Sent back from the future, a robotic assassin or “Terminator” has only one thing on his mind – the murder of Dani Ramos (as played by Natalia Reyes). However, standing in its way is another arrival from the future, a cybernetically-enhanced supersoldier called Grace (as played by Mackenzie Davis). With the fate of humanity hanging in the balance, can Grace save Dani or will she need help from somebody a little bit more experienced? Let’s see…
You will be surprised. You will be entertained and hopefully this time, you won’t need to “come back”. -Why? Because Terminator: Dark Fate is “mission accomplished”.
Since James Cameron’s 1984 genre-defining Sci-fi thriller Terminator launched both his career and that of unknown body-builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, there have been Terminator sequels aplenty. Arguably shading the first film, Cameron himself returned in 1991 with Terminator 2: Judgment Day but since then his franchise of murderous robots has seen several sequels disappointingly crash off the assembly line. So, with that in mind, the latest director to step into the Cyberdyne system is Deadpool‘s Tim Miller.
So, in attempting to both reconcile and rescue some of the damage done to the timeline, Tim Miller starts the movie off in similar fashion. Lightning crackles, naked assassins fall out of the future and appropriate nods are made as to how Arnie shops for clothes.
Ok. So far, so familiar.
Gabriel Luna plays an updated version of the liquid Terminator 2: Judgment Day but the real surprise in the package here is Bladerunner’s 2049‘s Mackenzie Davis. Surgically augmented with a similar exoskeleton to that of the Terminator, it’s not her just physique that has been altered but also her initial charm, which in itself, is a pleasing nod to the past.
You see, with far better effects and a fluid sense of direction Terminator: Dark Fate is so much better than its tiresome trailer would have you believe. Despite its shock piece of casting, which its trailer has turned into no shock at all, this is still a film that’ll appeal to those around when Arnie first “came back”. As already teased in this review, this has a lot to do with Mackenzie Davis. With it having been recently announced that that other “Miller” (as in George) won’t be asking Charlize Theron back as Furiosa in the next Mad Max pic, he could do a lot worse than get Mackenzie Davis in the title role. Sly and yet able to do deadpan without it sounding hollow, both she and Tim Miller vault over any unnecessary fan service once the requisite Terminator set up has been served. Taunt, tight and with increasingly crisp dialogue, Terminator: Dark Fate becomes the first sequel that actually addresses the characters of the first two movies. So much so, that when James Cameron’s script (yes, this one’s written by him) gets round to laying down its final pice of surprise casting, it neither feels forced or trite, but a considered response to one of the franchise’s best-loved characters.
So, does Terminator: Dark Fate eclipse or equal the memory of Terminator 2: Judgment Day? No, but in a way to even ask the question, is to miss the point of the franchise. Yes, there have been some shockingly bad Terminator movies, but in terms of franchise’s rigidity, there’s only so far you could ever go. To continually save the world from future destruction, somebody will always have to come back through time but this is where Cameron has succeeded and MacG et al failed, by focussing on those affected by the story than instead of what’s new in Hollywood’s box of tricks.
Let me be clear, whilst I never believed that the time-travelling Terminator premise ever really had legs enough to stand up to repeated sequels, Cameron and Miller have done a surprisingly decent job this time. You will be surprised. You will be entertained and hopefully this time, you won’t need to “come back”.
Why? Because Terminator: Dark Fate is “mission accomplished”.