The Terminator franchise has had some hits and misses in its 35 years. And besides the first two, they’ve mostly been misses. But it looks to turn that around with Terminator: Dark Fate (2019), which is also known as Terminator 3: The Third Try, We Hope We Get It Right This Time.
As the sixth installation to the franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate serves as a sequel only much-beloved The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) – rendering everything from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) to Terminator Genisys (2015) non-canon.
Directed by Tim Miller who also helmed Deadpool (2016), the film sees the return of original director James Cameron as an Executive Producer as well as original franchise stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton as a T-800 named Carl and Sarah Connor, respectively.
Joining them are newbies to the franchise: Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and Gabriel Luna who play Grace, Dani Ramos, and the Rev-9, respectively.
When a new liquid-metal Terminator, the Rev-9, is sent back from the future to assassinate Dani Ramos, a person detrimental to the future of humanity, hybrid cyborg human Grace is also sent back to protect her. But just as the unstoppable killing machine becomes too much for them to handle, the pair are aided by seasoned Terminator hunter Sarah Connor
Terminator: Dark Fate attempts to revisit a lot of what made the first two films as loved as they are. Much like how Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) takes pointers from Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Terminator: Dark Fate borrows a lot of its concepts, plot beats, characterization, and one-liners from those first two films.
To begin, I’d just like to say that while The Terminator never really needed a sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day was a welcomed treat that expanded on what was established by its predecessor without invalidating anything set-up before it – even more, it was a great action film all on its own.
However, much like how T3 invalidated T2‘s plot to “stop Judgement Day by stopping Skynet’s creation” when it made Judgement Day an inevitability, Terminator: Dark Fate invalidates everything prior to it by establishing that there will always be a Judgement Day and a savior, regardless of Skynet or John Connor – essentially removing the value of both characters.
That was made even doubly clear because the film decided to open with John’s death at the hands of a T-800, something that was undoubtedly shocking but ultimately meaningless.
It’s not even a case of “anybody can be a hero” because if that were the case, then why put so much importance on John Connor?
The first scene was, in my opinion, nothing but a middle finger to both the first two movies and the character of John Connor. But regrettably, that first scene was something that had to be done to make the premise of this film work; a premise that, for me, was just a little bit forced and a little bit lazy albeit mildly interesting.
Terminator: Dark Fate‘s premise and plot take almost exclusively from the first two films – alternating between the two at various points in the film. While this gave it a familiarity, the number of similarities boarder-lined on ridiculous.
That being said, I did find Terminator: Dark Fate to be, overall, entertaining as a standalone movie. The movie (shy of the opening scene) was better than I expected; it was good even.
The action was solid and thrilling – especially the first one on the freeway. Its fight scenes and set pieces were well-shot and well-choreographed; it reminded me of the level of the thrill that T2 brought to the table. The CGI was fantastic.
Its character concepts were interesting – they each felt like awesome combinations of all the previous characters. The Rev-9 felt like the best parts of the original T-800 and the T-1000 rolled into one; the base concept of the Terminatrix and the nanotech of the T-3000 from Genisys done right. Grace seemed to me like Kyle Reese meets Marcus Wright from Terminator Salvation (2009). And Dani, who sadly was my least favorite character in the film, obviously was Sarah and John Connor.
The new cast of Terminator: Dark Fate was mostly really good. Both Davis and Reyes did well in their respective roles, delivering likable characters and convincing performances. Luna was surprisingly impeccable in the role of a murderous robot – bringing in hints of the T-800’s stoic determination and the T-1000’s human-like charisma.
Bringing back Linda Hamilton was amazing and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t feel goosebumps after seeing her pull up in that car on the freeway, completely obliterating the Rev-9. She seamlessly takes up the role again and reaches back to the detached albeit caring badass that Sarah as a character is.
Meanwhile, Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to his breakout role of a T-800, one named Carl – a role that is by far the most human that Arnold has been in a Terminator movie, even more so than the smiling T-800 from T2. I feel like he’s not really acting in this one and he’s just being Arnold Schwarzenegger the whole time. Oh, and the drapes story that he tells Dani while waiting for Sarah’s contact is gold and is easily my favorite part of the whole movie.
As I said, Terminator: Dark Fate is a pretty solid action movie on its own right. Sadly, it came at a time when remakes saturate the market. The likes of Salvation and Genisys are still fresh in our collective consciousness and, because of that, the Terminator brand just doesn’t hold the same relevance as it did a few decades ago. But if this was the T3 that we got all those years ago, it would’ve probably done better.
It didn’t know what it wanted to be for the most part – a homage to the originals that old fans could enjoy or a new adventure for new fans. It tried to be both and failed, partially through no fault of its own.
Terminator: Dark Fate is definitely better than Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and leagues better than everything else since. But it came along a few years, and a few reboots, too late. I doubt even Sarah Connor could’ve saved this one.
Overall, Terminator: Dark Fate isn’t that bad. Despite its butcher of established lore, it does well as a standalone action movie with its exciting choreography and enthralling set pieces. Its plot is a highlights reel of the franchise’s greatest hits – making it entertainingly familiar but also wildly predictable. It not what I hoped for but it’s better than everything else after T2. In a word, it’s just… okay.
What did you think of the film? Do you agree that it’s better than everything else after T2? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
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