Director Tim Miller’s (Deadpool) entry into the Terminator franchise basically re-sets everything. Nobody has ever heard of Skynet and instead Grace (Mackenzie Davis – Blade Runner 2049, The Martian) is an ‘advanced human’ that has been sent back in time to protect Dani Ramos (Natalie Reyes – Cumbia Ninja, 2091) a young Mexican factory worker who will play an important part in a futuristic war.
While it is Grace’s job to protect Dani it is the terminators job to kill her. The terminator here though is very different to anything we have seen in the past as it has the ability to split in two for two-on-one fights and seems to be unbeatable. Grace soon finds an ally in the form of a very vengeful Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton – Dante’s Peak, The Terminator) who is determined to kill any terminator she comes across.
I genuinely feel sorry for anybody that attempts to make a movie in the Terminator franchise. No matter how many people tell the filmmaker that they are being welcomed into the family they really are competing against one of the world’s best filmmakers, the man who created the franchise in the first place – James Cameron. Let’s be honest for a second Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys were passable movies, but they take a huge step backwards when you compare them to T2: Judgement Day. Honestly most action films cop a fairly decent kick to the teeth when you compare them to T2 but the sad fact for Salvation and Genisys is they take and even bigger hit because you are comparing them to their older, A-League brother who can never be beaten in any fair fight. Keeping that in mind Terminator: Dark Fate is a fair film but will never compare to the legendary T2.
As you can probably tell from the synopsis of the film when it comes to plot Terminator: Dark Fate is pretty light on… and seems to be recycled from earlier forays into the franchise. The result is a film that relies on its action sequences and a major plot-point that is sadly ruined by the fact we all know that Arnold Schwarznegger is in the film… it is a clear case of a trailer wrecking what could have been one of the most powerful moments of the film. The weirdest thing about Dark Fate though is despite the fact that it does all it can do to try and shoot itself in the foot it is still a film I enjoyed watching… and a film that I would probably watch again.
The best way to approach Dark Fate is not walk into the cinema expecting to see a film that is going to be the greatest Terminator film ever. Instead walk in expecting to see an enjoyable action film that in its own way opens up this franchise into going into several very different directions. When it comes to the action sequences Miller has a great handle on them and the now familiar car chase sequence that we come to expect from the franchise works pretty well while the battle finale is certainly worth the price of admission. At least while the story is predictable the action itself seems to raise the suspense throughout the film.
Dark Fate also needs to be congratulated for the fact that it does bring Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarznegger into the film in meaningful and well thought out ways. Many blockbusters these days pay tribute to actors of the past with pretty worthless cameos but here Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is very much one of the heroes of the film while Schwarznegger reprises his role of the T-800 and is well used in the film, once they get over the whole stupidity of having him deliver comedy for laughs. Seriously, it didn’t work in Thor: Ragnarok and doesn’t work here either… some characters are just not built for comedy.
The introduction of the new characters also works pretty well. Once you get to learn a little about her character you can see that Dani could have a future in the franchise while Natalia Reyes also cements herself as an actress to watch in the future. Likewise the character of Grace is an interesting concept and one that works pretty well… I also wouldn’t be against seeing a future film explore the war during her time either, while it was hinted on this film she appeared to be such a hero that you just wanted to see more.
Dark Fate is not the Terminator film to end all Terminator films… hell it probably isn’t even the best action film of this year. But still this isn’t a film that deserves the one or two star ratings it has been getting. It is serviceable and the action and violence make it a worthy watch… just don’t expect any of that old school Terminator magic despite the recycled storyline.