Watch this as soon as you can…
Unlike a machine, this film series was starting to get a little tired. Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genisys were all lacklustre and forgettable in comparison to the gems that came before it. As a result, no one was that excited when Terminator: Dark Fate was announced. Yet, the return of James Cameron, as producer, and Linda Hamilton, created cautious hope among old fans. Whilst it may not prove a defining action film of the 2010s, it is a solid Terminator that delivers where many of the previous sequels failed.
Following from the previous post, it is hard to say whether Terminator: Dark Fate actually does modernise the Terminator concept. The fact it can duplicate itself and take on other people’s identities may speak to fears surrounding identity, over not really knowing who you are talking to online. But the T-1000 could do that, so the only new thing about Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) is the duplication. To be fair, this is a cool concept perfectly realised. The clashes between Grace and Rev-9 are thrilling; a lot of fun to watch, whether you are new to, or familiar with, the series. The fight choreography and the chase sequences are filled with the adrenaline and sense of urgency that made the first two films so entertaining. Rev-9 going down as one of the more memorable villains of the decade is unlikely, but it is definitely a worthy adversary to keep us on the edge of our seats for two hours.
One thing that can be said with certainty is that this film looks to the past, a lot. The new threat does move on from Skynet, to a new AI villain called Legion, but its plan, and thus the premise of the film, is taken straight from Skynet and the original film. Also, there are many call backs to the original two films: “I’ll be back”, Linda Hamilton returns as Sarah Connor, as badass as ever, and Arnie does not miss out on the reunion party (he refuses to wear the sunglasses this time, though). This is a film attempting to woo back fans of the series with nostalgia. Fortunately, it is not too much, and every recourse to the past is justified. An cameo from a past character is not what you would expect, and is used to create an extremely powerful opening- particularly shocking for fans of the series, but still startling if you don’t know the context. Further, it also addresses a hole in Skynet’s plan many fans have noticed in the decades following James Cameron’s masterpieces. It is a great opening, and a nostalgic call back done right. (The fact the story of this film, and its production credits, go to James Cameron himself, explains a lot.) This film does bathe in the past and provides a lot of fan service, but it is not overbearing, and most of it is justified.
The film does move the franchise forward, though. Reyes and Davis are flawed, likeable, and as strong as the new characters, Daniella and Grace. Welcome additions to the cast, they bring a lot of emotion to the action and the spectacle. You want them to survive and succeed as much as they do. Linda Hamilton takes Sarah Connor into new, darker territory magnificently, whilst also balancing that out with humour and sass. She really is the star of the show, and never allows for the criticism the she is just repeating her performances from the first two films.
The humour, the action, and the character-driven plot all add up to an electrifying sixth film for the franchise (“third” film in the series chronology). Sixth films in a series are rarely this good. It may not be revolutionary, or prove to be a defining film of the decade, but this is easily the best Terminator film since Terminator 2: Judgement Day; a film that can please the fans and wow newcomers at the same time.