In Brief: Since James Cameron wasn’t involved in movies three through five, in his mind this is movie three not movie six. Or to put it another way, this is his idea of a sequel to 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
Terminator: Dark Fate is a sequel to the two original films. The other Terminator movies are not. Huh? Let’s put it another way. This is the “official” third movie of the series. Though the others have the same premise and characters, the sequels after Terminator 2: Judgement Day aren’t directly connected to the first two films.
None of the three were very good either so maybe it’s just as well.
The direct connection part of the equation apparently has to do with writer/director and Terminator creator James Cameron. He wasn’t involved in the third film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from 2003, Terminator Salvation in 2009 or 2015’s Terminator Genisys.
Cameron says the others happened in an alternative timeline and therefore Terminator: Dark Fate is closer to a real sequel to T-2. They’re his characters, and it’s his thing and not anyone else’s so this film — though 28-years after T-2 — the sixth film is now officially the third film.
The story comes from Cameron and four writers. That’s more or less writing by committee. Normally that’s not a good thing but what they came up with isn’t all that bad. They toss some of the nifty twists to the John Connor timeline that Cameron notes in his explanation. They involve Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator and Connor’s mom Sarah.
I won’t spoil those twists for you. As I often say, I’ll give that job to the Internet.
Linda Hamilton reprises the role of Connor. Over three decades after 1984’s The Terminator, and 28 years after Judgement Day she is still wandering the country destroying the cyber-robot killers the machines send from the future. At one point Sarah connects Grace who is half-human, half-machine and has been sent from the resistance to save Dani Ramos.
The movie actually opens with Grace popping not-so-gracefully into our sphere of time.
Grace is played by Mackenzie Davis (Tully) and Dani is done by Columbian actress Natalia Reyes. The machines want Dani dead because she plays an important role in the future of Cameron’s new timeline.
The three of them run from a Rev-9. It’s a new kind of killer machine that can split itself in two with the skeleton being as dangerous as the liquid-like, flesh and blood-looking machine. The Rev-9 is played by Gabriel Luna who’s thin like Robert Patrick’s T-1000 from Judgement Day.
Trim, fit and dangerous the Rev-9 pushes the trio to seek Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800. He’s been hiding in his past — our present — since 1990-something. How he got here, what he’s doing and why is part of the plot twist that I’ll let the Internet spoil for you.
Terminator: Dark Fate is also a reboot in the same sense that Star Wars: The Force Awakens jumpstarted a franchise that Episodes 1, 2 and 3 slid so far toward the Dark Side that it almost didn’t come back.
Judging by The Last Jedi, maybe it should have gone to the Dark Side and stayed there. Though it’s really a topic for another day, the comment is relevant to Dark Fate in that the Terminator sequels from T-2 on pretty much killed the franchise.
The return of Cameron as a producer and writer put a new battery in the machines and their war against humanity. Also adding to the electricity is the hiring of Deadpool director Tim Miller. His movie will remind you a lot of Terminator 2. It’s packed with action and adventure but is missing the outrageous humor of the Judgement Day and of Miller’s Deadpool.
While there are a few funny scenes, Cameron, the writers and Miller should have stuck in more bits like Schwarzenegger’s T-800 talking about his current craft. The craft is funny but it is also one of those Internet-ruining surprises.
I’m not complaining. Terminator: Dark Fate is a good movie. It has Schwarzenegger and Schwarzenegger and he has never been more human in any of his movies than he is as a machine. The best he ever was in any film happened in T-2. He’s almost that good here.
Give him more to do and he could have been as good. It’s the real flaw of Terminator: Dark Fate.
Hamilton manages to make Connor look as worn and weary as one would be after over 30-years of being chased by futuristic machines and her own government. She’s the movie’s anchor, a connection to the past and propels the franchise’s new stars Davis, Reyes and Luna into a very bright and profitable future.
That leads to the movie itself. It can be summed up in one sentence. It’s a long one but one sentence says it all.
Just when we thought the last — and quite dreadful — termination of the Terminators terminated the franchise, more Terminators turned up that need to be terminated, and need terminated well enough to probably generate even more Terminators to terminate in the future.
Or to put it more succinctly, Terminator: Dark Fate is the first in what will probably be a new series of movies that will likely end up looking a whole lot like the disappointing old ones.
Director: Tim Miller
Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Edward Furlong
Rated R for very mature themes and violence. He’s back and he’s good. So is this sixth movie in the series that’s really the third. If you’re skimming down to this point then go to the top and read the review and the statement will make sense. If you read the review, the statement makes sense. Loved this one. It was fun. Give it a Friday Flicks with Gary 4 on the 0 to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.