Terminator: Dark Fate - the girls are back in town
Updated: Dec 23, 2019
3.5 out of 5
After James Cameron's "The Terminator" in 1984 — which is regarded as a landmark work in science fiction as well as special effects, and put Arnold Schwarzenegger on the path to super stardom — there have been four sequels. Let's face it, they've been awful, except for one. Cameron's sequel to "The Terminator," 1991's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," wasn't just a worthy continuation of the story of an unstoppable killing machine from the future, but also stands as one of the best sequels ever made - very similar to Cameron’s Aliens sequel. So with that history, the powers that be decided, while developing the most recent "Terminator" movie, to pretend that "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Terminator Salvation," and (I get chills even writing the title) "Terminator Genisys" never existed. It was time to clean the slate and start fresh … from "T2."
So, where are we?
More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator - a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) - travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani's survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah's past that may be their last best hope.
The film takes place in a world that never had to deal with Skynet, the company that created the artificial intelligence that birthed the Terminator and wiped out humanity. That reality was made possible by the events of "Judgment Day." So in this world, the takeover by the machines never happened — well, by the T-800s anyway. In "Dark Fate," Legion is the company that created an artificial intelligence that kills off most of the human race. And these machines, known as Rev-9, are pretty nasty. They have a skeleton base like a Terminator but then there's a liquid surface on top of that which can split off and create its own form. So you are basically always battling two things when confronted by a Rev-9 and for me that was one of the down-sides of the film. When we saw T2 back in 1991 we were in awe of the CGI, the liquid Terminator. We let out a collective “Wow!” Now it’s more of a “why?”. The splitting of the Rev-9 into two makes no sense and seems to have been done just because they could. Turns out other machines rose instead.
"Dark Fate" is directed by Tim Miller ("Deadpool"), who oversees some great action sequences and — unlike the previous sequels we no longer speak of — doesn't get bogged down too much in "Terminator" history or time travel. Mackenzie Davis ("Halt and Catch Fire," "Black Mirror," "Blade Runner 2049," "Tully") continues to evolve as an actress, this time showing that she can play a great action hero. But it's Linda Hamilton who is the true star of the movie. Like her last time in the franchise, "Judgment Day," she brings a ferocity to the screen that is fun and exciting to watch.
Also back for the first time since "Judgment Day" is James Cameron, who has a producer credit. It takes a small village to make any movie, but do not for a second think Cameron wasn't heavily involved in making sure the franchise he created would have a strong rebound. It's also a big rebound for Paramount, the studio releasing "Dark Fate." After the disappointing returns on "Gemini Man," it should be a more profitable situation with this movie, as "Terminator" fans are salivating for a good movie to come their way. Sadly we have a mediocre film. Yes, the action sequences are fantastic, if a little contrived at times. Yes, it’s wonderful to see Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger back together. But I wanted more. This feels like a re-heat of the themes in the first two films. There are plot-holes a-plenty too.
It's great to see a trio of female leads carrying the film. It's hat off to Cameron who started the concept of strong female action heroes with Ripley. This is girl -power at its best.
It’s probably a 2.5 out of 5 film but for nostalgia’s sake, it gets 3.5. Grab a big bucket of popcorn and enjoy.