Here we are once again, Paramount are taking another stab at a Terminator sequel after what has been arguably three failed attempts with the likes of Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys. Terminator: Dark Fate chooses to completely ignore this other sequels (probably for the best) and takes place as a direct sequel to my all time favourite Terminator movie – T2… But does it live up to the quality of its predecessor?
Well I’ll be straight up now and say no, of course it doesn’t… But that doesn’t make this a bad movie by any means; in fact I had a lot of fun with film, and if you’re a fan of the franchise then so will you. Just try not to think about it too hard as there are many plot holes, some painful writing and laughable moments to accompany the badass action, fun nostalgia and all round fun thrill ride.
Having the face of the franchise – Arnold Schwarzenegger – back is always fun to see in these movies, but it’s the return of Terminator 1 & 2 star, Linda Hamilton who really grabs the headlines here. Keeping her away from the previous sequels makes this return feel wonderfully nostalgic, and her new persona as an older, tougher, more broken down, bazooka wielding badass version of Sarah Connor is what really drove the movie for me. This isn’t to say that the new characters weren’t a pleasure to spend time with. Mackenzie Davis as Grace – the modern day version of Kyle Reese – works great alongside Natalia Reyes as Dani who, you guessed it, acts as a more modern day version of Sarah Connor. And the new T-800? Well that would be a new Terminator model called the Rev-9 played by Gabriel Luna. This new Terminator is bigger and badder than any which have come before, and the battles between this unstoppable machine and our heroes was a real highlight, and let’s be honest, is the reason people flock to see these movies in the first place.
I’m going to talk story now, though I won’t be taking direct spoilers, maybe skip this paragraph if you want to go in completely blind.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Dark Fate takes a lot from Star Wars: The Force Awakens with its story… No we don’t see a lightsaber battle between Sarah Conner and a Terminator (though yes please)… But what I mean is that the writers looked at what worked for the franchise in the first place and went back to that. The story of the original Terminator is all but told again with young and fresh faces while the elder statesman of the series still feature as somewhat parental figures who have seen this all before. That’s not to say that you know exactly how this will play out if you know the original movie; Dark Fate has a few surprises and twists up its sleeve which attempts to keep things fresh – Some of these work and some don’t, however.
As much as I appreciate the back-to-basics storytelling of Dark Fate, it’s not without some truly head scratching moments. There’s nothing I can really dive into without going into full blown spoiler territory, but the path which the writers go down with for one of our favourite characters is just silly and sometimes borders on insulting. There’s also an opening scene which although brave, is bound to split audience opinions, especially those who are massive fans of the first two movies.
In general I’d say the writing is a mixed bag. It’s a lot more streamlined and straightforward than the other post T2 movies which is good, but there’s also something missing which I can’t quite put my finger on. The way the characters communicate with each other is often unrealistic and even corny at times. Unnaturally forcing catchphrases into dialogue often borders on comedic, and not in a good way. For all the good this movie does in telling a nostalgic Terminator story, it often undoes its own good work with an awful piece of dialogue or confusing story direction.
Visually the movie is great! Sure there’s an over reliance on CGI which somewhat separates this from the originals but what else did we expect in 2019? Plus it’s used really well so I have no complaints. The highlights for the effects centres around our new Terminator which can pull of some fun tricks which I won’t spoil here. I can’t really think of any point in the film where the effects took me out of the experience so in that regard, I’d call it a success. The soundtrack is also a fun throwback, mixing the classic Terminator theme with a more modern cinematic sound and often picking the perfect moments in the movie to drop that epic DUH DUH DUM DUM DUH DUM!
There are many critics out there who will (and already have) gone into Terminator: Dark Fate and picked it apart for all it’s faults and that’s fair enough. It’s nowhere near the standard of Terminator 1 or 2 but it is by far the best in the franchise since those two classics and for that reason alone, I’d say this is worth your time. It was a pleasure to see some of the old faces mixing with the new ones in what is an action packed ride from start to finish with a few head scratching moments along the way.
I give Terminator: Dark Fate: