Terminator: Dark Fate Review
The faces and names are the same, but so is the story in 'Terminator: Dark Fate'
Release Date: November 1, 2019
MPAA Rating: R
Sarah Connor and a hybrid cyborg human must protect a young girl from a newly modified liquid Terminator from the future.
Director: Tim Miller
Screenwriters: James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray
Producers: James Cameron, David Ellison
Cast: Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor), Arnold Schwarzenegger (T-800/Carl), Mackenzie Davis (Grace), Natalia Reyes (Dani Ramos), Gabriel Luna (Rev-9/Gabriel)
Editor: Julian Clarke
Cinematographer: Ken Seng
Production Designer: Sonja Klaus
Casting Directors: Mindy Marin, Lucinda Syson
Music Score: Junkie XL
Last year, horror fans got a Halloween sequel that essentially retconned the whole franchise, pretending that everything after the original 1978 movie never happened. Now, it’s the sci-fi fans’ turn. Terminator: Dark Fate picks up like everything after T2: Judgement Day occurred in an alternate timeline.
Terminator: Dark Fate is about a young woman named Dani Ramos (Running with the Devil’s Natalia Reyes) who will, in the future, bear a child who will lead the human resistance to the robot uprising. So, the machines send a Terminator, a badass model called the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna from “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), back in time to execute her and prevent the boy from being born. The humans send back an “Augmented Human” super-solider named Grace (Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis) to protect her.
Once they flush out the shape-shifting Rev-9, Grace and Dani get some unexpected help from an unlikely ally – Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, reprising her role from the original The Terminator), who has spent her life hunting Terminators that keep being sent back in time. Realizing that this new Terminator is more powerful than anything that Grace and Sarah have ever seen, they turn to an even more unlikely source for backup – a T-800, now known as Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger, also from the original The Terminator, but also from Predator and The Expendables movies), who has been living among the humans after completing his mission years earlier. Together, the rag-tag group of warriors must protect Dani from the robot assassin at all costs.
Terminator: Dark Fate not only sees Hamilton and Schwarzenegger back in action, but it is also the first Terminator with which writer/director/producer/creator James Cameron (who has been keeping busy lately with four upcoming Avatar sequels) has been involved. Cameron not only takes a producer credit, but is also one of no fewer than six screenwriters, the others being Charles H. Eglee (“Dark Angel”), Josh Friedman (“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles”), David S. Goyer (Godzilla, The Dark Knight Rises), Justin Rhodes (the upcoming RoboCop Returns), and Billy Ray (The Hunger Games, Captain Phillips) – and that’s not including the “based on characters created by” for Gale Anne Hurd. That’s a lot of writers for a movie that is basically a rehash.
In some ways, it can be said that Terminator: Dark Fate is a return to form for the franchise. That’s because there’s not really much in it that hasn’t been done with mixed results by the other five movies in the series. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) has a firm grasp on how to make a slick movie, but there’s only so much CG morphing that an audience can take. At some point, the story has got to bring something new to the table, and Terminator: Dark Fate fails to do that. The movie even seems to acknowledge that it’s a retread, with Sarah repeatedly referencing the fact that she once went through exactly what Dani is going through. Linda Hamilton has become the Arnold Schwarzenegger figure, but the plot points and story beats are all the same.
Now, Terminator: Dark Fate is a technically well-made movie, with eye-popping visuals, seat-rattling sound, and a pumping score from Mad Max: Fury Road composer Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL). And there are little things that it adds to the overall Terminator mythology. But mostly, it’s a nostalgic celebration that reunites James Cameron, Linda Hamilton, and Arnold Schwarzenegger for another (possibly last?) ride. It kind of feels like a cash grab, but it also seems like a few old friends who wanted to work together again. In short, for better or worse, Terminator: Dark Fate is exactly the movie that it’s supposed to be.
Terminator: Dark Fate hits the ground running with an early heart-racing action sequence that starts in an automotive factory and ends on a freeway overpass. It’s full of hand to hand combat and an endless supply of flying bullets, with everyone from the stunt drivers to the pyrotechnic engineers earning their paychecks.
Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. The rest of the action sequences are alright, but they’re made up mostly of generic fighting and shooting, with CG effects hiding the lack of creativity. And, considering that Terminator: Dark Fate is being sold as an action movie, the action sequences are few and far between. It tries (and fails) to develop deep characters when it should be blowing stuff up. After a promising start, the action in Terminator: Dark Fate never picks back up.