There are a number of reasons to like “Terminator: Dark Fate” Linda Hamilton’s scowl, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stubble, MacKenzie Davis’s athleticism ; but my favorite thing about this late addition to a weary franchise is how little it cares about timeline continuity.
The dire future of machine rule, prophesied in the first “Terminator” way back in 1984, has been evaded, revised and reinstated in many sequels since then. Judgment Day was coming, until it was canceled. Or maybe just postponed? Skynet was going to obliterate humanity under its cybernetic boot, or maybe just squish us into obedience. John Connor was Christian Bale. Also Nick Stahl. His mother died of Leukemia. T-800 decided to be nice. He was elected governor of California. This is not “Star Wars.” The fans are pretty easygoing. Nothing is really canon.
In “Dark Fate,” for example, it turns out that Skynet never happened. It also turns out not to matter. Because one thing is certain, whatever the chronology: Our brainy, idiotic species will create a technology that either enslaves us or wipes us out altogether. (Are you reading this on your phone? See what I mean?) We’ll have to engage in some desperate feats of guerrilla engineering in order to survive.
Which, I know, is an odd nit to pick when considering a film built on time travel, bioengineered soldiers, rapacious AI and Arnold Schwarzenegger describing himself as “extremely funny.” He is, by the way, or at least engagingly witty. And he’s happy to be helpful and discrete — like a muscular, second-amendment Roomba — leaving the real heroism and most of the snappy catchphrases to Sarah, Dani and Grace.
Back in the day, Sarah was a Madonna figure, mother of the last, best hope for mankind. Now she is reborn as a different kind of matriarch, the leader of a tribe of women warriors. Dani, who seems at first to have been chosen to duplicate Sarah’s role in the early movies, is really an update and a revision of the archetype, answering to the feminism of the present and perhaps of the future as well.
CC. This isn’t a great movie…. can wait for cable release