TERMINATOR: DARK FATE ½
2019, R, 128 mins.
Natalia Reyes as Daniela "Dani" Ramos / Mackenzie Davis as Grace / Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor / Arnold Schwarzenegger as Carl / The Terminator / Diego Boneta as Diego Ramos / Gabriel Luna as Rev-9
Directed by Tim Miller / Written by David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray
been awfully kind to the TERMINATOR sequels over the years.
To be sure, nothing in this already improbably long franchise has
topped the higher echelons of James Cameron's original 1984 introductory
chapter (which launched Arnold Schwarzenegger into pop culture action hero
icon status) or his 1991 sequel in T2: JUDGMENT DAY (still one of the
greatest action films ever made, not to mention one of the best pure
sequels in existence).
The unavoidable TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES from 2003 (the
first of many Cameron-less enterprises) was solid, but inessential, which
in turn was followed up by the genuinely intriguing, all future war set TERMINATOR:
SALVATION in 2009. The latest entry in 2015's TERMINATOR:
GENISYS (which marked Au-nald's return to the series after being
AWOL in SALVATION), was messy, but had some fun with cleverly re-imagining
the established time travel arc of whole saga.
I would concede, though, that at the end of GENISYS - which certainly was
attempting to jump start another trilogy of films - that my overall
interest in Cameron's once great sci-fi series was seriously starting to
wane (the lackluster box office tallies of the last film is proof positive
that many others didn't much care for future sequels to come either).
This brings us to TERMINATOR: DARK FATE, the sixth (!) film
and fifth (!) sequel in this man versus machine opus, which tries -
like the recent HALLOWEEN sequel
did - to ignore a majority of its own series' mythology (in its case,
everything post T2) and instead serves as a direct follow-up to the events
of the '91 film while also softly rebooting franchise.
TERMINATOR DARK: FATE is most certainly a consummately well crafted
film on a level of strong and slick production values and glossy visual
effects, but it's also a mostly unnecessary rebootquel that had very
little lingering staying power with me, nor did it make me hungry for more
entries to come.
That, and it also contains some potentially polarizing
augmentations to the core mythology (more on that in a bit) that may upset
should be noted that James Cameron himself has - as heavily publicized -
returned to the creative helm in the franchise that he kick-started,
albeit in a less hands-on producer role (he also shares story credit with
more writers than I have fingers on one hand to count).
What's disappointing about Cameron's involvement here is that he
and his director in Tim Miller (DEADPOOL)
have opted for wash, rinse, and repeat storytelling beats here, lazily
recycling the same tired and overused narrative bits of far too many
We once again have a dangerously unstoppable killer cyborg
sent by A.I. in the post apocalyptic future to the present via time
We once again have this cyborg hunting down a person to kill
them that will become a major, war tide changing leader in the future
against the machines.
We once again have a human commando sent back from the
future to the present to protect said future messiah from said killer
Yes, we get new heroes, new villains, not to mention some familiar
old faces returning to the fold, but so very little in TERMINATOR: DARK
FATE strays away from stale and repetitive series conventions.
the very least, we get some geographical changes this go around, and the
film introduces us to its main protagonist early on in the Mexico City
residing Dani (Natalia Reyes), a seemingly ordinary women trying to make a
life for herself as an auto factory worker with her brother and father.
Her mostly mundane life is changed forever with the sudden
appearance of a shape shifting robot from the future, the Rev-9 (Gabriel
Luna, channeling his inner Robert Patrick), that seems unwavering in its
obsessive desire to kill her.
Fate (sorry for that) steps in with the appearance of a solider
from the same future, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a literal bionic woman of a
freedom fighter that's been tasked to protect Dani.
When both realize that they're hopelessly in over their heads
against their deadly pursuer, they rather conveniently team up with Sarah
Connor herself (Linda Hamilton, making a series return after a near three
decade absence), who has grown old, bitter, and hateful towards all
artificial beings being thrown in her way.
But when the reluctant teaming of these three women discover that
they will need further assistance to finally defeat this mechanical
monster, they all rather conveniently seek out a long term
in-hiding T-800 (Schwarzenegger) that has a very problematic past with
couple of good things easily stand out in TERMINATOR: DARK FATE, like, for
starters, that Miller does an exceedingly good job marrying state of the
art VFX with some pretty propulsive action sequences, which the film
The very first fight sequence pitting the Rev-9 (which sounds like
a high end cosmetic line) physically battling it out against the
"enhanced" human in Grace has a blunt force trauma impact that
previous wimpy PG-13 TERMINATOR sequels have sorely lacked. Then
there's also a fairly exhilarating highway chase sequence showcasing the
Rev-9's unique skill set.
