“Terminator,” like “Alien” and “Halloween,” has been a storied franchise; a classic original and a highly regarded second installment, only to have its various follow-on sequels be far less successful. Now we’ve arrived at movie number 6 with “Terminator: Dark Fate,” and finally have something that can be looked on as a suitable successor to the first two films.
The writer and creator of the original two films, James Cameron, has returned as Executive Producer (his first time back as producer since T2). Dark Fate is directed by “Deadpool'”s Tim Miller, with a screenplay by David S. Goyer (who previously penned Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” trilogy). They’ve wisely made the call to follow in the footsteps of Halloween to expressly ignore all of the films since the second installment and pick up again. That manages to divest itself of the burden of having to try and work in all of those film’s mythology and timelines, and instead pick back up where it was last genuinely good.
Not only does it pick back up after the end of T2, it goes back to it’s original lead cast members, including Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a T-800 Terminator. This time the warring combatants from the future have sent back “Halt and Catch Fire”‘s Mackenzie Davis as Grace, an augmented super-soldier to protect Daniella Ramos (played by Natalia Reyes) from a new type of Terminator, a Rev-9, played by Gabriel Luna. Things are different this time around, because Sarah did save the world from the Skynet timeline, but now a new timeline has emerged, where its future has an AI named Legion deciding that humanity needed to be wiped out.
The film’s action hits the ground running after only a few minutes to pick up where T2 left off, and really only has a few slower paced moments when Sarah, Grace, and Daniella cross paths with Arnold’s T-800. There are some jokes that land, and similar to how Fury Road was really all about Furiosa, Dark Fate’s core is around the three women, and they play it shoulder to shoulder. Davis goes shoulder to shoulder with Hamilton and does it with a fierce determination that makes her read believable, even though she’s relatively slight (she might be smaller than the Terminators, but she’s fast and scrappy).
When they finally meet up with Arnold, he’s actually plays it with a humor that you wouldn’t have expected. His life that he’s led in the 20 years since the events of T2 and discovering of humanity is a counterpoint again Sarah’s having become something akin to a single-minded killing machine.
It’s not as good as the first film, and perhaps not better than the second, however it might eventually wind up felling deserving to be shoulder to shoulder with T2. It’s third act has action sequences on par with or better than anything else that’s come before in the franchise, and while it tips close into being too repetitively on the nose with some of it’s progressive points that it wants to make sure it drives home to the audience, the message does work, and it’ll be a fine way to forget that at least T3 ever happened.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R and is now showing in theaters everywhere.
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.