Terminator: Dark Fate
Terminator: Dark Fate takes one step forward and two steps back. It's better than the last two entries by a wide margin, but still struggles branching out from being just another carbon copy of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Director Tim Miller brings the action goods and the return of Sarah Connor, but struggles rising above the messy writing.
The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day creator James Cameron returns to the Terminator franchise, producing a story he helped write for Deadpool director Tim Miller in Terminator: Dark Fate, which also marks the return of series bad ass Linda Hamilton as the iconic Sarah Connor.
Terminator: Dark Fate falls firmly in line behind T1 and T2 in look and feel, bringing together adrenaline-fueled non-stop action mixed with R-rated sci-fi roots, but it struggles establishing itself as a sequel worth telling, feeling more like Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in execution when compared to the original two films. Still, it’s miles better than Terminator Salvation and Terminator: Genisys, proving that with the right cast and crew, a decent Terminator film can be made.
Terminator: Dark Fate picks up immediately after the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, washing away the three sequels that followed the action masterpiece, moving us into a timeline where Skynet didn’t take control and Judgment Day never happened in August of 1997.
What we learn is that while the future was altered, a war with the machines still awaits us.
This is what brings Grace (Mackenzie Davis) back in time, to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes) as she is the key to saving the human race. Grace is not a Terminator, but instead an enhanced human turned into a super-soldier sent back to protect Dani from a new machine, dubbed the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). The Rev-9 is a more efficient killing machine, housing the ability to multiple and shape-shift in more advanced ways than the T-1000.
This puts Dani and Grace on the run, with the help of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Let me be the first to say that Terminator: Dark Fate absolutely rocks in the action department. Director Tim Miller has an eye for explosive, non-stop action that assaults your senses from the opening credits all the way up until the final battle.
Terminator: Dark Fate kicks all sorts of ass.
Unfortunately, none of it feels as ground-breaking as the original two films, with too much of the film relying on CGI versus practical effects or at the very least, a well-balanced blend of the two. I couldn’t help but notice some very rough shots, mostly in character creation, that felt like this movie was ADD when it came to its budget expenses.
The airplane sequence towards the end of the film utilizes CGI in a way that feels needed and the opening chase scene is very reminiscent of T2, but everything in between sort of struggles to balance that feeling of innovation and not imitation.
As a matter of fact, most of Dark Fate feels like retreading the same waters of Terminator 2, only until the film’s forced sense of female empowerment. I mean, we’re talking about a series that has roots in female bad assery, thanks to Linda Hamilton‘s turn as the iconic Sarah Connor.
Of all of the series’ to feel the need to remind us of the power of women, Terminator was not one of them.
Yes, Mackenzie Davis brings the goods as a hybrid human/Terminator that has the ability to destroy just about anyone or anything.
And alright, Natalia Reyes does a fine job as Dani, but her character’s biggest flaw is hardly her fault, but instead the hodgepodge of writers that somehow try to make a simple story into something overly complex, yet somehow fail when it comes time for the big reveal.
The first two Terminator films worked so well because of their characters that managed to hide the fact that most of the timeline stuff really never made any sense, but we believed it because we cared about them and of course, James Cameron‘s ability to blend together action and suspense with a science fiction twist.
Terminator: Dark Fate works well when it’s being a big and loud action film that pays tribute to the days of Cameron, while also trying to further the characters of the T-800 and Sarah Connor, but it fails miserably trying to create Dani as something other than just another Sarah Connor for the sake of it.
As I mentioned earlier, Mackenzie Davis‘ Grace works, because of her ability to convey complex emotions. Grace is a warrior from the future, but also a person trying to save her friend and humanity in the process. She has her good moments and she has her bad ones, whereas Dani spends most of the film struggling to accept her fate and then like the flick a switch, accepts the responsibility and becomes of use.
There’s no real progression and instead and instant moment that feels cheap and forced and wrong.
Terminator: Dark Fate shows promise that this franchise can keep moving forward, but that movement is going to require steady writing that cuts the ties to the original films, while also continuing in tone.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines failed on its own, because it simply copies the second film without adding much of its own commentary. On the contrary, it is seen as a miracle when compared to the pile of horse shit that is known as Terminator Salvation; a movie so far unhinged from the Terminator world that it shouldn’t even bare the name, or the likes of Terminator: Genisys, a movie that tries so hard to separate itself and forge its own path, only to repeat the same mishaps of T3 and Salvation.
Dark Fate brings that balance closer to T2, but still fails miserably when it comes time to become its own film. Perhaps this series truly is out of gas and should be laid to rest?
75% of Terminator: Dark Fate is impressive — some of the best action that I have seen on screen all year, paired with killer pacing for a majority of the film. But that last 25% fizzles out the good deeds of what came before it and reminds us what it feels like to watch another disappointing Terminator sequel.
*My ranking from best to worst as of now is The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Dark Fate, Terminator: Genisys, nothingness, Terminator Salvation.