So Hollywood made another Terminator movie, and it isn’t half bad!
Serving as a direct sequel to the first two Terminator films (and ignoring the rest), Terminator: Dark Fate takes place 25 years after Terminator 2: Judgment Day and follows an older and more grizzled Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as she joins forces with time traveling, cybernetically enhanced soldier, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), in order to defend a young – and at first glance – seemingly unimportant factory worker named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) from a futuristic death machine sent back in time to kill her; a familiar fate that Sarah once narrowly overcame decades ago. Now, with the new Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna) hot on their heels intending to terminate Dani by any means necessary, it’s up to Sarah and Grace to protect Dani from a machine ruled future that wants nothing more than to see her dead, thus snuffing out the fledgling sparks of a human led resistance in the process.
If all of that sounds familiar to you, that’s probably because Terminator: Dark Fate is basically every plot of a Terminator film that’s come out since the original, which goes a little something like this: some evil, all powerful, self-aware A.I. sends a killer robot back in time to murder a certain someone linked to the eventual formation of the human uprising against the machines, only to be defeated by a handful of badass people who just want to see humanity survive another day, blah, blah, blah, rinse, repeat, throw in a dash of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you have a Terminator movie on your hands! So while this newest sequel might not give two shits about telling a slightly modified version of the same recycled story yet again, the filmmakers have successfully pulled off something that previous sequels haven’t been able to do: make a fun, action packed, and capable film that is hands down the best Terminator movie since T2 hit theaters way back in 1991. No joke.
Directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller, it’s almost immediately apparent that Miller was well chosen to sit in the director’s chair. Not only is Miller able to infused some genuinely fun and funny aspects into the surprisingly solid script, but his handle on the balls-to-the-wall action shines in subtle ways that had me giddy to see what he could cook up next. From the way the action organically moves from set piece to set piece, to the brutality and menace brought back to the Terminator role with the upgraded and overpowered Rev-9 Terminator model (thanks to Gabriel Luna), to the idea of utilizing Grace’s unique cybernetic abilities to combat their ever stalking threat, Miller is able to transcend the typical vapid, cookie cutter action that usually populates these kinds of films, and makes something truly worth watching, the final twenty minutes being the only section of the film that I felt adhered to the above mentioned Hollywood misstep. The first action sequence in particular was the first time in a long time my attention was held and my senses wowed by a set piece in a Terminator film, and I can immediately and confidently say that’s all on the director’s vision, so good on Miller and his team for that one.
Taking on the role of the protector sent back in time to defend Dani from the newest Terminator threat, is Grace, a human that is “enhanced” by hi-tech cybernetic upgrades and the like, played to perfection by Mackenzie Davis. Davis kills it as the badass future soldier who can not only go toe-to-toe with the Rev-9 model and stand her ground long enough to tell the tale, but ultimately, in my mind, stands out as one of the best additions to the Terminator franchise in a while. Couple Davis with an equally as badass Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner, and you have two heroines who easily hold the movie on their shoulders to great effect.
But as great as Davis and Hamilton are, I can’t say with the same enthusiasm that Natalia Reyes’ portrayal of Dani is anything noteworthy. Not only did I find it hard to believe that she would be integral to the human resistance in the future, but unlike Davis and Hamilton, she didn’t seem to command her scenes in a way that that led me to be excited or interested in her character or storyline. With Gabriel Luna turning in a great, menacing yet creepy performance as the Rev-9 unit, and Arnold Schwarzenegger unexpectedly knocking it out of the park with his small yet integral role, it’s slightly disheartening to know that the entire point of the movie revolves around a character that I couldn’t care less about.
Terminator: Dark Fate is basically the same rehashed film that this franchise has been making for the better part of three decades now, but unlike the last few sequels, this one has enough going for it that I can honestly say that it’s not only an enjoyable trip back into this world, but also a competent one. Outside of the last twenty minutes becoming the lazy, Hollywood schlock that I was fearful this entire film would be from start to finish, I was pleasantly surprised throughout, specifically with Tim Miller’s strong direction and some top-notch action sequences. While the future of this franchise may still be in limbo after this one, Terminator: Dark Fate is a familiar, but fun dive back into one of the most iconic series of all time. Hopefully they’ll be back for another!