Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna and Natalia Reyes Directed by Tim Miller (Based on Characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd) RATED R My Rating: 4.5/5
“Terminator: Dark Fate” is the latest film in the “Terminator” franchise, and the sixth film overall. While not the best entry in the series, it is a marked improvement over some of the previous installments and the closest in style and tone to the original 1984 entry and the smash hit 1991 sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
Twenty-three years have passed since the prevention of Judgment Day in 1997. Now, in the near future of 2020; an aged Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) must form a reluctant alliance with an cybernetically-enhanced soldier named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and an older T101 under the alias “Carl” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to prevent a young woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes) from being killed by an experimental Terminator prototype known as a REV-9 (Gabriel Luna). Over the course of 128 minutes, director Tim Miller (“Deadpool”) returns the series to its darker roots with the help of producer James Cameron, who also co-wrote the script alongside David S. Goyer (“The Dark Knight Saga,” “Man of Steel”) and Billy Ray (TV’s “Earth 2”).
On a massive budget of $185 million, Miller shows off a flurry of creative action scenes while putting a unique spin on the franchise’s most memorable moments. Without spoiling anything, the film opens on a shocking swerve from the original timeline and doesn’t let up from there. While 2009’s “Terminator Salvation” and 2015’s “Terminator Genesis” were often criticized for nullifying the impact of the story by keeping the content at a PG-13 rating, this film is gloriously hard-R in the vein of the first two films. From an opening clash with the REV-9 in a Mexico City factory to a climactic final battle in a hydroelectric dam; the series has ended up with some of its best moments in years.
That said, the film definitely isn’t perfect. Not every moment in the film has the same impact as its seniors, even when it’s rife with references and Easter eggs from the series’ 35-year history. Though the film’s special effects are largely fantastic throughout, the opening prologue has obvious CGI to de-age the lead actors to their 1998 selves; giving off an “uncanny valley” effect that’s quite jarring when the film also intercuts the opening vanity plates with archival footage from Sarah’s interview “T2.”
Still, the film is easily the best entry in the series since the first two films. By only making the first two entries canon and writing off other follow-ups as taking place in alternate timelines; the film is able to offer a new perspective that was sorely lacking from many previous installments. Tom “Junkie XL” Holkenborg also has a great soundtrack to help back the film’s most dramatic moments.
Though not quite reaching the heights of its groundbreaking seniors, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a vast improvement over previous “Terminator” sequels. While it remains to be seen what lies ahead, the film further proves the central theme first spoken in the original 1984 film: “the future is not written, there is no fate but what we make for ourselves.”