Tim Miller director of “Deadpool” re-ignites the “Terminator” franchise with “Terminator Dark Fate”. The best of the series since James Cameron’s hard to beat sequel “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” 28 years ago. Sure it’s full of nostalgia, but it’s a blast to see original stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger return to their roles, that feel like they picked up right where they left off. While “Terminator Dark Fate” should have been a summer release. The action is phenomenally choreographed and is a great late big screen blockbuster that doesn’t shame the iconic franchise.
Just a mere four years ago, “Terminator Genisys” (the 5th film in the franchise) was supposed to be the big return of re-creating that old “Terminator” magic. “Terminator Genisys” had the budget, the excitement of the production team and the return of it’s star Arnold Schwarzenegger. It even had the stamp of approval from original writer, director and producer James Cameron (also directed “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”) to help reenergize the franchise name.
Cameron had gone on to say: “I feel like the franchise has been reinvigorated with Genisys, like this is a renaissance”. Cameron even went on to add that, he even thinks of Genisys as “the third film” in the series. However, it didn’t connect as it should’ve, straining to kick off a fresh new life for the “Terminator” films, that could match the enjoyment of James Cameron’s first two installments of the franchise. For me Genisys failed to have any real punch. Mostly coming because of the change from an R rating to a watered down PG-13.
Apparently James Cameron takes his praise for “Genisys” back. As he serves as writer, producer and un-credited editor on the next attempt to refresh the series with “Terminator Dark Fate”. James Cameron and his team of writers has chosen to ignore the events of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” “Terminator Salvation” (the one with Christian Bale) and “Terminator Genisys”. Instead preferring to connect “Dark Fate” directly to the 1991 masterpiece, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”.
“Dark Fate” picks up the Sarah Connor saga after she successfully thwarted Skynet’s plans to destroy all humans on judgement day. I won’t even begin to whack my brain in piecing together the “Terminator” timeline, which is strictly for those with lots of time on their hands. All of the essentials are here for any fan of the franchise.
“Terminator Dark Fate” is the best this franchise has had to offer in nearly two decades. This is the thrilling, action-packed sci-fi movie we’ve all been hoping a “Terminator” film to be, after the hard to beat masterpiece “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”. “Dark Fate” pays homage to what came before it, while trying to chart a daring new course for the franchise.
With this many sequels and tries at reboots, it’s impossible to recreate the magic of the 1991 classic sequel, but director Tim Miller (directed “Deadpool”) comes the closest we’ve seen and probably ever will, unless Cameron himself decides to re-step behind the camera. “Dark Fate” is a supercharged sequel that doesn’t put the “Terminator” name to shame. It also gives us a reminder just how necessary Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is to the “Terminator” universe.
Linda Hamilton may not be the protagonist of “Terminator: Dark Fate,” but she is the star of the show, returning to the franchise for the first time in nearly 28 years since “T2”. Linda Hamilton hasn’t lost a single step in that whole time, fitting right back into the role with no problem, as she looks just as comfortable firing rockets and automatic weapons, while exploring the deep-seated pain within Sarah Connor.
Hamilton’s return reminds us that she has always been an exciting movie star who deserved a long and better A-list career than she had gotten. Hamilton’s work feels true to the evolution that began with the 1984 original. While she has obviously aged, she isn’t afraid of looking weathered and worn down, but still staying to her badass self. The writers did a great job of making Sarah Conner in “Dark Fate”, feel like what Sarah Connor would’ve become.
Schwarzenegger has a smaller role this time around, but an impactful one. His introductory scene is fantastic and is probably the films best sequence. Only showing up in the second half as Carl, an aged Terminator leading a much different life than you’d expect. Schwarzenegger may not be the comic relief, but he is the source of a few hilarious lines that only Schwarzenegger could deliver.
Schwarzenegger’s role is such a nice surprise, it wouldn’t be fair to give away how and why he is still out there, but let’s just say that he and Linda Hamilton have a very different dynamic this time around. Cameron and his veteran screenwriters including David Goyer and Billy Ray, lay an emphasis largely on the three leading ladies.
