Terminator: Dark Fate might not be the most impressive return to form but it's an entertaining enough action movie with some fun performances.
Director: Tim Miller
Summary: Sarah Connor and a hybrid cyborg human must protect a young girl from a newly modified liquid Terminator from the future.
It's been a bumpy road for the Terminator franchise. Since the second movie in 1991, it seems like all of the follow-ups have been desperately trying to return to form. None of it has even come close to working but in this day and age, a name brand is important. Now we have Terminator: Dark Fate which is looking to bring the franchise back to its R-rated roots. They brought back original cast members and declared everything after the second movie as non-canon. They basically did what the Halloween franchise did for them last year and it worked out pretty well there. Overall, for people who aren't invested in the franchise, this is a pretty good action movie that features some full performances.
The standout performance has to be the return of Linda Hamilton. Hamilton is the one people have been begging to come back since the credits rolled on Terminator 2: Judgment Day and now she's here to show up and kick some serious ass. Hamilton goes for broke with this role showcasing a woman who was screwed by the future and is incredibly bitter and broken about it. She knows what Dani (Natalia Reyes) is going through when a Terminator from the future shows up to kill her. Hamiton's Sarah Connor spends the entire movie realizing that she is watching history repeat itself despite her attempt to change it.
While Hamilton is clearly having a ball playing this version of Sarah it is Reyes as Dani and Mackenzie Davis as Grace who own every single scene they are in. Davis, in particular, is a talent, unlike anything we've seen in a long time. She towers over the rest of the cast but she is strong and capable in a way that is entirely believable. Grace is human, as she often reminds people, but she also looks like she could break every single person she meets in half. It's a powerhouse of a performance and Davis is trying having her "Furiosa moment" that Charlize Theron got to have with Mad Max: Fury Road. If Marvel or DC aren't calling her up and offering her a superhero role then there is no justice in this world. She is fantastic and without a doubt the best part of the entire movie.
Reyes is excellent as well and Dani's relationship with Grace is lovely to watch. We see how much Grace cares for her and as the movie goes on we start to understand where that urge to love and protect comes from. As for Arnold Schwarzenegger, this is probably the most interesting Terminator performance he's put forth in a long time. To get into details would be varying degrees of spoiling but where they go with this T-800 is very interesting. They are all facing off against Gabriel Luna as a new Terminator known as the Rev-9. Those of us who watch Agents of SHIELD already know that Luna has an intense stare but he hardly talks in this role and he is a ton of fun to watch on screen.
Director Tim Miller adapts some fun action scenes and Terminator: Dark Fate wastes almost no time with a pretty fantastic car chase right in the beginning. While things drag a little in the second act the movie goes completely bonkers by the third and ends on exactly the kind of note you would expect for a Terminator movie. However, unlike a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road, Terminator: Dark Fate plays around with some interesting ideas but doesn't really do anything with them. This is not a movie that has anything below the surface level and while that doesn't make it bad it does keep it from rising above the standards of R-rated action movies. It keeps the movie firmly in the "good" camp when if it had a bit more on its mind it could have been "great".
Terminator: Dark Fate isn't going to change anyone's life nor is it going to entirely wash the bad taste in the mouth for fans of the franchise. However, it works as an action movie and features some great performances that will hopefully launch some careers. It could be closing the door forever or maybe it's opening a new one; either way, this foundation isn't great but it is solid and there is room to grow should they greenlight another one.