by Alan Yudman
Can you believe there have been 6 Terminator movies? The original, plus 5 sequels. While the original remains a classic of science fiction and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY is considered to be a great sequel (David Foster Wallace being the exception), all the other sequels were terrible. I sort of liked TERMINATOR: GENISYS at the time, but the film has not aged well. Frankly I was wrong. It is bad. A mess. But re-reading that review I stumbled across a truth I will repeat here. The Terminator franchise is nothing without Sarah Connor. So, hearing that she is here, and that Linda Hamilton is playing her… well my inner nerd was giddy.
And TERMINATOR: DARK FATE absolutely delivers the goods. James Cameron had a hand in this as producer and he gets a partial writing credit. That means the DNA of the franchise is not being ignored. Skynet is gone, but there is a new computer villain called Legion. As Sarah points out, humans never learn. Legion does what Skynet did, became sentient and tried to wipe out humanity. Here a new enhanced human named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back to protect the future by saving one person. That person is a young Mexican girl named Dani (Natalia Reyes). Her role is kept secret from her and the audience for a long time before it is explained and is a bit of a surprise.
There is a new Terminator, the Rev-9. It has the abilities of the T-1000 from Judgement Day with some noticeable improvements. It can “split” or “clone” itself in a battle. It can make complex machines like a gun and it can access computer systems and control them. Gabriel Luna does a great job bringing the same menace that Robert Patrick played so well in Judgement Day. Sarah hooks up with Grace and Dani just as they are about to be wiped out by the Terminator. Her appearance in the film left the crowd in my theater applauding and cheering. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) completely nailed that shot. It is a textbook example of the “hero shot”.
The themes are the same. As Sarah says, “The future is not written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” Grace, Sarah and Dani have to find the mysterious person who is alerting Sarah to the appearance of every new Terminator. That’s where they hit the road and finally find Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is great. He slips into this role as the T-800 with complete ease and it feels like he enjoys it. His part in the chase would reveal too many spoilers, so I’ll just leave it there.
The team has to kill the unkillable Terminator. There are a ton of wonderful set pieces. It just all worked on me so well. I loved diving back into this world and was more than satisfied with the results. Is this a perfect film? No. Are any of them? The point is to go and have 2 hours of fun in a world that most of us know. On that level this was a total win.