- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2020

A once popular sci-fi franchise went back to its roots much to the indifference of film audiences but looks for a return to financial greatness through the ultra-high definition format in Terminator: Dark Fate (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, 128 minutes, $45.99).

Producer James Cameron returned to the franchise he created 35 years ago, recruited “Deadpool’s” director Tim Miller and brought back Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in a story taking place three years after “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

It sounded like a winner except for a horrendous decision to kill a major character and a nasty case of plot deja-vu that ultimately sunk the effort for fans.

The story specifics involve a cybernetically augmented human named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) coming back from the future in 2042 to protect Mexican auto assembly worker Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) from a highly advanced Terminator also sent back from the future to kill her.

Sound familiar?

Grace gets help quickly from Miss Connor, a fugitive and self-professed Terminator hunter. Life gets a bit more complex when they also need assistance from a T-800, Model 101 Terminator in retirement (Arnold Schwarzenegger, you betcha).

The film tries to bring back the franchise to its former glory with spectacular car chases, close-quarter combat, a fight scene on a C-5 Galaxy airship in zero gravity and the introduction of the Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna).

Built in the future from the artificial super intelligent program Legion, the replacement for the never-have-existed Skynet, it’s a living metallic alloy that can mimic a human’s features and emotions and can separate from its endoskeleton to offer two stand-alone hunters.

Unfortunately, movie audiences have seen all of these tricks before, and despite a fine performance from Miss Hamilton, the story is a rehash of mainly the original two films, much like the homage-heavy “Star Wars: Force Awakens.”

4K in action: Viewers get a pure UHD experience sourced from the 4K digital intermediate offering impressive clarity and subtle color variations and saturations.

Except, the high dynamic range fell short on my monitor during dark scenes on a train, a plane and when the group was crossing a river at night, making any details nearly impossible to appreciate,

When light was abundant, stunning moments included watching the liquid metal machines with piercing tentacles attacking soldiers in a future war amid skulls and bodies, which was terrifying; and the finest such as watching Grace cut a fly in half with a knife, a scene worthy of repeat viewings.

Best extras: The bundled Blu-ray disc offers first a 20-minute promotional featurette covering the production with a selection of glowing remarks and rationalizations about the film from principal cast and crew including Mr. Cameron, Mr. Miller, Miss Hamilton and Mr. Schwarzenegger.

Next, another longer production overview, 33 minutes, focuses on the digital and practical special effects required in the massive action scenes; the traumatic opening scenes (using advanced photo realistic, de-aging technology); the smoky flash forward war scenes; shooting in Spain; the T800 cabin in the woods; the Dragonfly troop transport; and the physics and choreography behind the zero-gravity sequence.

Throughout, Mr. Miller offers comments like a giddy school kid.

Those buying the disc will grit their teeth knowing they must use the included digital code in the package to access an optional commentary track with Mr. Miller and editor Julian Clarke.

The pair sporadically comment on scenes with some laughs while touching on shooting at live locations versus on a sound stage or backlot, character entrance sequences, slight criticisms to some of the effects choices, favorite actions scenes and having a collaborative set where everyone can offer opinions to the filmmaking choices.

Also exclusive to digital is a multimedia comparative analysis of the Rev-9 and T-800 Terminators versus augmented humans and three animated previsualization sequences (factory fight and the Humvee air and dam battle).

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