenwriters, the story picks up 22 years after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) rearranges the future and sidetracks Skynet’s attempt to destroy humanity and install a race of robot beings. That was the original T-800’s (Arnold Schwarzenegger) mission: kill Sarah Connor so she would never give birth her son John, Skynet’s rebel-leading troublemaker.

It’s 1998 and Sarah and 10 year old John (Edward Furlong) are living in Guatemala. An alternate T-800 (Schwarzenegger, a 1998 version) finishes his initial mission as programmed. However, the future belongs to AI and a determined new technology has sneaked up on humankind. With Skynet, not even a myth in the future, we ask, how about the story of the birth of Skynet? Damn, who is behind this master plan and determined vision, and what is the purpose? Does it have an agenda? And it doesn’t need human slaves for any Great Pyramid of Giza projects? Once again, a being falls naked into 2020. It’s from the future and it’s a biological female that has been enhanced. Her name is Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and she has much of the powers of a Skynet Terminator, though that future never happened. Grace knows nothing about the so-called Skynet. The one that did happen is a force called Legion. Legion has sent a superior cyborg, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) to kill an innocent young woman - an auto parts factory worker named Dani (Natalia Reyes).

Soon after Grace battles her way through a group of men to put on one guy’s clothes, another round lightning ball deposits a superior, technological magic-robot with a mission to complete. Apparently, the future is again beset with the nagging problem of robots taking over Earth and wiping out humans. But again, there is the resistance and they know that it is Dani who holds their future in her hands. Or, womb?

Sarah has been tracking the activity of “terminators”, it’s either her paranoia or they are still walking amongst us like the Reptilians, and turns up right on time to wield a 50 pound gun with lightning agility at the Rev-9. And Sarah has got a sailor’s mouth on her. There are no wishy-washy people in James Cameron’s world and everybody is dedicated to one and only one mission: save Dani from death or kill Dani. So it’s Grace and Sarah knowing about the cyborgs indestructible casing and Dani just running behind questioning everything. If it was me, one look at the powers of the Rev-9, and I wouldn’t have to be told twice to “follow me if you want to live.”

Sarah is tough as a 60 year old nail left in old wood for a decade and Grace is the tallest, fittest warrior woman since Ripley took off her Nostromo warrant officer flight suit and pranced around in her panties in one of the final scenes of ALIEN. I’ll say this for the Rev-9, he bypassed a lot of homeless, old humans and took on the form of a dashing man with a charming demeanor. This Rev-9 has everything but a sex drive.

Sarah doesn’t know anything about the future but she does know that Dani is as important as her John was. Rev-9 is indestructible. His black iron body encases a human form when it touches it, so it is really 2 forms in one. And both are lethal. This flying, omnipotent hardware cannot be stopped. Escaping, Sarah, Grace and confused Dani go to the place that Grace has had tattooed on her body. The coordinates are  for Laredo, Texas! The trio’s destination turns out to belong to Carl and his adopted family. It’s T-800 parading around as an old man with a carpet installation business. I know how the indestructible, immortal machine, T-800, has managed to masquerade as an old man. He stays out in the sun aging his human skin, put on old-man muscle, dyes his hair gray and grows funky-looking facial hair.

I brought it. It’s a fantasy movie unencumbered with the laws of reality so why not accept Arnold’s return without the need for exponential verbiage. Sarah triumphs by never letting her hatred for T-800 lapse. She has the best lines, “I’m not going to call you Carl!” And liberally uses the explanation, “motherfucker.” There are sensational scenes, especially the grand one on a cargo plane and the showstopper finale.

Thank goodness, Hamilton stays true to Sarah Connor, did not get a too-drastic facelift and kept her tough-ass, ‘I’m nobody’s friend’, persona. What a joy to see Sarah Connor true to her defining creation. I loved Davis – bigger than any battling female in action movies, with a muscular neck, ultra-lean body  devoid of star-making sexuality, and a strong cinematic presence. Same goes for Luna, who becomes more seductive as he advances towards his one-dimension task.

Arnold, Arnold! He’s still got it after those horrible other TERMINATOR sequels. I thought the last one was his swan song. But he delivered.

For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rottentomatoes go to: Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:


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