‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Review

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray

Cast: Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta, and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Synopsis: Sarah Connor and a hybrid cyborg human must protect a young girl from a newly modified liquid Terminator from the future.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Set in 2020, and ignoring everything after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator: Date Fate sees a world where Sarah Connor (the returning Linda Hamilton) saved humanity. However, unbeknownst to Sarah, something more sinister has come from a different future, and has set its sights on a young Mexican woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes). Thankfully for Dani, Grace (Mackenzie Davis) has come from the future as well, to protect her from the nearly indestructible Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), who will stop at nothing to get his target.

Dani and Grace then meet up with Sarah, who has been killing Terminators since we last saw her, and three head out of Mexico, with the Rev-9 hot on their trail. Eventually, the two get help from Sarah’s old nemesis, the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who agrees to help fight the Rev-9 and keep Dani alive. What follows is an epic conclusion with a massive fight for survival against all odds.

Look, the Terminator franchise has gone through A LOT since Judgment Day. When Dark Fate was announced with creator James Cameron and Linda Hamilton herself was coming back to play Sarah Connor, I put this on top of my must-watch list – being the movie optimist that I am anyway. Now, were here, and thankfully Dark Fate wasn’t that bad. I’ll take the stance that Dark Fate is the best Terminator movie to have come out since Judgment Day, but that’s honestly not saying much considering the sequel and reboots we’ve gotten – although, I’m in the small camp of people that probably enjoyed Terminator Salvation.

The movie itself isn’t anything too new as it takes bits from the previous films and updates them for a modern take. Davis’ Grace isn’t a Terminator herself, but a human with enhancement to give them a fighting chance against the deadly Rev-9s. Sarah has matured since the last time we saw her, and her arc was a rather surprising one if I’m being honest, but makes some sense. Reyes’ Dani is basically the new Sarah Connor, although, she not completely a new Sarah which is great, because you can’t replicate too much of the same thing.

Sticking to the cast, Mackenzie Davis does a pretty great job as Grace. Her determination to protecting Dani never feels forced, and she plays the kick-ass action star very well. Natalia Reyes as Dani has her moments, but she feels like the weak link in the cast. Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9 has a lot of charisma, which makes his Terminator a little more scarier than previous versions. The Rev-9 has the T-1000 liquid metal exoskeleton covering the machine skeleton underneath, but when it comes to trying to find Dani, he’s able to put on a smile and talk normally with anyone that can get him to her, right before he kills them. Luna has a great balance of being “friendly” and determined to get to his target.

Hamilton and Schwarzenegger already have a handle on their characters, again, Hamilton’s Sarah is a little different from the last time we saw her, but for good reason. Schwarzenegger’s T-800 also has an interesting story here, but thankfully, he’s not in the movie too much. He appears right before the third act of the movie, and that’s enough since the movie really doesn’t need him too much. The movie really is more about our three women in Dani, Grace and Sarah.

Of course, being a Terminator movie we need to talk about some of the action here. Personally, I think the action isn’t really that bad. The first real big set-piece is Grace saving Dani and her brother Diego (Diego Boneta) from the Rev-9, which leads to a highway chase. The action in-between is fine, and it picks up at the end with the showdown between all parties. The CGI also isn’t that bad, although there are moments when the Rev-9 jumps to high spots where he’s clearly a little too rubbery.

All in all, Terminator: Dark Fate is a worthwhile sequel to the franchise with some great moments scattered throughout, and some nice homage’s to the previous movies. The movie isn’t without its faults, with some spotty CG and a few weird story choices, but overall, it is the best Terminator movie since Judgment Day, which again, isn’t saying too much considering what we’ve gotten since then.

Terminator: Dark Fate

3.5 out of 5

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Review

Director: Robert Rodriguez

Writers: James Cameron and Laeta Kalogridis

Cast: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Keean Johnson, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jennifer Connelly and Mahershala Ali

Synopsis: A deactivated female cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Based on the anime and manga series created by Yukito Kishiro, Alita: Battle Angel has been a passion project for James Cameron for decades now, but put if off for Titanic, and because he didn’t think the visual effects were up for the vision he had. Then Avatar happened and Cameron’s focus went to developing those films that he passed along the directorial duties to his friend Robert Rodriguez, who was also a fan of the series. Now, we get the vision that Cameron probably intended with bombastic visual effects, some pretty solid set pieces and a pretty descent cast.

Set 300 years after The Fall, Alita: Battle Angel follows a resurrected abandoned cyborg named Alita (Rosa Salazar), by Doctor Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz). When she awakes, she has no recollection of her former life, despite not being hardwired like a normal cyborg that Ido usually deals with. Alita now has to learn how things work in Iron City, while also dealing with Vector (Mahershala Ali) – the man who runs Iron City from above – a group of bounty hunters called Hunter Warriors, taking an interest to Hugo (Keean Johnson), a local in Iron City, and Iron City’s favorite sport – Motorball.

One of the best aspects going for Alita: Battle Angel is the amazing special effects that Cameron and the special effects department were able to pull off. On top of that, the 3D makes everything pretty immersive from Iron City, to the city of Zalem in the sky and Motorball (although, we can probably safely assume that most of that was CG). Plus, when it comes to Alita herself, she was motion-captured by Salazar herself, with some new motion-capture Cameron is going to use in the Avatar sequels. While most big budget movie – this being Robert Rodriguez’s most expensive movie to date –  have great ambition like Alita: Battle Angel, the adaptation actually works for what it’s trying to accomplish.

Which, of course, is an accomplishment in itself since most – if not all – anime adaptations lose a lot of what made the anime so beloved. I haven’t watched original anime, nor read the manga, but from what I was able to read it seems like Alita: Battle Angel is a pretty faithful adaptation, which should make fans happy. But, you don’t need to watch the anime to really enjoy the movie, because overall, Alita: Battle Angel is a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining film.

The cast is also pretty solid considering how bombastic the movie is, with almost the whole movie being put on Rosa Salazar’s shoulders. Thankfully, Salazar is able to carry it as she brings the right amount of naivety, wonderment and badassery the role requires. Christoph Waltz plays the father-figure role well, but I wish he was in it just a tad bit more, while Alita’s other man in her life is Keean Johnson’s Hugo, who is just a bit wooden at times, and even though his character gets an interesting storyline in the movie, his development is just a tad lackluster. The villains are very mixed with Mahershala Ali’s Vector not getting enough screen time to be a real threat, Ed Skrein plays a Hunter Warrior named Zapan who is just the right amount of smug and Jackie Earle Haley plays the dangerous Grewishka, who Alita goes head-to-head a couple of times. I would mention Jennifer Connelly’s Chiren, but she doesn’t have enough screen time to really make an impact. The movie is also filled with some cameos that could surprise people, especially one that I was shocked, like many, that they were able to keep secret.

The movie does have some minor problems, like some pacing issues here and there, but weirdly – and surprisingly – with the two hour runtime the movie moves are a pretty brisk pace. The overall story misses some beats, and one thing most viewers might not like is the ending. Admittedly, I found out it’s essentially how the anime ends too, but seeing how Hollywood is a different beast, and seeing how they set up it, it should be interesting to see how things work out.

All in all, Alita: Battle Angel has some minor flaws, but overall is thoroughly entertaining and ton of fun to watch. Rosa Salazar holds the movie up on her shoulders, and no the big CGI eyes will not bother you, plus, it actually helps with the character’s situation. Hopefully, Alita: Battle Angel starts a resurgence of good anime adaptations, no matter the result at the box office.

Alita: Battle Angel

4 out of 5

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