Up until about six months ago, I was almost certain that I was done with the Terminator universe for good. Having been sufficiently underwhelmed by Terminator Genisys back in 2015, I felt it was probably time to call it a day on this particular beloved franchise. That was, until, Linda Hamilton landed back on the scene. With a selection of pre-production stills that had me, to put it lightly, HYPED, I found myself having my own Michael Corleone in The Godfather Part III moment; just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
Treated as a direct sequel to, and set some thirty years after 1991’s era defining Terminator: Judgment Day, Terminator: Dark Fate throws audiences into a very familiar set of circumstances with a very familiar set of characters. We begin with the latest killing machine from the future (played by Gabriel Luna) being sent to eliminate a target, this time Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), a young Mexican woman who is set to be an integral figure in the not too distant post-apocalyptic resistance. Augmented human super soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent in retaliation to protect Dani, they run into a vengeful Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), who then runs into, well, Arnold Schwarzenegger (to reveal his specific character would be spoiler territory). Okay, we’re all caught up, all the pieces are in place, are you with me?
It might sound a little convoluted, and that’s because it is, but against my better judgement (pun intended), I had a pretty good time with Terminator: Dark Fate. There is enough action to satisfy that side of the genre bargain, and the humour peppered throughout the narrative is incredibly hit or miss with some good references at times battling with some really, really, cringeworthy ones. In terms of strength of story, I would personally say that the plot offered in Dark Fate is much more succinct and digestible than that of Terminator Genisys. In a very Star Wars: The Force Awakens type move, the roots of the narrative are ones that can be traced all the way to the original Terminator, with a few 21st century twists that viewers will either like or dislike depending on their own preferences. I just happen to be in the ‘like’ column.
It isn’t great, many might say it isn’t even good, but I don’t have the heart to trash Dark Fate because it gave me a lot of what I wanted, albeit not with the highest execution rate. A glaring weakness is the film’s dialogue, filled with exposition heavy monologues and countless call backs to the beloved franchise moments that feel at times particularly unearned and forced. In its defence, it doesn’t feel like the film has as much of an ego as such instalments as Rise Of The Machines and Salvation; sequels that really did suffer from not being able to live up to their own self importance.
Here’s the thing. At the end of the day, if filmmakers want to present me with the likes of Linda Hamilton and Mackenzie Davis being ABSOLUTE flipping’ badasses, them I’m more than happy to let a lot of other shit slide.
And oh, did I mention this movie is filled with BADASS women? The Sarah Connor of T2 is a resounding and nostalgic memory of my childhood, and along wit Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is a character that shaped my love for certain traits and portrayals in cinema. Linda Hamilton picks up right where she left off back in 1991. I wish she have better dialogue to work with but ultimately her presence in Dark Fate was always going to be one of its biggest and best features, and she certainly did not disappoint.
Coming in a close second in the amazing on screen women race is Mackenzie Davis as future super soldier Grace. Davis’s imposing physical stature and steely determination make her an instant favourite, with some great fight choreography that really gets the blood pumping and helps the film to maintain an enjoyable if not completely astonishing level of action.
As Dani, Natalia Reyes is very much the girl next door who possesses that ‘inner strength’ that comes to the fore as the narrative progresses. She doesn’t necessarily have as many scene stealing opportunities as Hamilton or Davis, but she certainly makes her make as part of a really great female trio that lead this film from start to finish.
And then, of course, there’s Arnie. Playing yet another variation (I’ve honestly given up on keeping track) of Terminator machinery, Schwarzenegger is understandably less robust and sprightly as he used to be, but the old guy can still do the business when it comes to well orchestrated action scenes. A fun if not slightly hokey character backstory affords him potentially more dialogue here that in any other Terminator film before, and he proves himself to be endearing despite, how shall I put this, slight acting deficiencies? Ultimately, you can’t have a Terminator movie without the big man, and it’s always fun to see him in this context.
Overall, Terminator: Dark Fate is probably the best instalment of the franchise since Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but that being said the bar was incredibly low. Was it hella fun to see Linda Hamilton back in business? Fuck yeah. Is Mackenzie Davis a new force to be reckoned with in female lead action? Potentially. Is Arnie still Arnie? You betcha. It’s not going to pull up any trees, but I can’t say that I didn’t have fun watching it.