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Screen Themes — Terminator: Dark Fate vs Zombieland: Double Tap

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We're off to the movies with entertainment editor John Turnbull, to check out a couple of sequels that are too cool for numerals.

Terminator: Dark Fate

Directed by Tim Miller (2019)

Since its high impact, low budget launch back in 1984, the Terminator franchise has travelled a bumpy road — from the near-perfection of James Cameron’s T2: Judgement Day in 1991, to the decidedly dodgy Terminator Salvation in 2009 (directed by McG – remember him?) , then the truly awful Terminator Genisys in 2015. The latter starred not one but two Aussies (Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney), who were so bad it’s somewhat remarkable they ever worked again, along with Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones, who showed that pretending to ride a dragon doesn’t necessarily prepare you for an action movie.

In the likely event that you haven’t seen all (or any) of the Terminator movies since 1991, fear not, dear reader. As of 2019, they no longer matter, or even exist in the official Terminator timeline. Without spoiling too much, Dark Fate kicks off with the hospital footage of Sarah Connor from T2, then adds a post-movie coda that makes it clear that crappy sequels 3 through 5 never happened. There is a chance that this retcon may annoy some viewers, but I am more than happy to accept that comic-relief Arnie from Genisys never existed. 

The Austrian Oak does return for Dark Fate, mind you, along with Linda Hamilton as a world-weary, yet still deadly, Sarah Connor. Original director James Cameron also returns to the fold — although this time in a producer capacity, handing over directing duties to Deadpool director Tim Miller. While there are no bad performances in this movie, the real standout is Mackenzie Davis as cyborg super-soldier Grace, sent back to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes) from the new REV-9 model terminator, played with grim determination by Gabriel Luna.

With a focus on huge action set pieces and a fast moving plot that holds together if you don’t think about it too much, Terminator: Dark Fate is a lot of fun and undoubtedly the best movie in the series since T2. Note to 20th Century Fox executives – this does not mean that we need to see any more Terminator sequels. Try something original, maybe?

Zombieland: Double Tap

Directed by Reuben Fleischer (2019)

Okay, I appreciate that I’m being ridiculous asking movie studios to come up with original ideas, with IMDB listing a staggering 31 sequels scheduled for release in 2019 alone. One of those sequels is Zombieland: Double Tap, reuniting the original cast ten years after the original zombie horror comedy flick. And when I say original, I mean unless you count Return of the Living Dead (1985) or the hilarious Shaun of the Dead (2004) — but I guess there’s no such thing as an original idea in Hollywood. Except maybe Human Centipede. I can’t imagine too many people have had that idea.

If you enjoyed 2009’s Zombieland, detailing the post-apocalyptic shenanigans of Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson; bombastic), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg; neurotic), Little Rock (Abigail Breslin; sarcastic) and Wichita (Emma Stone; spiky), then there is a good chance you’ll find something to enjoy in Double Tap, because it’s essentially the same movie with a higher budget. Sometimes this trick works (The Road Warrior/Mad Max, Desperado/El Mariachi), but more often than not you get something like The Hangover 2: lazy, rehashed and a complete waste of everybody’s time. Or am I thinking of Hangover 3?

After crashing at the White House for a while, the gang decide to head to Graceland, at which point Little Rock splits with a neo-hippy called Berkely (Avan Jogia) and heads to a no-weapons-allowed safe zone. The remaining survivors decide to go after her, just as a new breed of super-zombies are evolving, because evolution happens over decades rather than centuries once you’re dead. Can anybody guess what happens next? Of course you can.

With a few familiar faces added to the cast (Luke Wilson, Rosario Dawson) and a mid-credits return of the delightful Bill Murray (the best scene in the movie), Zombieland: Double Tap is light entertainment that will fill 99 minutes and doesn’t make you think too hard.

The Verdict

Clearly, not all sequels are bad. Aliens, Godfather 2 and T2 all add significantly to the movies that preceded them and the world would be a less happy place without the life-affirming qualities of Toy Story 2. Does this make up for endless Rambos, Fast & Furiouses and Men in Black of rapidly declining quality? Maybe, maybe not.

In the unlikely event you enjoy action movies but haven’t seen T2: Judgement Day, then I recommend you finish reading this sentence, track down a copy of that movie and watch it with the lights turned down and the volume turned up. For everyone else, Dark Fate is the best new Terminator movie you’re likely to get in the foreseeable future. It's worth a look on the big screen for the action sequences alone.

Terminator: Dark Fate: 8/10

Zombieland: Double Tap: 5/10

Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: EuropeDamnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).

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