James Camerons 1984 film _The Terminator_ and 1991 follow up _Terminator 2: Judgement Day_ are both stone-cold classics. It’s not surprising that Hollywood has been making sequels in this franchise for the last two decades. It is surprising that most of them are …. we’ll say “of varying quality.”
Where those have failed, Terminator: Dark Fate actually kind of succeeds. It takes familiar elements from the original two, remixes them with some social commentary, and brings in all the legacy characters to pass the torch to a whole new cast.
Imagine The Force Awakens but for Terminator.
The film wastes exactly no time. Within several minutes of Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna have materialized in spheres of electric light they are battling each other in the films first spectacular car chase.
I’m not going to recount the story for you here, if you’ve seen the first two films then you basically already know what it’s going to be. There are a few twists, but they are heavily telegraphed.
It’s a good thing that the action in this film is mostly good because there is a ton of it. It’s the next logical step in the franchise that the good guy is an enhanced human rather than a machine. That, coupled with how far Hollywood has come with special effects, means that the action is fast and furious. Vancouver Local Mackenzie Davis absolutely owns the film as Grace, the future soldier in question. She has a raw physicality that works exceptionally well here, and she brings depth to a shallow back story. I somewhat expect her to end up in another action franchise of some kind soon.
Gabriel Luna is having a blast as the new terminator, too. He gets to be more human-like than any terminator previously has, and while his bad guy nature is always telegraphed he has an easy charm he brings to what little dialogue he has.
The bigger story this time around is, of course, that Linda Hamilton is back. Her Sarah Connor has seen better days and now spends her time hunting down terminators as they arrive. Naturally, she ends up taking the new characters under her wing. Arnold returns as well, as an aged Terminator who has spent decades learning to be human. He gets most of the funniest lines in the movie, and honestly, I’d kind of like to see a movie just of his characters last twenty years.
The film isn’t without problems though. Namely, even though Sarah and John stopped Judgement Day with the events of Terminator 2, it happened anyway. There is a new AI that still attacks humanity and still makes terminators. It’s almost like there’s a dark fate that humanity can’t quite escape, but that is at no time actually addressed in the film. There isn’t even a moment of exposition where the new AI is based on the old one or the notes of Miles Dyson or anything like that. It just happens because that’s what happens in this universe.
Look, I’m not here to tell you that Dark Fate is a great movie but I am here to tell you that it’s a pretty good one. It has a great cast, solid action, and an actual charisma that the previous sequels have mostly lacked. It’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of the originals.