“Terminator: Dark Fate” stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes, and Diego Boneta. Released on November 1, 2019, the film has Sarah Connor protecting a young woman and a hybrid cyborg human from an advanced Terminator.
The film is directed by Tim Miller, who also directed “Deadpool”, and it is the sixth installment in the “Terminator” film series. The “Terminator” franchise has been through a lot of problems since James Cameron left, most notably its failed attempts at reintroducing the sci-fi classic in a unique way. While “Terminator 3” became a moderate success without Cameron’s involvement, the other two installments that came after it weren’t so fortunate. “Terminator: Salvation” and “Terminator: Genisys” were both originally planned to start off a new trilogy, but they were later scrapped due to poor reception from critics and audiences as well as being sold off left and right to different companies. “Salvation” was supposed to be the first chapter in a trilogy that focuses on the war between Skynet and humanity, while “Genisys” was made to kick off a rebooted trilogy that takes place in an alternate timeline. Not a lot of fans were pretty impressed with what these films brought to the table, especially the elements that were introduced in “Genisys”. That film was the real kick in the fanbase’s balls. To be honest, I did enjoy “Genisys”, but I can understand the fact that it’s not as great as the first two films. To make things a bit more unbearable, these films were attempting to reach a wider audience with a PG-13 rating unlike the first three “Terminator” films, which are R-rated, which goes to show that an adult-rated franchise should just stay adult-rated. This year, Hollywood is attempting to revive the film series for the third time (because third time’s the charm). This time, James Cameron is returning to make sure that they do it justice. Not as a director, but as a producer. Instead of giving it the reboot treatment like “Genisys”, they’re making it as a direct continuation of “Terminator 2”, which means the other films that were released after “Terminator 2” don’t mean a gosh darn thing to us. I was both skeptical and interested on how this film will turn out compared to the last two installments, mostly because of the involvement of Schwarzenegger, Cameron, and Hamilton. It could wind up being an enjoyable sci-fi action film that honors the franchise’s legacy or it could wind up being another misfire. Where did it land in my eyes? Let’s find out.
The film’s story is what you would expect from a “Terminator” movie, in which an evil cybernetic robot is sent from the future to kill the person who holds the key to the human race’s survival. It’s not rocket science. This time, the machines sent an advanced Terminator known as Rev-9 (Luna) to kill Daniella Ramos (Reyes), who is destined to become the leader of the Human Resistance in the future. Meanwhile, the Resistance sent an enhanced soldier, Grace (Davis), to protect her from Rev-9. Knowing that they can’t run from it forever, Daniella and Grace must join forces with Sarah Conner (Hamilton) and the T-800 Terminator model (Schwarzenegger) to defeat the new and improved Terminator and turn it into scrap metal. It’s easy for me to admit that “Dark Fate” has a similar plot from the first two films, but with new characters and an aging Terminator, but I can also understand that they don’t want to repeat the same mistakes as last time. So to the filmmakers, it’s a better idea to just return to the original roots that made both “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2” instant sci-fi classics. Based on what I saw, I think they made the right call. Sure, it didn’t offer anything too special with the franchise’s formula screenplay-wise, but for those who need a healthy dose of some Terminator action, it’s a popcorn-inducing thrill ride that surprisingly never lost focus on its prime objective: making the characters as likable and entertaining as the action. While the characters and their relationships with one another weren’t as impactful as the ones from “Terminator 2”, I can clearly see that the effort of making the audience care for them was there. It’s right in front of my face and I can see it. The old characters were just as endearing as they were in the past, but it was the new characters that have enough good moments to convince me that they’re tough enough to carry the franchise forward (if the studio actually moves forward with the sequel), especially Grace. Oh man, what can I really say about this character? She kicked so much butt in the film, and Mackenzie Davis did a really impressive job at embodying this type of character in terms of her performance. Natalia Reyes was also good in her role as Daniella (or Dani), who’s basically the new John Connor. As for Hamilton and Schwarzenegger, they’re honestly the best parts of the film. Hamilton delivered a riveting and well-deserved performance as an older and stern Sarah Conner, who is still holding a grudge against the Terminators. I like the fact that they made Sarah a strong female character who has an understandable reason why she’s like this in the first place. She’s tough enough to take care of herself, but she’s also internally haunted because of what happened to her in the past. Schwarzenegger did what he normally did best when it comes to playing the original Terminator, which is kicking butt and making me laugh. But what about the good stuff? The thrilling action scenes that made the “Terminator” films entertaining and intense? Well, let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed on how they handled the action. “Dark Fate” marks the first film in the franchise to receive an R rating since “Terminator 3”, which would come as a sign of relief to those who weren’t fond of a teen-rated Terminator film. It’s not as over-the-top and bloody as some R-rated action films that rely on gore and blood, but it definitely had some brutal moments that deserve the adult rating. I was really impressed with how Tim Miller directed the action scenes from “Deadpool” with its stylish shots and the choreography, and in my eyes, the same can be said for his direction in this. While some of the action scenes in “Dark Fate” were a bit unfocused at times compared to “Deadpool”, they all have the right amount of tension and excitement to keep me invested in the characters’ survival, mostly due to the action choreography. The visual effects in the film were also pretty solid when it comes to the designs of the Terminators and the action scenes. A bit noticeable in some occasions, but solid nonetheless. As for its flaws, the film did have a habit at providing some familiar elements from the first two “Terminator” films for the sake of nostalgia, and it kind of overstayed its welcome by a couple of minutes. However, the story was tolerable enough to drive me away from those flaws so that I can easily have fun with it.
Overall, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a step in the right direction for the sci-fi action franchise. Despite its lack of originality and its overlong running time, the film made a healthy return to its adult-rated roots and provided an entertaining thrill ride that relies on action and substance. Ranging from its well-acted cast to its brutal action sequences, “Dark Fate” is a suitable installment that managed to save itself from termination. I actually wouldn’t mind seeing what direction they’re going to go from here if it does well at the box office and they decided to make this into a new “Terminator” trilogy. Only time will tell, I guess. In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy the fact that they finally made a “Terminator” sequel that’s surprisingly good. A worthy recommendation for people who enjoys the “Terminator” films, especially the first two installments.