Terminator: Dark Fate – Review

Terminator: Dark Fate is the Terminator 2: Judgment Day sequel audiences have been waiting for.‪ Cameron’s pulse is finally felt in the franchise again with strong action, good pacing and interesting characters.

Terminator: Dark Fate is directed by Tim Miller and stars Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sarah Connor and the T-800. The film is written by David Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray and has a story from visionary James Cameron. It also stars Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, and Gabriel Luna as new characters and villains to the Terminator story. The highlight in all of this is that Hamilton and Schwarzenegger share the screen again after 28 years.

Terminator: Dark Fate cleans up a Terminator timeline that was in desperate need of a facelift. Ever since James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day proved itself to be a masterpiece in the genre, the franchise has hobbled itself through the years. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines struggled to follow up, Terminator: Salvation took things to a new playing field with divisive results and Terminator: Genysis was by far the messiest and weakest in the group. Terminator: Dark Fate erases all of it, cleaning the timeline to its most basic level, the Cameron films. With Cameron’s Terminator and Terminator 2 the only established canon, Terminator: Dark Fate operates will a lot less baggage and more freedom to operate in the world.

Terminator: Dark Fate follows up Terminator 2: Judgment Day by following a new character, Dani Ramos as she is hunted by a Rev-9 Terminator and protected by Grace, an augmented human from the future. Their stories are inherently connected to John and Sarah Connor, who saved the world from Skynet. Sarah Conner returns and is as badass as ever. Linda Hamilton absolutely blends into the iconic role as if no time as passed. One of the best female characters in cinema history, Sarah Conner’s importance to the audience and the film is full of reverence. In many ways, she even outshines her Terminator counterpart of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Speaking about the T-800, Arnold is an absolute joy to watch in the role. Once again, Cameron’s presence is felt again and it gives T-800 more life and feels that he had in his appearances in previous non-canon films.

The problem with every single Terminator after T2 is the obsession to start a new franchise and trilogy. This proves to be the ultimate curse for the long-running franchise as each Terminator film introduces brand new characters, settings and lore in an attempt to start another multi-film story. What Terminator truly needs is an ending, an epilogue to wrap up the tale that started in 1984. Unfortunately, Terminator: Dark Fate does not do that, opting to start another story with new characters. With the box office projections not looking great, Terminator: Dark Fate could have benefited with a more definitive ending.

Terminator: Dark Fate takes some twists and turns that are unexpected. One, in particular, will shake up audiences and gives the film and entirely different feel tone and context. Regardless of how they might feel, you get James Cameron’s style of not holding hands or over-relying on nostalgia. One very strong element of the film is the strong female characters that feel organic and real. Cameron has been great at this in 2019, with Alita: Battle Angel and Terminator: Dark Fate focusing on a strong, three-dimensional Latina actress in the lead role. Adding someone as iconic as Sarah Conner back to the screen was a home run on every level as well. Terminator: Dark Fate reaffirms that this story is a Sarah Conner story before it was John Connor’s or the Terminator.

Overall, Terminator: Dark Fate is the best Terminator film since Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The film is a return to form for the franchise, by cleaning up the timeline and bringing the story back to its most basic element, survival. Terminator: Dark Fate brings together beloved characters and interesting new ones, combining for a true sequel that honors the original films.