Terminator: Dark Fate has a lot riding on it. The past three movies in the franchise were not great, and if this movie failed as well, the franchise would be dead in the water. James Cameron and company very wisely rewrite history, rebooting the franchise in such a way that Dark Fate charts a completely different path, picking up from where Terminator 2 left off. It’s like they want us to forget those three other movies happened, and I don’t have a problem with that. Amnesia is a comforting thought when I consider the wreckage that was Terminator Genisys.
Terminator: Dark Fate does a lot of things well. The choreographed fight scenes between Grace (Mackenzie Davies) and the terminator (Gabriel Luna) is fantastic stuff, with the scenes reflecting the augmented capabilities of Grace yet also showcasing her human frailties as well. Davies is a compelling lead, a badass who goes toe to toe with the terminator without holding back, and at the same time, holds down the fort as the emotional centre of the film. Luna plays the terminator persona to a T, embodying the A.I’s singular focus in taking down Dani Ramos (Natalie Reyes). The more disconcerting moments involve him playacting as human, where his smile doesn’t quite reach his eyes, communicating his cold, machine interior effectively.
Linda Hamilton slips back into her Sarah Connor persona with ease, and I like that the film lets the women dominate in physicality and action scenes, but also allows them the moments to let their vulnerability show. Grace, Sarah and Dani have all suffered personal losses, but they don’t have the space to grieve because of the constant battles they find themselves in. Sarah’s entire life has been about battling terminators, and Grace is from a future where the battle is still ongoing.
We wonder when it will ever end, on our part feeling the exhaustion from both Sarah and Grace, and also knowing that it has only just begun for Dani. The war with the machines is always inevitable, the film hitting at the hubris of humans believing that these machines we create are within our control.
The action scenes are perfectly competent, and director Tim Miller is always taking it up a notch. There’s car chase scenes, helicopter chase scenes, plane chase scenes – every scene that follows escalates the action and the stakes, which is certainly enjoyable to watch. It does, however, get repetitive. The formula used is exactly the same as the first two Terminator movies: the Terminator keeps chasing them, and they keep running, until we reach the climax. While the journey is of course enjoyable, and it certainly tickled my nostalgia to see Hamilton and Schwarzenegger back on screen together again, my main gripe is that the movie doesn’t do anything new.
Of course, now that the franchise has been rebooted, there is certainly potential to break new ground, which the next few movies could do. Maybe the franchise needed a safe, predictable outing in order to get back on its feet, and if that’s the case, Terminator: Dark Fate does its job.