Terminator: Dark Fate (2019) sees James Cameron return as a producer, Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, and director Tim Miller taking the reigns of the franchise by making this the canonical third film, erasing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genisys. Fortunately for those of us with fond memories of the first two films, Dark Fate feels much closer to those than any of the now non-canon films. I went into this movie not really enjoying the trailers and thinking it seemed rather cheesy from those – but ended up realizing quite early that I was into the movie. There are some issues, and it is probably twenty minutes too long…but overall I was pleased with the film.
Terminator: Dark Fate surprised in many ways and an example where the trailer just doesn’t do it justice.
If you’ve seen a Terminator film, then you can probably guess what the premise of the movie will be. A person in our time – in this case, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) – has been targeted by an A.I. from the future, and a Terminator – a REV-9 (Gabriel Luna) who is reminiscent of the liquid metal from T2 – has been sent kill them. Fortunately for Dani, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), has been sent to protect her. Where Dark Fate deviates a little is that Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) has been hunting Terminators, and shows up to assist Grace in Dani’s protection – but the question of how Sarah knew to be there drives a compelling (but slightly predictable) twist in the story.
Davis has been on my radar after seeing and enjoying Tully (2018), which led to the revelation that she is also in Blade Runner 2049 (2017). I wasn’t sure how she would fare in the action role as this new enhanced human – an advantage Kyle Reese never had – but I think she nailed it. Her intensity is totally believable – and while the motivation behind her drive to protect Dani isn’t revealed initially, it is clearly present. Grace could have been a one-dimensional character, but instead offers layers to be peeled back over the course of the film. Unfortunately, some of the weaker spots of the film are flashbacks which provide a little back story.
The REV-9 is an interesting Terminator, but the rules of its functionality are left wanting. He is both a liquid metal Terminator and a physical skeleton that seems to function on its own (though it could be a hivemind-type creation). Multiple times in the film, the liquid component separates from the skeletal frame – and they both operate and kill all that are in their way. There is no apparent reason for them to ever join together, as neither appears to suffer from not being connected to the other – and neither appears to have a distinctive weakness. Despite that, I found the design to be quite cool, and it’s functionality allowed for some great moments in the action sequences – especially the highway chase…that felt far too similar to T2 again.
It was great having both Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the franchise together, though I won’t explain in exactly what context, as that would be a spoiler. Hamilton was the biggest surprise for me because her role in the trailer felt extremely cheesy – especially the “I’ll be back,” line they forced in. However, in the context of the film, I actually loved her line read of it – and her badassness was impressive. It definitely elevated the film in a positive way for me.
Dark Fate was extremely enjoyable…especially the first hour or so. It does drag on towards the middle, and not everything it tries works. Still, I found the movie to be very watchable and enjoyable. I’d say it’s safe to go into this film with your hopes up a little bit. Terminator Dark Fate earns the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy…just barely staying out of the Decent Watch category.