Going into Terminator: Dark Fate, I will say right off the bat that I had moderate expectations. I say that, because, Terminator: Genysis was absolute trash, and I don’t even remember much of Terminator: Salvation. But, as a fan of the first two films, and to some extent, the third film (hey, I was entertained), I thought maybe this movie would deliver after early hype suggested it wasn’t so bad. So did it? Let’s get into it.
The film starts off with a major retcon of anything after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and the way they did it has pissed quite a few fans off. I’ll admit that I was kind of shocked by what they did and how they did it, but the movie at least manages to stay entertaining after that.
After the opening scene I mentioned that I won’t spoil, we meet Mackenzie Davis‘s Grace, who falls from the sky in a giant blue orb that any fan of this franchise has grown accustomed to seeing. She isn’t a Terminator, rather an enhanced human. She’s brought from the past to the current day to save Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) – because she is key to mankind’s survival against LEGION. Yes, LEGION, not Skynet. So you could say it’s the same basic plot as the other Terminator films but with a female version of John Connor this time. They’re on the run from REV- 9 (Gabriel Luna) which is basically an upgraded T-1000 with morphing abilities and more. It can take a few shots from various different weapons (okay, more than a few shots) and keep on coming back. Of course, this is where we see Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) who isn’t in the mood to fuck with any Terminator shit and proceeds to give the machine a run for its money.
Long story short, and avoiding spoilers, the group manages to run into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, who is now a drapes salesman who goes by the name of Carl. No, that isn’t a joke – but it is pretty funny.
The visual effects in the movie are top-notch, as one would expect from a film that carried a $185 million budget. Director Tim Miller is great at crafting action scenes, and in this movie, he does just that. The acting in the film is solid, as Mackenzie Davis delivers a pretty good performance – as well as the rest of the cast. Hamilton is as fierce as ever, and Arnie is just as you’d expect him to be – but it’s Davis who ends up shining the most.
As far as the plot goes, the final act of the movie is definitely an emotional one, and if you didn’t get up and leave the theater at the beginning, it’ll do a good job of pulling you in. They build characters that you genuinely care about and what happens to them – something that was definitely lacking in the other movies.
Now, I can see why fans would be upset with what happens at the beginning of the movie, as it kind of makes you think they should have just rebooted the franchise completely (well, this is kind of a soft reboot, I guess), rather than just make it a direct sequel. But making direct sequels is the “in” thing in Hollywood right now, and with James Cameron back producing, you know he wasn’t going to let this chance at the franchise he started just slip away.
I’ve heard them talk about a potential franchise developing after this movie, and while I could see that, I don’t really think it’s necessary. I was entertained throughout the film, but I definitely feel like the franchise has ran its course. Box office numbers have seemingly proved that.
While Terminator: Dark Fate is not better than Terminator 2, and definitely won’t make a case to be the best of the franchise, it is an upgrade on the last three films, even if that’s not saying much. If you can look beyond that major retcon at the beginning of the movie, you’ll probably have a good time. If you can’t, you probably won’t.