Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: Strong violence & offensive language
Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Terminator T-800 (Model 101)/”Carl”
Mackenzie Davis as Grace
Natalia Reyes as Daniella “Dani” Ramos
Gabriel Luna as Terminator Rev-9
Diego Boneta as Diego Ramos
Director: Tim Miller
In Mexico City, a newly modified liquid Terminator (Gabriel Luna) — the Rev-9 model — arrives from the future to kill a young factory worker named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Also sent back in time is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a hybrid cyborg human who must protect Ramos from the seemingly indestructible robotic assassin. But the two women soon find some much-needed help from a pair of unexpected allies — seasoned warrior Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and the T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
I was cautiously optimistic about Terminator: Dark Fate. The first two Terminator films are absolute classics, and for very good reason. The next 3 instalments on the other hand received a mixed to negative response, I actually liked them, but they were quite the significant steps down from the other movies and had a lot of problems. Instead of continuing the new bizarre storyline created by Terminator Genisys, the 6th movie would essentially only acknowledge the first two Terminator movies and act as a Terminator 3, a bit of a ‘soft reboot’ like Halloween 2018. On top of that, not only were they having Deadpool director Tim Miller helm the movie, the likes of Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna starring, and especially Linda Hamilton returning to the role of Sarah Connor, but James Cameron would also be a lot involved with the next instalment. There was a lot of potential, but I kept my expectations in check. Dark Fate definitely isn’t on the level of the first two movies, but I actually thoroughly liked it, flaws and all.
Now something to get out of the way, this movie makes a bold decision in the different direction it’s taking the Terminator story, especially with the opening scene. This new direction will either work for you or won’t. I’m on the side of liking it, without revealing too much I think it’s at least trying to keep things fresh. I’m being as vague as the trailers and not going into too much depth about the set ups. The movie is very fast paced and action packed, with action scene after action scene, it can feel a little overwhelming at times. At the same time there are moments to breathe with the characters, and it give them just enough for you to be invested in them. It seems to take a very Mad Max: Fury Road/Mission Impossible: Fallout approach to the story (although not being quite as good as those other movies). In the third act though they really just go all in with the large action scenes, probably a little too much, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. There are obvious choices made to shift the focus towards a female driven story (with the 3 leads of the movie being women), and I think they handled that well. The movie definitely leans into that and it felt earned and genuine. Complete side note but that’s made even better considering how this movie got so much backlash for being “too woke and just pandering to SJWs” for merely having women be the focus of the story. It seems like the writers almost sort of knew that was coming and you can tell in the writing they kind of wanted to piss those people off, and needless to say I’m glad for it. I guess Dark Fate was a little too much like the first two Terminators at times, with the types of action, certain plot points, setups and revelations that we’re used to seeing, but that was also the case with Rise of the Machine, only this movie did it better. There was a reveal at a point later in the movie that it was trying to conceal and build up to but it was kind of obvious where they were going with it, I was more than fine with the decision though. Here and there, there are some silly or poorly written lines that took me out of the movie but only just a bit. They definitely plant the seeds to have more sequels if they choose to do so, but it works well enough as the final movie I guess too, it doesn’t leave the story on a massive cliffhanger or anything. With that said, the Terminator series really needs a definitive ending to the story, and given the unlikelihood of seeing a follow up to Dark Fate, part of me kind of wishes that it found a way to end it here.
In terms of cast and characters for Terminator sequels post Judgement Day, I’d say that it’s the best. I’ll start with the newer cast first. Mackenzie Davis is really good as an enhanced soldier sent back in time to save Natalia Reyes’s character from a new Terminator. She sells the action scenes and is quite convincing, I really hope that this puts Davis on the map as someone to pay attention to her because she deserves it. The only annoyance I have with her character Grace was that I was hoping for a little more delving into her. Sure her backstory is touched upon but it felt like there was a lot more to explore, especially with the augmentations that she has, which are in themselves just explained very vaguely. Everything else about her was great. Natalia Reyes is the one being hunted throughout the movie, she’s pretty good in the role but for the majority of the movie is sort of a plot device and doesn’t get a lot of time to shine as a character. Gabriel Luna plays the Rev-9, the new Terminator that our main characters are up against, and he did serve well as a difficult adversary. It’s a little more advanced than the T-1000 liquid Terminator from Judgement Day, but just at the right level and not like what they did with the T-X in Rise of the Machines. Essentially the Rev-9 is a bit like a liquid Terminator, except that it can split into two. Luna could appear very charismatic and natural passing off as a human when he needs to but also feels very much like a machine, and he’s got a very threatening screen presence. Now for the two returning actors, starting with Linda Hamilton who is fantastic here reprising her role as Sarah Connor. She’s even more experienced and hardened than the last time we saw her, and I really liked how her story played out (won’t talk about it in depth here). Hamilton’s Sarah Connor was the centre of the first two movies and was a big part of what made them work, and the same is the case with Dark Fate. This is the first time in a present day set Terminator movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t one of the main leads, you don’t actually see him for much of the movie. Without spoiling anything I really liked how they handled his character here. The only issue is that after Judgement Day, they kept trying to add comedy to Arnold’s Terminator and a lot of the time it just comes across really goofy and forced. Thankfully most of the jokes involving him in Dark Fate are genuinely funny and aren’t as embarrassing as those in Rise of the Machines and Genisys, but there are a few lines which were too silly for their own good.
Now Tim Miller is no James Cameron but he definitely did a good job at directing this. This is the first R rated Terminator movie since Judgement Day, and it definitely benefited from the lack of restrictions. On top of being able to show a lot more graphic violence than the past few movies, there is a level of intensity and impact in so much of said violence that added so much towards making the action better. I really liked the action overall, I don’t think I need to sound like a broken record and say that they don’t reach levels of the first two Terminator movies, but on its own it worked well. Unfortunately like with Genisys, some of the action is filled with a lot of CGI and often have set pieces that were a little too large. The CGI is also a bit overused, to mixed results. With the Rev-9 it kind of needed to use a lot of CGI, sure it looked a little bland at times but it personally didn’t bother me too much. Junkie XL’s score as usual really adds to the movie, especially during the action scenes.
While a lot of people consider Dark Fate to be the 3rd best Terminator movie, it’s quite apparent that not everyone is a fan of this movie, especially with some of the decisions it makes. There’s also the very low box office, I get the feeling that Genisys for many was the final straw for a lot of audiences, and so they don’t really want to see yet another potentially mediocre Terminator sequel. I’d say that if you were fine with the Terminator movies after Judgement Day, I’m pretty sure you’ll like Dark Fate as well. All the same, I thought that this movie was relatively decent, the cast and characters were great (with Mackenzie Davis and Linda Hamilton being the standouts), Tim Miller handled the direction of the movie well, and I personally liked where they took the story. I guess the series could possibly end here but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat interested in seeing a follow up in some format.