“Terminator: Dark Fate” wipes the slate clean and serves as the direct follow-up to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
Set more than 20 years after “Judgment Day,” Dani Ramos is the target of a new Rev-9 liquid metal terminator. A cyborg human named Grace is sent back in time to protect Dani. When Dani and Grace meet Sarah Connor and a T-800 Terminator, they work together to uncover the nature of the looming threat.
“Dark Fate” stars Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes and Gabriel Luna. James Cameron returns as a producer. It’s directed by Tim Miller (“Deadpool).”
After a string of underwhelming sequels, “Dark Fate” is an upgrade, even if it never reaches the heights of the first two installments.
The story takes some twists and turns that shake things up. While not all of these developments are as impactful as the writers probably intended, there’s at least something interesting brought to the table.
The return of Hamilton is one of the biggest strengths. Sarah is a hardened warrior on the hunt for Terminators — and she brings a lot of emotional baggage. Her performance is a great bridge between the stories.
There’s a particular storytelling choice between Hamilton and Schwarzenegger that I was impressed with. I won’t elaborate due to spoilers, but there’s a creative storytelling dynamic that was refreshing.
While the returning players are great, I also was impressed with the newcomers. Davis is a scene-stealer in the action sequences. Her character has an engaging backstory to supplement her fierce physical presence.
Reyes is given a significant role as Dani. Her character serves as a backdrop for some ripe social commentary. While I thought her performance was solid, I couldn’t invest myself in her story as much as the filmmakers want us to. It’s more of a writing issue than a performance issue.
While there are some violent and entertaining action set pieces, the film lacks the grit of the first installments. Even with an R rating, the massive budget makes the film look overly glossy and stylized.
A particular sequence involving the Hoover Dam is borderline incomprehensible due to massive globs of ugly CGI.
Miller and Cameron have tapped into interesting ideas, but the execution is spotty. While the addition of Hamilton makes for better storytelling than the previous three entries, the impact of the originals isn’t replicated.
Even with solid performances and ideas, the overblown budget and effects hamper the film. A smaller and grittier approach was attempted in spurts, but never capitalized on.
“Dark Fate” is superior to the last three films, but that isn’t saying much. When it is compared to “T2,” it falls short in nearly every way.
Even though I was entertained, I suggest that they put this once-great series to rest. There’s been too many attempts to revitalize it, and at this point, the charm has gone.
I give the film 3 stars out of 5. “Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R and runs for 2 hours and 8 minutes.