Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes
Director: Tim Miller
Running Time: 128 mins
Terminator: Dark Fate is an American film and the sixth in the Terminator franchise. In the present day, after Sarah Connor saved the future from the rise of Skynet, a new enemy arises from a new future timeline, threatening the life of a young woman, but a new team rallies around to protect her and humanity’s future.
If ever there were a movie franchise that fell titanically from grace, then it’s the Terminator series. From the legendary heights of the first two movies: The Terminator and Judgment Day, it went through a painfully messy couple of sequels before landing in despair with the pathetic attempt at a franchise reboot that was Terminator Genisys.
At that point, I had completely written off the future of this franchise, and if you’d said to me even this morning that there would one day be another good Terminator movie, I wouldn’t have believed you.
And yet, that’s exactly what Terminator: Dark Fate is. A thoroughly entertaining, intelligent, action-packed and most importantly coherent sci-fi thriller that, despite taking a lot of cues from the premise of the first two films, had me entirely gripped from beginning to end, and finally showed that this once-dead franchise has the potential to impress once again.
I won’t say that Dark Fate is a masterful piece of work, and it’s never on the same levels of charisma and excitement of the franchise’s first two instalments, but given that my expectations for this sixth entry in the series were below rock bottom, I can’t deny how pleasantly surprised by this movie I was.
For fans of the action-packed, blockbuster excitement provided by Judgment Day back in 1990, Dark Fate has heaps of the same stuff, all the while featuring good directing, impressive CGI and pitch-perfect pacing that never overwhelms the story at the centre of the movie. As a result, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable watch, and a film worthy of The Terminator’s blockbuster credentials, but it’s never the garish, boisterous mess that the previous three films were.
And that’s what I really appreciated most about Dark Fate – it has a story. While Rise Of The Machines was just a bit of a misfire, Salvation was a mess of ugly CGI, and Genisys was an idiotically convoluted attempt at rewriting the franchise history, Dark Fate takes a step back with a simpler, more familiar story, but doubles down and makes sure that it both makes sense and hits home on an emotional level.
So, while there’s great action early on and towards the end, what really impressed me was just how patient and quiet the film is at times, particularly in its enthralling middle portion that – without much action or franchise callbacks at all – makes for brilliant drama and entirely engaging storytelling.
As a result, although it may seem a little unlikely at first, there’s never a dull moment with Terminator: Dark Fate, and for the first time in the franchise since Judgment Day, the emotional drama actually impresses more than the action and sci-fi, which was a delightful surprise.
The one point where Dark Fate does admittedly fall down, however, is when it comes to telling an original story. As entertaining as the movie is, it’s difficult to overlook the fact that it’s more or less a retreading of the plots from both The Terminator and Judgment Day.
In that, it’s comparable to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was also very derivative of the franchise original, but is still a great film. Now, while Dark Fate doesn’t quite have the cinematic majesty of The Force Awakens, the similarities are clear, as the story follows a new team of heroes meeting with the protagonists from the original movies, encountering similar enemies and challenges, and ultimately participating in what can only be described as a handing-over of the reigns to the franchise.
So, if you’ve seen the first two Terminator movies, then this will feel extremely familiar. However, compared to the previous disasters in the franchise, playing things a little safer and making sure that it’s a good movie is a far better strategy, and while this didn’t quite provide the thrilling ingenuity and excitement that I may want to see, I’m still delighted at how surprisingly enjoyable and often heartfelt a film Terminator: Dark Fate is, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.6 overall.