TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is the latest film from director Tim Miller (Deadpool), based on the story by James Cameron, Charles Eglee, Josh Friedman, David Goyer and Justin Rhodes, and is a direct sequel to Terminator: Judgment Day, which brings Sarah Connor back to protect a young woman, along with a hybrid cyborg human, against a new, more dangerous Terminator. The film stars Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta. To best describe the plot, I’ll turn to the official synopsis:
“More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator – a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.”
I think we can all admit that the last three Terminator films have been less than desirable. Whether it is because of the acting, storyline, or because they didn’t capture the spirit of what The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day created, fans have felt lackluster towards the franchise overall. And, honestly, I don’t blame them. I grew up at the height of Terminator 2, a film that was ahead of its time in terms of special effects and what I consider to be the creation of Arnold Schwarzenegger into the action star he is today. Not only that but, for many of us female fans, we saw a fiercely determined, badass chick in the form of Sarah Connor (played by the equally fierce and badass Linda Hamilton). All that said, Terminator 2 will always be groundbreaking for its time and has rightfully cemented itself as one of the best action/sci-fi films ever to be released. Since then, special effects and filmmaking styles have allowed the movies to have their own evolution and, in the case of TERMINATOR: DARK FATE, that’s exactly what happened. Director Tim Miller has given us a movie that not only transcends that of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but is also a groundbreaking film in its own way, allowing for a team of talented women to take the forefront of a franchise and giving us heroes worthy of long-lasting praise.
Grace, played by Mackenzie Davis, is an enhanced super-soldier sent from the future to protect Dani from the Rev-9, played by Gabriel Luna. She isn’t like the T-800 in the sense that she actually has human emotions but can also literally rip your throat out at a moment’s notice. By having a character like her, it raises the stakes and gives a stronger impression that there are real risks to be had. Dani, played by Natalia Reyes, experiences the most significant arc in the film due to having her whole life upended while coming to terms with not only a huge amount of loss but knowing that she’s pivotal in saving the human race. Furthermore, it was so refreshing to see a Latinx woman portrayed as a hero in an action film instead of the same overused derivative of “John Connor is going to save the world.” Honestly, it’s time to move past that which is something that the writers, along with Tim Miller, realized and executed perfectly. Then there is, of course, the baddest bitch in the whole series – Sarah Connor. Linda Hamilton terrifies me because I’m convinced that in real life she is Sarah Connor and I would NEVER fuck with her. She just rolls on up to any Terminator that crosses her path and goes head-to-head with it until it’s destroyed. She’s cool and calculated, but you can see how the events in T2, and shortly thereafter, have taken a huge toll on her. She is hardened, she is mad, and no one can fault her for that.
As for our Terminators, Arnold Schwarzenegger once again reprises his role as the OG Terminator, the T-800. But for those looking for an emotionless killing machine, you might find yourselves a bit shocked as to where he is in his life. However, he still rises to the occasion and gives all the fanboys the fantasy-driven testosterone they need so they can feel like they are manly men. I actually loved seeing the T-800 in the way he was portrayed because it wasn’t overdone. Instead, he was positioned more in the background so as to allow the storyline to flourish between what Grace, Dani, and Sarah were accomplishing. That said, I did love the tension between Sarah and the T-800 because it resulted in some complex emotions as secrets were revealed causing immense pain and regret for both characters. As for the new and improved Terminator portrayed by Luna, I was 100% in. Going back to what I said earlier in this review, TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is about evolving. I’ve always been a massive fan of Robert Patrick as the T-100. With that said, Luna is never going to be what Patrick was and that’s very much okay. I loved Luna’s portrayal of the Rev-9 not only because I thought he was a non-stop killing machine that would stop at LITERALLY nothing to secure his kill, but because he never flinches – he’s so unbelievably stoic and never once gives a singular emotional response to the situation he finds himself in, which was quite an impressive accomplishment. Also, these Rev-9’s are no joke, they are seamless in their design and quite terrifying, especially when they are able to detach themselves from their body and use their endoskeleton to help in their quest for total destruction.
In terms of the technical aspects, what really elevated this film to an even higher caliber were the special effects, especially during the fight scenes. The hand-to-hand combat between Grace and the Rev-9 is nothing short of jaw-dropping and I’m thankful that there were a few slow-mo scenes to really take in the brilliant choreography. Then you have the money shots, the moments that clearly defy all gravity and are not even close to being realistic but no one cares because they are mind-blowing. Whether it’s an intense highway chase that leaves a trail of carnage in its wake or Terminators being sliced in half by thick bands of chains, it’s all a visual feast for the eyes. Also, I appreciated how the film, in-between all those over-the-top action sequences, deals with the current political landscape. This is noticeable in the fact that the majority of the film takes place in Mexico and touches upon the issue of immigration and how the US treats people from other countries. I know some people may find issues with this but it’s an important reminder of the cruelty that so many people in the US subscribe to based on a ruthless and idiotic President (who doesn’t even deserve to have his name mentioned). My only issue with this film, which is more about me nit-picking, had to do with the slower moments that seemed to drag on at times. However, those quieter moments gave the audience a chance to really understand the character’s mindset.
All that said, I firmly stand by the fact that TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is the best Terminator movie and as much as I love Judgment Day, I think that DARK FATE surpasses that in terms of special effects, inclusion of marginalized groups, and a storyline that actually has an emotional pull instead of just being a mindless action film. I know it’s been really hard for the alt-right fanboys to come to terms with this due to the fact that women are allowed to have opinions about action movies (or anything in general), but what Tim Miller and his team have created is a much-needed evolution of a franchise that was dying. In bringing back some of our favorite characters, he was able to close a chapter in one of the greatest sci-fi/action films in history while also giving fans a brand new narrative that changes the course of the series and breathes new life into it. I can’t wait to see what the future of the Terminator movies are going to be, and if they are anything like DARK FATE, we are in for a real treat. TERMINATOR: DARK FATE arrives in theaters on November 1, 2019.