Director: Tim Miller
Writers: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray
Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis
Young Mexican Feni (Natalia Reyes) lives a seemingly simple life, but when a machine from the future that takes human form (Gabriel Luna) is sent to kill her, she must join forces with Grace (Davis) an enhanced human that has been sent from the future to protect her, as well as a battle hardened Sarah Connor (Hamilton), who herself stopped judgement day over twenty years ago. With this advanced machine seemingly impossible to destroy, they must also join forces with an aging T-800 (Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past, who may be their best hope of survival.
As is the case with a fair few long running franchises, the studio who owns the rights to Terminator has been constantly trying to shamelessly cash-in on the franchise’s success by giving us instalments that have been rather bad, while at the same time either completely messing up the overall timeline or seemingly having non-sensical or bland plots that seem to make things up as they go along. Well, here we have yet another instalment, and it has been very difficult to escape the fact that the marketing wants to remind everyone that this is James Cameron’s return to the franchise, pretty much confirming that everyone wants to forget about Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys.
Well, it is certainly fair to say that Dark Fate is the third best Terminator film, but that is not exactly the greatest compliment to make considering the standard of the other sequels since Judgement Day. The plot is undoubtedly very familiar, as it is essentially the same story again, just with a slight twist surrounding the character that is being hunted to be terminated and the fact that someone is also sent from the future to stop the termination who is not a machine, but an augmented human.
The actual Terminator in this film is played by a quietly (but effectively) sinister and smirking Gabriel Luna, and his Rev-9 model is an apparently indestructible machine. There is of course no denying that it should indeed be a challenge for the film’s main antagonist to be rather tough to kill, but as the narrative goes from one extremely loud set piece to the next, things do start to get particularly repetitive, boring and actually quite exhausting. While the plot itself inevitably relies on a fair few contrivances and very convenient narrative developments that have very little explanation. This is of course to be expected from a film of this kind, but some of these are a little too glaring, lazy and clunky. Likewise, the script itself has the characters explaining the story or describing what is happening on screen way too much. James Cameron is only credited as creating the story and has no screenwriting credit, but the script definitely does have the usual Cameron clunks we have come to expect from him. The script also may well win some kind of record for the amount of times characters say “oh shit” when something bad is about to happen.
Though the actual story offers very little substance or originality, it does at least give us some memorable characters and some very satisfying individual moments. Persuading Arnie to turn up for another sequel was a good move, as though it takes a while for him to turn up, he does get some great lines and some individually satisfying moments that fit in very well with the overall franchise and also provide a very fitting arc for his character. While Arnie himself appears to have genuine affection for his character and is a very charismatic and engaging screen presence.
The film’s best move is however casting Linda Hamilton as the returning Sarah Connor; her character is now very battle hardened and cynical, and she certainly enjoys herself in her role (perhaps a little too much at times) but her relationship with Arnie’s T-800 (set very dramatically by the film’s opening sequence) is one of the main emotional lynchpins of the film, and undoubtedly one of the film’s most memorable parts. Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis are also excellent in their roles, and the strong performances and natural screen chemistry between all four actors does undoubtedly elevate the often lacklustre, repetitive and uninspiring script and plot. This does inevitably feel like a waste, but though Terminator: Dark Fate will certainly not live long in the memory, it has just about enough about it to emerge as an enjoyable enough blockbuster and most certainly the third best Terminator film.
Though its overall plot and script may well be bland, unoriginal and at times exhaustingly repetitive, thanks to the superb performances and some great individual moments, Terminator: Dark Fate has enough about it to be worth a watch and help us all forget about those terrible sequels, but it does also remind us how good the first two films were.