Terminator: Dark Fate (hereafter simply referred to as “Dark Fate”) is directed by Tim Miller. The film stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and Gabriel Luna. It is the sixth film in the Terminator franchise, but serves as a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, ignoring the other sequels. It’s the first movie to have the involvement of series creator James Cameron since that installment.
Sarah Connor succeeded in stopping the coming of Judgment Day and Skynet, but there were several Terminators who had gotten through to the present with kill orders prior to undoing the apocalyptic future, one of whom kills John Connor in 1998, leaving Sarah a broken woman. Two decades later, two more beings arrive from the future - Grace, a female soldier with cybernetic enhancements, and a new model of Terminator, the Rev-9, sent to kill a young woman in Mexico for unknown reasons, who Grace sets out to protect. With the group on the run and crossing paths with Sarah Connor, they join forces with an unlikely yet familiar ally, knowing they need to stop the threat of the Rev-9 to prevent another apocalyptic future from coming to fruition.
It’s been a long and complicated history with the Terminator franchise. James Cameron’s original 1984 movie was made on a shoestring budget, and it’s doubtful anyone knew how much of a hit it would become. Its sequel, T2: Judgment Day, redefined the action blockbuster and the use of CGI in major motion pictures, being an even bigger hit than its predecessor. It was followed by three films which did not involve series creator Cameron – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and Terminator: Genisys (the latter two films only being rated PG-13 as opposed to the R-rated natures of earlier installments), as well as a short-lived television series, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Cameron has claimed that everything made after the first two films and prior to this one occurs in an alternative timeline, and Dark Fate is his canon sequel to T2. It also takes the series back to its R-rated roots.
Okay, now that we got that history lesson out of the way, is Dark Fate worth watching? The movie isn’t going to redefine the action blockbuster the way T2 did way back in the early 90s. Much of the movie feels way too familiar, and retreads ground we’ve walked on before. Its midsection drags, and the finale doesn't know when to stop, trying to give us the best of all worlds. Despite these flaws, it’s a movie worth seeing for the spectacular action sequences and performances from the cast, namely Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, reunited at last.
If there’s one positive thing I can say about Dark Fate, it starts out guns a-blazing, exploding into a chase sequence which rivals anything from T2, with the Rev-9 hot on the heels of our heroes. THIS is the way to start a movie – other action filmmakers stand up and take notice. The melodrama is there, but kept to a comfortable minimum, and it culminates in a fantastic reintroduction of a familiar face. The sole problem with this opening sequence? It’s so spectacular, nothing else in the movie quite manages to live up to it.
The performances are spectacular. Seeing Linda Hamilton’s transformation throughout this film and the two canon installments which came before is spectacular. In the original Terminator, she was a typical 80s valley girl thrown into a life-or-death situation. In the second, she was institutionalized, doing what it took to break out and stop an apocalypse from happening. In this installment, she comes full circle, still a wanted woman willing to do what it takes to prevent another dreary future from taking shape. I won’t spoil the nature of Schwarzenegger’s role here, other than that he’s playing a T-800 series Terminator again, but there are some interesting twists bound to entertain (and humor!) the viewer.
Series newcomers include Natalia Reyes as Dani, a young Mexican girl thrown into the conflict and the target of the new enemy, Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9, an advanced and deadly Terminator who serves as the film’s primary antagonist, and Mackenzie Davis as Grace, a soldier enhanced with cybernetics who aims to guard Dani by any means necessary. Everyone here plays their role perfectly, and we find ourselves swept up in the world the movie builds, as well as the seemingly inevitable machine-dominated apocalypse.
Sadly, the movie doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. It’s still the same old story about a machine protecting a human from another machine. The finale goes for broke and throws in everything but the kitchen sink, giving us land, sea, and air battles alike, but not knowing when to stop. After a while it runs out of steam, and the conclusion is quite predictable. Despite this, it’s still fairly entertaining, and definitely not the bottom of the barrel for this franchise.
Dark Fate doesn’t redefine action movies the way T2 did, and it’s too long and drawn out, particularly in its third act. But there’s no denying the cast bring their best to the table, and the opening action sequence is one for the ages. Solidly recommended.
Rating: Three stars out of four.
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