It seems like the Terminator franchise has been dead in the water creatively for quite a while and it still is in some ways with Terminator: Dark Fate. However, after countless sequels failing to live up to the first two installments carried by series favorites Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this latest entry plays it safe and because of that, it’s easy to see why this film can be considered the best entry since Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Terminator: Dark Fate takes notes from the Halloween series and ignores all of the franchise’s previous hiccups. James Cameron returns to the franchise for the first time since the second film as a producer and his involvement is just one of the few reasons this film manages to stay afloat. Taking place a couple of decades after the events in Judgment Day, the film follows Dani Ramos who has been chosen for termination by a machine from the future. Again, this film is very similar to the original two films and it plays it safe by using the premise that made them so amazing. Directed by Tim Miller, the film stars a returning Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Natalie Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Arnold Schwarzenegger returns once again as the T-800.
The script for Terminator: Dark Fate is all over the place but it includes elements that were missing from previous entries. Cameron clearly had some influence on how things played out because this film has a lot of heart and an emotional impact to it that hasn’t been seen since T2. All of the characters are well written, but Dani (Reyes) is underutilized a bit it seems because of Sarah Connor’s presence. Dani is the new Sarah Connor this time around, but the film never really feels like its focusing on her, as much as it is Sarah trying to save her. However, this may have been done intentionally to show that the series has always been about the character of Sarah Connor.
Adding to that, the dialogue is absolutely ridiculous at times and it brings down some of the humorous moments, which don’t feel out of place at all. For instance, the exchanges between Sarah and the T-800 become cringe-worthy at times but the delivery from the actors makes up for it. The story in Terminator: Dark Fate isn’t doing anything new that fans haven’t seen from the first two films, but it does switch some elements around to make it feel fresh. For example, in T2 John Connor reprograms a T-800 to be sent back in time to protect his ten-year-old self. Dark Fate features a human with advancements being sent back to protect Dani. Davis Stars as Grace, the advanced human sent to protect Dani and she feels like Kyle Reese 2.0. The story in the film is just fine, but it’s not breaking any new ground.
Performances are amazing from every person involved and of course, Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are a delight to see together on screen for the first time since T2. Despite the narrative revolving around Reyes’ character Dani, Davis is the most impressive here as she factors into that missing emotional element that is present heavily in this film. Her portrayal of Grace makes the character very likable and easy to become attached to more so than the girl she is here to protect. Again, it is as if the actual central character was purposely underutilized for everyone else’s benefit. Despite that, Reyes does a great job working with what she is given and audiences will easily sympathize with her.
Director Miller was just having fun with this fast-paced film because nearly every shot is breathtaking and the way everything is captured is awe-inspiring. The film’s pacing probably could have been a bit slower because Terminator: Dark Fate leaves very little room to catch your breath during all of its fun and familiar mayhem. However, the action in the film is completely insane at times and way over the top specifically near the end. Still, Miller directs Terminator: Dark Fate wonderfully as many expected he would.
Despite Terminator: Dark Fate featuring some of the worst effects in the franchise, showcasing ridiculous action scenes, and relying a little too much on nostalgia, it is easily the best since T2. Without Hamilton, the film probably wouldn’t have worked because her presence adds a lot to it. Cameron’s involvement also contributed to this movie feeling like the first two films, but it’s not doing anything audiences haven’t already seen. Still, Terminator: Dark Fate is a moderately acceptable sequel to the best Terminator film and fans of the series will have a blast with it.