Review – Terminator : Dark Fate
The Terminator is back, and whilst Linda Hamilton’s return and the action set pieces add a lot compared to other films in the franchise since T2 – by the legacy of the 1st two films, it still feels lacking.
1991’s Terminator 2 : Judgement Day was a huge moment for cinema. It took CGI to a new level, put Arnold Schwarzenegger into a new level of cinematic power, and further established James Cameron as a visionary filmmaker that can deliver huge box office returns.
Finally of course, like the conveyor belts that’s we can imagine creating the killing machines in the films, it set off a ‘production line’ of sequels, and reboots – most of which also felt exactly like robotic creations.
For 2019’s Terminator : Dark Fate, James Cameron has taken back the controls in a producer / story role, and has effectively positioned *his* 3rd film in the franchise as he sees it, forgetting all else that came after his previous film. Instead of Cameron, Tim Miller directs (previously directed Deadpool) and the story was written by
Not only do we have Cameron back, we see Linda Hamilton reprise her most famous role – that of Sarah Connor – the mother of John Connor, the man that would lead humans to defeat SkyNet in the future. In fact, by the end of Terminator 2 : Judgement Day, not only do they stop the relentless killing machine from killing John, they stop SkyNet and prevent Judgement Day from ever occurring.
I’ll steer clear of specific plot details to avoid spoilers, but in short, we return over two decades on since Sarah and John Connor prevented Judgement Day and saved the world from the pre-destined apocalypse. Instead, however we find that the future is not as safe as we’d thought and a new Terminator has travelled to the past with a different mission entirely.
Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Connor is a big deal – I see her as one of the greatest female characters created. It’s a well documented return for Arnold Schwarzenegger as well, with lead performances from Mackenzie Davies, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna plays the newest iteration of the machine that will not stop.
Ultimately though, Hamilton and the developing CGI are the main two positives. It is fine enough but can’t muster much beyond the grand action set pieces and the relationship between the two veterans of the Cameron series. It works hard to balance a tone of jeopardy and threat with humour (something that the 2nd achieved remarkably well) and has all of the playful nods to the previous films that fans will be hoping for.
One of the main developments from the 1st Terminator film to the 2nd was the expansion of the storyline. It moved from the cat and mouse narrative of the first, to the broader attempt to stop the emergence of SkyNet and the development of John as a character from only being a future reference in the 1st. This expanded narrative is part of the challenge with this film – there’s no doubt that visually it has moved on, and that it tries to address new ideas and legacy, but it is in principle reverting back to that cat and mouse element without the uniqueness of the first.
That all said though, we should be very clear. Whilst this film is not perfect, it is the best Terminator film since 1991, but that’s the main positive here. Hard to not also think that sooner or later this franchise will be back.
Final thought. I was wondering about the different Terminator films and how they have stacked up both in terms of ratings and box office. Here’s the answer…