The film starts off strong, Miller infusing his trademark wit wherever possible, but also dialing back enough to avoid turning the franchise into a self-parody (alas, it may be too late for that). The action sequences brim with ferocity and energy, particularly the chase sequence through suburban Mexico early on, Grace and Dani (barely) fending off the unstoppable Rev-9. Unfortunately, things get increasingly wearisome, the film losing steam in its second half. By the time an epic airplane battle commences, no one cares.
It’s difficult to fault Miller, who gives this project his all. During a Q&A, he himself openly admitted that, while he’s proud of the outcome (why, of course), there are multiple things he’d change. I’m not sure whether it would’ve made a difference. Cameron’s original Terminators possessed an urgency, a uniqueness that no Rev or T can ever replicate. They were “no-holds-barred,” “unlike-anything-we’ve-seen-before,” brutal pieces of entertainment. The notion of living up to them is inherently dubious (at best). You can almost hear all the wires straining under pressure.
“…action sequences brim with ferocity and energy…”
Everything feels second-hand. Yeah, the evil Terminator can now split himself in two – but it doesn’t come close to inspiring the awe we all felt upon seeing Robert Patrick’s T-1000 mold into the floor. Yeah, Sarah Connor is badass – but her close-up scenery-chewing here feels like a mere imitation of the relentless, half-crazed Sarah we know, her feminine strength forcefully emphasized for #Impact. Schwarzenegger has a couple of zingers (“I’m extremely funny”), but again, it’s like watching a clone – and the ending, which tries so hard to do justice to T2, just hammers home the point.
It’s all been-there, done-that stuff, diluted further by forgettable characters, plot holes, and a desire by the studio to “get back on track” that transcends earnestness and becomes borderline-insufferable. The best thing about the film? The wonderful Mackenzie Davis, known for TV’s Halt and Catch Fire, whose charisma single-handedly makes the film watchable, even during the dullest stretches. I truly hope this franchise won’t “be back” – but if it is, it better have Davis in it.
"…a screenplay as clunky as a skinned, half-demolished T-800"