With its black morphing gooey metal (which looks like Venom meets
T2's T-1000) that covers a more traditional metal endoskeleton, the Rev-9
matches the might of all previous Terminator models and even bests them in
one respect: it can split into two Terminators.
Miller shows some ambition with the action as well, such a big
finale that aboard a cargo military plane that frequently renders the
combatants struggle through zero gravity (when the plane freefalls) to get
their licks in.
There's a great sensation of scale and polish to TERMINATOR: DARK
FATE, and Miller seems mostly equal to the task of being a pretty good
ringmaster of metal on metal on human mayhem here.
of the new characters are inherently fascinating as well, like Davis'
modified soldier that has incredible strength and dexterity, but
constantly has to feed herself a cocktail of drugs to keep her whole
nervous system from shutting down (Davis is also a rare actress to have
appeared now in both a TERMINATOR and BLADE
RUNNER sequel, which should help her attain sci-fi royalty status).
I also liked the fresh faced and winning Reyes as the new John
Connor, so to speak, that really has no idea just how crucial she's poised
to become in a future that hasn't happened yet.
And, yup, it's pretty damn wonderful to see a mainstream Hollywood
sci-fi action film with three empowered female leads, which is something
that's not entirely commonplace in a genre that's usually on sausage fest
It's also mostly certainly a hoot to see and gray haired, grizzled,
and extremely pissed off Hamilton return to her most famous screen
character once again, and the nostalgic factor is insanely high when we
see this formidable grandmotherly warrior make her first appearance with
machine gun and bazooka in hand.
Her motives are simple: "I hunt Terminators and I drink until
I black out." Hmmmmm...in that order?
of nostalgia, how incredible is it to see the senior citizen aged Hamilton
and Schwarzenegger share the silver screen together again for the first
time since their glory days of T2?
Contrary to vast publicity and marketing, Schwarzenegger doesn't
have all that much screentime in TERMINATOR: DARK FATE, appearing near the
early stages of the second half and serving as some much needed comic
relief (the actor is as much of a deadpan delight here as he's ever been
in the series).
His character this go around is built around some potentially juicy
ideas about how Terminators - when stripped of relevance and mission
parameters - try to acclimate to some semblance of normalcy in the human dominating
world of the present (or, in its case, past), but the screenplay here - in
terms of expositional particulars - is frankly laughable and ludicrous in
equal dosages in terms of explaining this machine's embracing of everyday
This might be the only TERMINATOR film in history that has Arnold's
T-800 have discussions about attractive window treatments and changing
dirty baby diapers.
Maybe that's ultimately telling.
one really starts to scrutinize TERMINATOR: DARK FATE there's a very easy
argument to be made that Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are only in this film
together for easy fan servicing purposes, and to get some much needed
butts in cinema seats.
Strip them away from this entry and DARK FATE could have
effectively been a total reboot of the TERMINATOR franchise.
Obviously, marketing a TERMINATOR film without Arnold's mug all
over posters would have been challenging, but not impossible (SALVATION
did okay without him, IMHO), and it's certainly an entertaining treat to
see him and Hamilton together again, but the script doesn't serve either
of them particularly well, especially Hamilton, who's not given much of a
developed arc at all.
Her back story is explicitly tied to a flashback sequence that
opens the first few minutes of the film, which will probably go down as
one of the most deeply polarizing opening scenes in recent sequel - or
maybe franchise - history.
Without engaging in wanton spoilers, the events of this scene
certainly seems like one big casual middle finger wag the entire story,
themes, and developed mythology of the first two TERMINATOR films, which
made me certainly shake my own head in disbelief.
It appears engineered for pure shock value...and pointlessly for
not much else.
TERMINATOR: DARK FATE pulls an ALIEN 3, and to mostly groan
on social media and critical circles have been labelling TERMINATOR: DARK
FATE as the third best TERMINATOR film ever.
That doesn't seem like a ringing and triumphant endorsement of
It's funny and ironic how Cameron, Miller, and company have so
desperately tried to return this saga back to its old glory days, but in
the process have inadvertently alienated series fans in the way its first
five minutes completely disregards everything that the first two films...well...built
to...as well as retconning any emotional bond we had to the characters
and events of the '84 and 91 originals.
It's a conceptual choice more paradoxical than the time travel
logic in this universe.
TERMINATOR: DARK FATE is a strangely contradictory affair: It lethargically
rehashes so many plot, action, and mythology arcs from its far better
predecessors while simultaneously pushing die hard fans away at an arm's
length with its peculiar and alienating creative choices.