The “Terminator” series, now 35 years old, returns to its roots with “Dark Fate”. You may recall that Arnold Schwarzenegger did come BACK in 2015’s disappointing “Genisys”. However, Paramount basically wants to make you forget that film ever existed. And the studio succeeds, by delivering a “Terminator” true to its core. Bringing both Arnold AND Linda Hamilton back are proof of that.
The “Dark Fate” story is a familiar one: A terminator is sent back from the future to kill a young human (this time a Mexican girl) who, if allowed to grow-up, will lead the resistance to victory over the robots. A technologically-enhanced human protector is also sent back. Her job is to try to keep the girl alive. But the stakes this time are even higher, as the evil robot is far more advanced than in the past. The Skynet days are over. Legion has taken over — and if not stopped humans will be no more.
Mackenzie Davis (from last year’s “Tully”) plays Grace, the cyborg protector. Hamilton reprises her iconic role as Sarah Connor. Ever since son John was killed, her only purpose in life is tracking and destroying terminators. So she joins the good guys. Colombian TV star Natalia Reyes plays Dani. She’ll save the human race, if she can live long enough to do it.
But “Rev-9” is a formidable foe — relentlessly and merciless. He can do all the form-changing, body-snatching tricks we’ve seen before — and more. Needing all the help they can get, the trio of ladies enlist the help of ol’ T-800. The Schwarzenegger character has been living the normal life of a human, but he still has his terminator skills. Arnold has a much larger presence in “Dark Fate” than you might expect. He’s in most of the movie’s second half and has some key moments with Hamilton that longtime fans of the franchise will eat-up. Similar to Jamie Lee Curtis’s performance in last year’s “Halloween” reboot, Hamilton is able to add newfound depth and reflection to Connor.
Director Tim Miller (of the first “Deadpool”) includes several showcase action sequences. The finale is a bit extreme, but all the scenes are well choreographed. The biggest flaw with “Dark Fate” is its simplistic premise — with a solo bad guy. The structure is intentional, connecting to the original installments. But in an age of epic action/adventures, with so much happening, this “Terminator” lacks the confidence to go deeper. Even the R-rated violence is a bit tame compared to most contemporary sci-fi thrillers.
Still, “Dark Fate” is much better than expected, successfully bringing this franchise back from the dead.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Terminator: Dark Fate” gets a B-.
Running Time: 128 min.