Film Review: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

The ‘Terminator’ franchise is given a new lease of life as Sarah Connor returns…

Terminator Dark Fate (a)

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunite for the James Cameron-produced ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ (image credit: 20th Century Fox/Paramount Pictures).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes

Directed by:  Tim Miller / written by:  David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes & Bill Ray (story by James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer & Justin Rhodes) / 128 minutes

What’s it about?

A cybernetically enhanced soldier from the future teams up with Sarah Connor to protect a young girl from a new and even more lethal Terminator…

In review

Director James Cameron returns to the franchise he created, as producer (as well as story co-writer) for Terminator: Dark Fate – the sixth Terminator film – which functions as a direct sequel to Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (thus ignoring previous entries Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation and 2015’s failed reboot, Terminator: Genisys), facilitating the return of Linda Hamilton as the tough as nails Sarah Connor.

A solid and action-packed continuation of Cameron’s humans versus machines time travel story, Dark Fate may not be in the same league as T2 but it’s comfortably the best Terminator since 1991.  That’s in no small part thanks to Linda Hamilton, reprising her most iconic role with ease, intensified by the further grizzle and weariness that age – and circumstances – have brought upon her.  Connor may have prevented Judgment Day but as we learn in Dark Fate, a cataclysmic conflict between humanity and advanced, self-aware artificial intelligence was merely postponed.

In Terminator: Dark Fate, Grace, a cybernetically augmented human resistance fighter (Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis) is sent back in time from the year 2042 to the present in order to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), a young auto factory worker from being murdered by a relentless ‘Rev-9’ type Terminator (Gabriel Luna, previously Ghost Rider on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).  Over two decades after destroying the work of the Cyberdyne labs, Sarah Conner, then the literal mother of the human resistance, finds fate aligning her path with Grace’s mission to ensure Dani’s survival – the importance of which soon becomes clear.

Terminator Dark Fate (b)

Mackenzie Davis as the human resistance’s augmented super soldier Grace (image credit: 20th Century Fox/Paramount Pictures).

Restoring the anxious tension and sharp brutality of the original Terminator films, Dark Fate is enhanced by its casting, it goes without saying that Linda Hamilton is a standout but she is greatly matched by Mackenzie Davis who, like Hamilton some 25+ years prior, brings a believable sense of fierce physicality to her role and the concept of a human/cybernetic hybrid is both intriguing and frighteningly prescient.  Natalia Reyes also holds her own as Dani, who is given a strong arc that helps drive the heart of the story, completing the film’s trio of engaging heroines.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger who once again returns as the original form of Terminator – the Cyberdyne Systems T-800, model 101.  Notwithstanding the pure nostalgic delight of seeing Schwarzenegger and Hamilton reunited on screen, Arnie brings that extra bit of presence to proceedings and is given new layers to explore as Dark Fate provides an interesting and neat twist to his character.

Gabriel Luna provides a palpable and deadly threat as the new breed of Terminator – a sort of ‘dual’ combination of the T-800 exoskeleton and the morphing liquid metal T-1000 – giving audiences another new spin on the old as Luna slices, stabs and crashes his way through anyone and anything that stands in the way of the Rev-9’s mission.

Whilst he’s no James Cameron, Tim Miller is an efficient action director, utilising his experience from Deadpool and marshalling his skills effectively in balancing the visual effects (the odd weak CGI moment forgiven) and exciting set-pieces – including an edge-of-the-seat tussle aboard a C5 cargo plane and a satisfying and scintillating finale – with character and story.  The narrative may evoke a sense of familiarity, it’s overall structure undeniably reminiscent of T2 which perhaps make Dark Fate a little predictable in moments, but there are enough small tweaks that add elements of the new and keep the commentary (and cautionary statement) on technological progression meaningful and relevant.  The real challenge will be where to take the franchise next but for now, Terminator: Dark Fate is something of a shot in the arm for the series.

The bottom line:  Resetting the future of a troubled franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate is an enjoyable and effective sci-fi action blockbuster that combines the comfort of the familiar with some pleasing touches of the new.

Terminator: Dark Fate is in cinemas across the U.K. now and opens in the U.S. and other worldwide territories on 1st November.

Images used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

10 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

  1. Great Review!! Defo looks like I’ll have to watch this! (At some point!)!
    The Terminator series really had derailed over the years, I didn’t mind Terminator 3 but it did have a lot of flaws compared to the previous two outings. And as for Salvation and Genysis – well we all know about them.
    It was no mistake in bringing back the original female action hero (Apart from Ellen Ripley of course) and teaming her up with one of our most beloved 80s action stars to do battle together once more. That only is a reason to watch this film I think! But if it has a plausible plot, great action and “not too bad” CGI – then they are good reasons too!

    • Thanks very much! T3 was enjoyable at the time and Salvation and Genisys had some interesting ideas but ultimately faltered in the execution.

      Dark Fate is obviously not T2 but it sets the franchise steadily back on the tracks and an enjoyable continuation…all the more so, as you say, for reuniting our old faves.

  2. Sounds better than I thought. Might check it out when it comes out on DVD. To be honest I have fallen out of love with Terminator, as the series has been on a decline since the exceptional T2. Good to see Hamilton back and I do have some respect for the director, as I enjoyed Deadpool.

  3. It’s a great relief that the latest Terminator film is actually good. It comes out here next Friday and am now looking forward to seeing it. Too bad Cameron is so involved with the Avatar films at this point to personally direct this, which would have increased interest in the film exponentially, but as long as he is involved with the film unlike the other post-T2 sequels then that is enough for moi. 😀

    • So long as you go in with reasonable expectations (and obviously don’t expect it to be on the same level as T2) then you should have a good time with Dark Fate. I could only imagine (maybe yearn a little) how it would’ve been had Cameron actually directed but at least his involvement as a producer/story writer legitimises the whole thing.

  4. Great review as always, Chris. I honestly didn’t know that this movie would dismiss the past couple of movies that were released since T2. That’s actually really good to hear considering that I wasn’t completely thrilled by those past movies and found them pretty weak. I did also think that Dark Fate would end up being a nostalgic piece, sort of like the latest Rambo we got, giving it the necessary boost to survive the box office thanks to nostalgia but not enough to prove itself as a great film that was necessary for the franchise. But your review definitely gives me hope that this won’t be another attempt at milking the franchise.

    • Thank you for the support as ever kind sir! It’s a franchise that refuses to die, the first two Cameron Terminators are amongst my all time-favourite films and there were elements of the other sequels that I liked but overall they didn’t fully work in the execution. Dark Fate is certainly and enjoyable and reasonably effective effort at continuing the story James Cameron started. It’ll be interesting to see how it performs and leads to a sequel – and where they might go with it.

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