Terminator: Dark Fate Review : Best Terminator 3 in Years

Linda Hamilton stars in Skydance Productions and Paramount Pictures' "TERMINATOR: DARK FATE."

There’s been a few attempts at a “Terminator 3” (this is the fourth), so to avoid confusion, this is the one in which a loveable robot, an elderly woman and an augmented soldier learn how to work together to save humanity. Also – not a comedy.

After discovering that Terminator films were non-starters without Sarah Connor (“Terminator: Rise of the Machines”), in the dystopian future (“Terminator: Salvation”) or with time travel shenanigans (“Terminator: Genisys”), it was back to the drawing board. Add a new complexity – audiences aren’t impressed by special effects any more – and it makes sense there was only one move left: begging Linda Hamilton to come back.

If this film had directly followed “T2” we would be crying lack of originality, but after the trilogy to nowhere that was the last three films, “Dark Fate” serves its purpose as a palate cleanser. And it’s so good to have the heart of the first two films, Sarah Connor, back.

With a seriousness that reflects the original “Terminator” more than the sometimes fun “T2” (surprising since this outing is directed by “Deadpool’s” Tim Miller), “Terminator: Dark Fate” has echoes of “The Force Awakens” in its willingness to copy plot beat for plot beat from its founding film. There is an updated trio of target, hero, villain, and set pieces that look familiar but are slightly different (factories instead of nightclubs, detention centres instead of police stations). Some effort is made to update for the modern times, but if the big reveals were supposed to be surprising, they weren’t. Honestly, the most surprising reveal is that Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is now called Carl. And what a great Carl he is. We know his presence alone doesn’t make a great Terminator film, but we also know it would not be a great Terminator film without him.

The new additions of target (Natalia Reyes), hero (Mackenzie Davis) and villain (Gabriel Luna) all make a mark, particularly Mackenzie Davis as the volunteer hero from the future. It’s (still) rare that the characters with the most screen time are women, and you can tell care has been taken to explore their dynamic. These are women who approach problems differently but who all add value.

The problem with mixing the old with the new is that the emotional core gets diluted. Where “T2” had a boy, his mother and their robot saviour, here the connections between the characters aren’t so strong, and the final showdown suffers for it.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” will be an interesting test as to how much love is left for the Terminator franchise. James Cameron has showed he cares enough about its survival to contribute to the story for the first time since “T2”, but not enough to write or direct it. The result has shown there is still life in it, but also that the only versions that have really worked have followed the simple chase format. And there is a limit on how much that format can sustain a universe when that universe isn’t “Fast and the Furious”.

The end of this film allows for new territory, but they better get it right, as surely there isn’t enough credits in the bank for another four attempts at the next chapter.

Trailer : 21 Bridges

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