Terminator: Dark Fate is the 6th film in the Terminator franchise, although since it ignores parts 4 through 5, it is sorta the 3rd film. This brings back the two main stars, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator. Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are co-billed first lead actors in Dark Fate which is distinct because in the other films (aside from Salvation) Arnold gets solo top billing. Which makes sense because they’re the best things about it. The action and Terminator stuff is uniformly good, the new additions are okay but somewhat hard to care for since the original characters are there. But whenever the Terminator and Sarah do their thing the movie is at it’s best.
Decades after Sarah Connor destroyed the A.I. Skynet, Terminators are still coming back in time to kill future threats. One such threat is the young woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes), who has been targeted by a Terminator known as the Rev–9 (Gabriel Luna). Dani unexpectedly receives protection from another arrival from the future, the enhanced human Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and, even more surprisingly, the original Terminator killer, Sarah. But the Rev–9 proves to be exceedingly difficult so the trio find an older Terminator model (Schwarzenegger) to help take out the Rev–9 before destroys the future.
This is a remix of tone and pacing from the original films, it is really a long chase movie with an unrelenting baddie, with some new ideas. Although since the series has been around for so long what comes off as unique for this movie has been done before in other Terminator stories. The idea that Sarah as a person who hunts Terminators was in both the TV show Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and the last movie, Genisys. What those movies didn’t have was Hamilton as Sarah Connor who returns to the role with gusto. The opening scene, featuring some very well done digital de–aging of characters from T2, is a total shocker that casts a shadow over the rest of the movie. It’s a bit of a bummer that the movie never quite fully recovers but it certainly has impact.
Hamilton’s Sarah is quite ticked off, she saved the world decades ago and those metal machines keep showing up. She has some great, cynical reactions to the robot chaos. Sarah has seen it all before, saying that she is trying to protect Danni because “I was her, and it sucked.” Even better is when Sarah meets the original Terminator and her reactions to what he’s doing now are both dramatic and comedy gold.
Arnold’s Terminator gets in a unique variation, as the Terminator is without orders for years he settled into a domestic life and took up a job as a drapery business, even taking on the name “Carl” and Sarah’s reaction is bluntly hilarious, “I’m not calling you %$%ing ‘Carl’!” The glimpses of Terminator domesticity are awesome and makes weird sense, since Terminators are infiltration units they could blend in (as well as anyone looking like Arnold could “blend”), and a great quiet moment has “Carl” talking about his drapery job. This is probably the most emotionally expressive the character has been since he’s been gathering data for years, and seeing old Terminator unleash is a blast.
The new heroes aren’t quite as interesting, even though the movie gives them more development, it’s just that Sarah and the Terminator are iconic. Grace is an enhanced human from the future and the glimpses to her world are effective although only marginally different from what the future war has been shown before. Davis is fine but she never has enough pep to take over as the lead. Reyes’ Dani is basically Sarah Connor Mark II but gets more interesting in the third act. Luna’s Rev–9 Terminator has a cool quirk where he can split off into another form or look like someone else. He is sort of a mix between the original model and the T–1000 from T2 but, again, this has kind of been done in Terminator 3 with the T–X. Still, Luna plays an infiltrator extremely well, this one is more polite than most, and when the Rev–9 is in Mexico he speaks the language or when he’s posting as a US Customs officer he speaks with a Southern accent to blend in.
Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) and with original Terminator writer/director James Cameron working on the story and producing, this feels like a proper Terminator sequel. The scale of the action has some unique moments, like when the Rev–9 ends up at an interment camp at the Mexican border and things go crazy. There is a moment where the Rev–9 pilots one cargo plane into another to get to Dani which is a very extreme thing that a Terminator would do. Like most Terminator movies, it has a crunchy industrial climax that manages to hit some emotional peaks, although the stuff with Arnold’s Terminator works much stronger than Grace’s enhanced human.
Terminator: Dark Fate feels conclusive without dangling sequel bait like the last few movies. Arnold’s Terminator still finds new angles and seeing him again with Sarah is a kick for fans. The newbies have their moments but it’s really about the core duo, and a lot of firepower to robot faces, that makes this installment work. V
TERMINATOR: DARK FATE
Director: Tim Miller
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis