Terminator: Dark Fate Review - A Nostalgic Thrill-Ride That Mostly Succeeds
Updated: Mar 9
Terminator: Dark Fate isn't a perfect film, but it is a worthy successor to the two that are, and it's all built upon a show-stealing performance from Linda Hamilton.
We've been here many times with the Terminator franchise. After some time on the shelf, the franchise is revived by a different company claiming that "this time" it's going to be "different" and that we should disregard everything that came before because "this is the official sequel to T2". Naturally, fans who have been burned one too many times have been asking the obvious question: What makes Terminator: Dark Fate different from the previous sequels that failed?
That's a question that the film manages to answer pretty quickly. First of all, the R-rating is back, meaning that it's free to play with violence, language and nudity as it pleases. We all know that those aren't definitive qualities of a good film, but they do lend themselves to Dark Fate nicely, allowing it to adopt a mature tone similar to that of the first two Terminator films. And it really does pay off, as the film feels more Terminator than any of the previous sequels.
However, the real difference-maker here is the return of Linda Hamilton as a battle-hardened Sarah Connor who in a matter of minutes reminds us all of what exactly those other sequels were missing. Connor, now an aged, battle-hardened Terminator hunter, shows up just in the nick of time to rescue Grace and Dani from the treacherous Rev-9 - and that is where the story really begins.
Of those newcomers, it's the former who is the most interesting. Portrayed by Mackenzie Davis, Grace is an augmented human from the future who can go toe-to-toe with Terminators - something that, although done before, adds another unexpected layer of humanity to the story. And that's good because, action-packed or not, the humanity of the story is what carried The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day to greatness.
Speaking of the story, yes it's familiar, but it's also quite different - reviving the franchise in a somewhat bold manner that none of the previous sequels attempted to do, but it is one that will likely rub a lot of the die-hard franchise fans up the wrong way. That, however, is what enables this one to be the legacy sequel that it is. It's not attempting to re-tell the story or reboot it, it's using that original story to develop a new one.
The dialogue lets it down on occasion, with some incredibly forced on-the-nose lines sticking out like a sore thumb, but the story itself is solid and makes for the most enjoyable and, more importantly, engaging offering in the Terminator franchise in over 20 years.
There is no Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the man himself is as brilliant as ever. Slotting right back into the role with ease, Arnie may not feature into the story from the very beginning, but you can rest assured that he steals more than a few scenes as "Carl" the T-800 by giving us a Terminator he has never given us before - and he also shares plenty of wonderful moments with Linda Hamilton and gets heavily involved in the action.
Speaking of Hamilton, it's no exaggeration to say that she steals the show. Stepping out of that vehicle with her shades and combat gear, it's almost as if she wound the clock back to channel the Sarah Connor of 1991's T2, because her performance feels so unbelievably authentic and true to everything that the character stood for.
There is no fate but what we make, but did Terminator: Dark Fate need to be made? No. The first two films are and always will be perfection. But it wasn't James Cameron who made Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines back in 2003 and kick-started a chain of never-ending sequels, so we can be thankful for his involvement in this one, as the film is a solid addition to a franchise that was beginning to let the bad outweigh the good.
An enjoyable spectacle that successfully channels some of the elements that made the franchise's greatest hits so memorable while also managing to offer it's own original contributions, Terminator: Dark Fate is the most thrilling Terminator sequel in almost three decades.
Will you be going to see Terminator: Dark Fate? Have you seen it already? Let us know what you thought of it in the comments below!