Terminator: Dark Fate

Movie Information

A smart, fun and surprisingly nonsuperfluous addition to the long-running sci-fi franchise.
Genre: Action/Adventure
Director: Tim Miller
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis
Rated: R

Walking into Terminator: Dark Fate, I was certain the latest edition to the now-35-year-old series (which includes six films and a TV show) would be, at best, an exercise in overkill, and at worst an overloud, poorly executed jumbled mess. As it turns out, it’s neither.

High art it certainly isn’t, and since most of the plot and storyline are lifted straight from the first two films, it’s also not particularly high concept. What it is, though, is a lot of fun. It’s safe to say something is going right when a movie about killer cyborgs from the future has this jaded cynic munching popcorn and grinning like his 14-year-old self watching Terminator 2: Judgement Day for the first of many times. These days, effects-driven action films are a dime a dozen, so when one comes along that manages even a semblance of a decent story or character development, it’s hard not to take notice by comparison alone.

While the plot may be familiar, the excellent female-led cast brings some necessary life to what could have easily been a stale rehash of better films. Linda Hamilton’s war-weary Sarah Connor is pure bad-ass fury from start to finish but is careful to never overpower her co-stars. Mackenzie Davis steps into her role as Grace, the augmented human protector from the year 2042 with a surprising amount of sympathy and plenty of grit, while Natalia Reyes successfully conveys the same fear and confusion that Hamilton nailed back in the 1984 original. Together, they face a new terminator — the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) — complete with some of the most refreshingly realistic dialogue women have had on film all year, thanks to the great rivalry between Hamilton and Davis.

And then there’s the big man himself. The appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger as the old T-800 may be forced somewhat uncomfortably into the plot, but if you can get over the weak explanation for his existence and suspend your disbelief just a little further, you’ll be glad you did. Truth is, it was nice to see the big lug again, despite the labored way in which he’s introduced.

All told, Dark Fate does a better-than-average job at hiding its negatives by accentuating its positives. It’s paced almost perfectly, leaving the right amount of breathing room between action sequences, and gets in just enough political jabs (some subtle, some not-so-subtle) to keep it relevant while still grounding it in its own mythology. Like the original films, you might get a headache if you try too hard at figuring out the time travel/chicken-and-egg flashbacks (or are they flash-forwards?), but none of that matters much in the end. There’s too much fun to be had without bothering about the trivialities of time and space or worrying about how an out-of-service cyborg grows a beard.

About James Rosario
James is a writer, record collector, wrestling nerd, and tabletop gamer living with his family in Asheville, North Carolina. He is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association and contributes to The Daily Orca, Razorcake Magazine, and Mountain Xpress.

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One thought on “Terminator: Dark Fate

  1. J

    Not sure if I read it in your review but it may be worth mentioning that Dark fate; Picks up from terminator two from 91… Bypassing the crappy ones since

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