Terminator: Dark Fate Movie Review
If you make a new Terminator movie and it’s actually sort of good, does anyone care anymore? The box office results of the franchise’s latest entry, Terminator: Dark Fate, which sees the return of both James Cameron (as producer) and Linda Hamilton, suggests the answer is clearly no.
Paramount Pictures should have cut its losses after Terminator: Genisys, a movie that made $440 million worldwide but was so terrible they even mangled the title. Genisys was somehow even worse than Terminator: Salvation, and that in turn was a sequel to Terminator: Rise of the Machines, a movie most people consider to be not very good (even though it actually is).
In short, ever since Cameron left the franchise after T2, it has rapidly declined in quality. Combined with shifts in viewing behavior, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s age and lack of popularity, and overall expectations these days, the writing is on the wall:
Just. Stop. Making. Terminator. Movies.
Sadly (but thankfully), Dark Fate is actually pretty good. Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool), Dark Fate goes back to basics, opting to ignore the last three movies altogether and delivering a streamlined story that has Sarah Connor (Hamilton) teaming with a super soldier (Mackenzie Davis) and a retired Terminator (Schwarzenegger) to protect a future resistance leader (Natalia Reyes) from a ruthless new Terminator (Gabriel Luna).
There’s nothing about the movie that is particularly new or clever, but a good set of likeable characters paired with some thrilling action sequences makes for an effectively entertaining action film.
Miller’s action scenes are well constructed—maybe not up to James Cameron levels, but close enough—with a sequence set on a military cargo plane especially well done. Miller maintains a fast-moving pace; once it begins, it never lets up.
Both Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are great in their respective roles, with Hamilton an especially wise addition to the cast and story. Schwarzenneger, too, feels like a more natural fit than he has in previous entries, with the film addressing his age in a more reasonable (if somewhat still head-scratching) way. Davis is the scene-stealer though, her character and portrayal by far the most interesting of the bunch.
Reyes is fine as the “new John Connor,” but she gets overshadowed by her other, more well-known cast mates. As for Luna, he plays the film’s villain efficiently, but bears so much similarity to Robert Patrick’s T-1000 it’s impossible to compare him favorably—he simply lacks the sinister wit that Patrick’s portrayal exuded.
Terminator: Dark Fate is by no means perfect—it lacks the nuance and originality of the first two Terminator movies—but it is a confidently made action film that deserves a lot more attention and respect than it has received up until this point.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.