The Terminator franchise is finally back with a good installment, as Terminator: Dark Fate retcons what it must to deliver an action-packed and rightful sequel. Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced soldier from the future, travels to 2019 to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) from being killed by a new kind of Terminator. But, when they are saved by Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), they all learn that the future Sarah thought she prevented was simply delayed and changed.
Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool), Terminator: Dark Fate is the true sequel to the original Terminator movie that fans of the franchise have been waiting for. This is clear right from the beginning and is unsurprising given the involvement of franchise creator James Cameron. As a result, Dark Fate is set in a timeline where every movie after Terminator 2: Judgement Day did not happen. This allows for the film to bring Hamilton back in her iconic, career-defining role. It has been decades since she has played the role and it is simply fantastic to see her again. She effortlessly slides back into Sarah Connor’s shoes, bringing the power and pain of the character to the screen once again. And, it wouldn’t be a Terminator movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he gets a very different role to play this time around.
Even though Dark Fate takes the nostalgic approach with these returns, the former franchise stars are no longer the focus of this story anymore. Instead, the fate of humanity now rests in protecting Dani. As Sarah points out many times in the film, she is essentially the new Sarah Connor from the first Terminator – a young girl not prepared to be hunted by a robot from the future. In the role, Natalia Reyes impresses. She has a great presence and is able to carry the film (and franchise) on her shoulders when required. Opposite of her, Mackenzie Davis is a standout once again and the two of them have a nice rapport.
As an augmented human from the future, Davis is the one who is highlighted more in the action. This comes as she’s fighting off the Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna) and through flashbacks to her past in the future where the war against the machines rages on. Through it all, Miller delivers big, visceral action that is extremely well done. There are a number of great set pieces and fights throughout the film, including a nearly non-stop adrenaline rush as Dani, Grace, and the Rev-9 are introduced to the story. This allows Dark Fate to hit the ground running and evoke the action that T2 delivered. It’s an excellent start that hooks you in for what else will come.
However, Dark Fate does not keep this pacing up once this sequence comes to a close. The movie slows down to show Dani, Grace, and Sarah on the run and trying to find a way to defeat the Rev-9. From this point on, one can’t help but feel like Dark Fate is fizzling. There’s an attempt to focus more on the characters and show what the future now looks like, all while trying to hold off on some pieces of information for as long as it can. In the moment, it feels similar to Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ mystery box, just with answers that are much more obvious, which weaken eventual “reveals.”
All in all, Terminator: Dark Fate is a nice return for a franchise that was previously on life support. Whether this is where it ends or serves as the beginning of a new batch of films remains to be seen, but Dark Fate works either way. And if the franchise does continue from here, I’ll be back to see what comes next.
3.5 ticket stubs out of 5
Terminator: Dark Fate is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity