If you’d like to hear me and some other fantastic LAMB members discussion Terminator: Dark Fate in great detail, check out the LAMBCast review -
The original Terminator was released in 1984 and is one of my favorite movies. The story is interesting, the action is great, and the effects by Stan Winston were mesmerizing. I am one of the rare folks who prefers The Terminator to the slick updated T2: Judgement Day, even though I really enjoy both. The first movie had a scary and claustrophic feel as the Terminator pursued Sarah Conner through Los Angeles. He was a cybernetic killing machine T800 model 101 created by Cyberdine systems in the future. Skynet, a large AI created to help with military defense, went online in 1997 and promptly decided human beings were the issue and launched nuclear weapons to eliminate all of us. The few remaining humans formed a resistance lead by one John Conner to fight the machines. Irritated, Skynet created time travel and infiltration units called Terminators covered in skin, since nothing inorganic can travel through time. They sent one back to kill Sarah Conner in 1984 before she gave birth to John – essentially Skynet was ensuring its safety before it even came into being. Luckily, future John got ahold of the time travel equipment and sent back a single protector named Kyle to find Sarah and keep her safe. In the process, Kyle and Sarah fell in love which resulted in John. Kyle died saving Sarah from the Terminator, but not before the entire situation put enough mental strife on Sarah to cause a mental breakdown.
T2 was bigger and louder and featured Robert Patrick’s incredibly polite T-1000 as he came back after John Conner as a rebellious teen in 1991. Patrick’s version was liquid metal and even more difficult to destroy. The resistance again sent a protector, this time a repurposed T800 meant to protect John. Together, the T800 and John broke Sarah out of a mental institution and then head after Miles Dyson, the man who would create Skynet. Sarah figured if she killed him, there’s no way he would create Skynet, thus – the future is saved.
There are three other movies, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from 2003, Terminator Salvation from 2009, and Terminator Genisys from 2015. This movie ignores all of them, so for the purposes of this review, I will too!
Terminator: Dark Fate begins with a flashback to 1992-ish where Sarah and John are on the run. Skynet apparently sent another T800 unit when the T1000 failed, and this one succeeds. Distraught, Sarah shuts down again. We fast forward to 2020 and meet Daniella, a young woman in Mexico taking care of her father and working at a local car factory with her brother. One day they get to work, and a robot has taken their jobs - see what they did there? A new type of Terminator comes to get her at the factory. This one is liquid metal over a solid metal endoskeleton, but both bits seem to be able to work independently – two terminators for the price of one! A protector shows up who is named Grace and instead of being a regular human from the future, she’s an enhanced super soldier from the future. Unfortunately, those enhancements are only good for short bursts of incredible strength and speed, so Grace crashes pretty hard, just in time for Sarah to show up and save her and Dani from the two-part Terminator. Action hijinks ensue from there on.
This version is directed by Tim Miller, who did the first Deadpool movie. It’s fairly well-paced and the action set-pieces are great and include the factory fight, a car chase on a bridge, a chase through the desert that involves a drone, and a battle on an airplane that shifts to Humvees that fall to a dam then into a river then the fight goes into the hydroelectric power plant. That last one is overwhelming but entertaining. James Cameron is back as the producer of this one. He directed 1 and 2, but had nothing to do with the others, which may be why this movie disregards all of them. Overall, the new cast was pretty good, but it was the returning cast that stole the movie for me.
- Linda Hamilton gets top billing and it is about damn time. She owned Terminator 2 when she shifted Sarah Conner into the human version of a terminator and she adds years of pain to that aspect in this version. She’s a complete badass and deserves all the credit she is getting for this.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as another T800 – don’t ask which one, it doesn’t make sense. He’s been undercover since 1991 as a drape salesman, no I am not kidding. Honestly, I could have used another hour of him explaining his theories on which drapes for which rooms.
- Mackenzie Davis plays Grace, who is the protector this time around. She’s a standard human from 2042, but enhanced with all kinds of advancements, including what seems to be Kevlar under her skin and some sort of power source making her stronger and faster. She does a decent job of maintaining the singular focus that the protectors traditionally have in these movies, I just didn’t find her character engaging enough to really care about her story.
- Natalia Reyes plays Dani Ramos, the object of the new Terminator’s mission. She is just a regular girl from Mexico, so she doesn’t understand why all this is happening until its revealed how important she is in the future. She did a great job and had established herself as a powerhouse before Grace showed up to tell her she would become one.
- Gabriel Luna plays the Rev-9, the new bi-functional terminator. He looks similar to others, and certainly has the T1000’s ability to pleasantly do his infiltrating – to the point of mimicking the accent of whoever he is talking to at the time. The reason he’s not exactly like the previous terminators is that he’s not a Cyberdine model, he’s from something called Legion, not Skynet.
Overall, the movie is certainly entertaining enough and the action is great. It’s a fun way to kill a couple of hours. If you have deep emotional connections to the original or the sequel, it may be tough to deal with some of the story alterations here – it was for me. I did like the idea that yes, even though Sarah had stopped Miles Dyson and Cyberdine from creating Skynet, someone else somewhere else created another military defense AI that came to the same conclusions – just later on. Inevitably, someone is going to make that mistake. Excuse me while I ask my Alexa to warn me about AI induced judgement days.
6 out of 10
Also – spoiler alert – I did love that Dani became the powerful future leader the machines feared, instead of – as the movie puts it – some man that hasn’t even been born yet. Awesome.