“Dark Fate” focuses on Dani (played by Natalia Reyes). An average woman trying to make a living in Mexico City, surrounded by her loving family. Working as an automobile factory worker, Dani is distressed when machines are introduced on the production line, but her employment concerns are silenced by the arrival of the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), a Terminator from the future tasked with killing her. Coming to her rescue is Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced human also from the future, in charge of protecting Dani from the Rev-9. Much like Robert Patrick’s T-1000 in “Terminator 2”, the Rev-9 goes in pursuit of Dani, as he remains unstoppable.
With the help of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who is now a self-proclaimed “Terminator hunter”. Lives the life of taking out Terminators and other threats with the help from a secret informant. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor comes in guns blazing with a massive chip on her shoulder. She risks her life to help Grace protect Dani as Sarah knows what Dani is going through. Being the innocent girl, that is being hunted down by a killing machine.
Reyes as Dani is well casted and holds her own against Schwarzenegger and Hamilton. Reyes makes it easy to sympathize with her character and channels a bright future much like Isabela Moner of “Instant Family” and “Dora: The Lost City Of Gold”.
Mackenzie Davis (“Blade Runner 2049”) is fantastic as Grace, who gets a lot of screen time to shine as the enhanced soldier. Davis, handles the action especially well, but also adds a layer of humanity similar to what Michael Biehn has brought to the original 1984 film.
Gabriel Luna is cold and lethal as the Rev-9. While he mimics Robert Patrick in a lot of ways especially in the action scenes. He doesn’t feel as menacing as Patrick’s T-1000. Bravo to the visual effects team as Luna’s killing machine and his ability to split into two is an intriguing and spectacular visual creation.
“Dark Fate” gets the whole gang together for a massive action filled finale with colliding cargo planes and zero gravity action. Director Tim Miller offers impressive action on a big scale with at times stunning visual effects, while some portion leans more on the cartoonish CGI. Tim Miller still gives the film incredible visuals and hard summer movie action.
“Dark Fate” is meant to be a starting point for Dani’s journey. Tim Miller’s film delivers a compelling start to a new future in the “Terminator” universe, while keeping with nostalgia and highlights from the original films. It’s not the most creative approach to bring in so much nostalgia into a “Terminator” sequel, but after the last film, there’s something much more exciting and worth following.
Directing the action and nostalgia in his sophomore film is “Deadpool” director Tim Miller. Just as he displayed with “Deadpool”, he once again excels at action sequences, especially chase scenes. “Dark Fate” has a great chase that echoes the big-rig chase from “Terminator 2”.
Creator James Cameron saw Tim Miller’s rough cut of the film and had deemed that “it was pretty rough, it was pretty long”. The movie transformed in the editing room as Cameron worked with Miller and producer David Ellison to find the best film that could emerge from the rough cut. Cameron states of the rough cut “It wasn’t a slam-dunk at the time. I felt there were a lot of pathways that were taken that were unnecessary. I’m an editor myself, so I gave notes that were both broad, and very specific”.
Cameron continues to say “Tim wanted to make it his movie. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, but I kind of know a little about this world.’ So I had the matter and the anti-matter version of that producurial experience”. Whether it was finally James Cameron or Tim Miller’s vision. “Terminator Dark Fate” turned out to be the “Terminator” Film we have all been waiting for since 1991.
It’s probably unfair to keep comparing “Terminator 2” which is an unbeatable classic to “Terminator Dark Fate”. The truth is that, it is the satisfying sequel we’ve long been wanting for the franchise. Whether “Terminator Dark Fate” is the last chapter or the first in a once again re-booted franchise, is still to be seen. If anything hopefully “Dark Fate” will bring in a while new audience. It’s a breathtaking blockbuster, and a welcome return to form to a franchise that started 35 years ago.
GRADE: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5)