Terminator: OK Boomer
I saw Terminator Dark Fate recently, and I have three thoughts: First, this is why OK boomer is a meme. Second, the film demonstrates both good and bad approaches to wokeness. Third it illustrates the importance of proportional consequences in action films. That's a lot of things, so let's go down the list quickly.
First, the boomer thing: The first part of the movie is really fantastic. Mackenzie Davis absolutely knocks it out of the park as Grace, an augmented human send back in time to protect Dani (future leader of the resistance). Grace is a human modified with robot parts, who can basically super charge her metabolism to accomplish insane feats of strength and agility but who then "crashes" from the metabolic debt afterward. It basically lets the movie have its lunch and eat it too in terms of guardian characters - combining the vulnerability and humanity of Kyle Reese with the superhuman action potential of T2's Terminator. Davis' character can go from throwing a piece of rebar like a javelin clean through an engine block to being as weak and helpless as a kitten when her system overheats. It's a wonderful dynamic that Davis' plays absolutely great.
Except she's not able to truly show her potential and really explore this fantastic setup because about 30 minutes into the film two boomers show up and hog all the spotlight for themselves for the entire rest of the film. Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are absolute albatrosses around this movie's neck, and drag down every scene they're in both narratively (neither has any coherent reason to be involved in this story at all) and coolness wise (no one wants to see Grandpa and Grandma fumble around their action movie). It is such a perfect example of a pair of boomers being unwilling to let go, and hamstringing the the next generation for just a few more seconds in the sun for themselves. The worst part is both of them hog all the good lines, and leave the younger actors basically table scraps to fight over - Arnold you're 72 years old for god's sake, let the young guns have a chance at saying something funny. This might've been the film that put Mackenzie Davis on the map (she really is that good), but instead it's a box office bomb - but hey at least two senior citizens got to play action hero at everyone else's expense one last time.
Second, wokeness. To me good wokeness is natural, medicore wokeness is performative, and bad wokeness is castigatory. This movie contains great examples of all three. At the start of the movie we have three warrior women (future leader of the human resistance, a cyborg who can juggle SUVs, and tacticool grandma) as our main characters - and it's not commented on. It's treated as perfectly natural, just a thing that happened to happen and not really a big deal either way. James Cameron was fairly famous for this, where he'd randomly have female pilots or marines and it would barely get a mention. This natural wokeness is the best because it gets inside your head, and normalizes the woke without you even realizing it. It changes your assumptions about the world piece by piece over time. Of course gay people are just like anyone else, why wouldn't they be? Of course you don't mind having a black doctor, why would that matter? That's natural wokeness having worked its magic.
Anyway the movie nosedives into performative and then castigatory wokeness and sucks. Sarah Conner tells Dani that she isn't the leader of the resistance, it's her son that will lead. Dani's only valuable for her womb. Later surprise she is the leader of the resistance, and Sarah was demonstrating internalized misogyny. The audience is plainly being insulted for not being woke enough to imagine a female general, and valuing women only as breeders for future generations of male warriors. It's very smug about this and annoying. Except it doesn't work because it's 2019 and a woman being the leader of the human resistance movement is not remotely shocking. In fact I just assumed Dani was the resistance's leader at the start, and only after the "shocking twist" did I realize I wasn't supposed to have known until this point. This sort of thing is bad because it makes an enemy of the audience, rather than getting them to buy your worldview by showing how nice it is. Leftism works best as a subtle corrupting force that seeps into people's brains, and is the least effective when smacking people up side the head with morals.
Finally consequences. In the first part of the movie, Grace grabs a sledge hammer and goes to town on the Terminator's head. The bad terminator, not Arnold's character. Anyway that scene of a robot getting his head smacked into the floor by a hammer felt more exciting then the entire 2nd half of the movie. Despite the 2nd half of the movie containing, in rough chronological order, a helicopter gun battle, a mid-air collision between two cargo planes, a semi-weightless battle in the hold of a plummeting airplane, driving a humvee down Hoover dam, and an underwater gun battle. The reason is because the hammer beat down felt real, while the stupid action excess of the 2nd half felt like a cartoon. Not because the CGI failed or anything, but because it's so over the top and there are so few consequences to any of this I just don't care. A 62 year old woman drove down Hoover dam in a humvee and has a gun battle at the bottom of a river and no you've lost me you've gone too far. A dash of excess can be the spice that makes a scene work - Grace at the start for example - but at some point your pasta is more spice than noodles and you've ruined dinner.
Random end thought: I was thinking they were going for a lesbian romance thing between Dani and Grace, similar to the love that blossomed between Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner in T1. I was kind of disappointed that didn't happen, as it would've both been a great nod to past films and a good example of 'natural wokeness'. Oh well.