Terminator: Dark Fate exists in a world in which the only Terminator films that matter are the original The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The other sequels exist in an alternate reality or in the case of Terminator Genisys as just a bad fever dream greenlit in hopes of reigniting a franchise without much care given to the plot. What films three, four, and five of the sci-fi action thriller franchise ignored is the importance of both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. Got that? Both Schwarzenegger and Hamilton.
Terminator: Dark Fate marks the reunion after 28 years of Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Schwarzenegger as the T-800 Terminator who likes to drop “I’ll be back” into conversations. The premise is basically an updated/reconfigured version of Terminator 2. In Dark Fate, the character being hunted by a Terminator from the future is Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). A new version of a Terminator – the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – is sent to our time to track her down and kill her. Taking on the protector character this time around is Mackenzie Davis as Grace, an enhanced soldier from the future. Her only mission is to keep Dani alive at all costs. The very survival of mankind depends on it.
What sets this battle between nearly unbeatable forces apart from the similar plot of T2 is the appearance of Sarah Connor (Hamilton) as a key player who’s no longer the focus of the rival forces. Sarah’s been in Dani’s shoes and in the decades that have passed since the events in Terminator 2, she’s stayed off the grid and constantly on alert for the arrival of any new Terminators.
It’d be completely spoiler-ish to describe how Schwarzenegger’s T-800 returns and becomes involved in this 2019 entry in the franchise. Suffice it to say, the moment he and Hamilton reunite on screen is the moment when Terminator: Dark Fate solidifies its place as the perfect Terminator 2 sequel we never expected to receive nor even knew we needed.
Screenwriters David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray stripped the story down to the basics, tossing in just the right amount of backstory to fill in the time between this film and Terminator 2 without including any unnecessary filler. The bad guys (not Skynet as Sarah changed that future by killing the T-1000 [Robert Patrick] in T2) want Dani dead and there’s a hero from the future sent to protect her. Insert some well-placed lighter moments and then pad out the two-hour running time with the most jaw-dropping, exquisitely choreographed action scenes of all six films of the franchise and the result is a heart-pounding, hugely entertaining thriller.
Terminator: Dark Fate features outstanding performances by Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, and Natalia Reyes. Hamilton, Davis, and Reyes portray three strong female lead characters who kick ass and have each other’s backs. The male leads are less important as this is a female warrior film through and through. Davis and Reyes are terrific additions to the franchise and have great chemistry with Terminator veteran Hamilton.
Paramount will probably to the well for another Terminator if the box office take is high enough. But, they shouldn’t. Terminator: Dark Fate’s the perfect final chapter, a film that redeemed the franchise and gave fans what should be one last chance to visit with and say goodbye to Arnold as The Terminator and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor.
MPAA Rating: R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity
Running Time: 128 minutes
Release Date: November 1, 2019
Directed By: Tim Miller