When I was three or four years old, my sister and brother would babysit me while my parents were out working or grocery shopping or doing whatever grown ups did. As a grown up now, it was probably probably going out to play Pokémon Go or something. The early 90s did not have the luxury of smartphones or tablets (I sound so old) and the only way to keep me from running around everywhere was to put on a movie. The two movies I would ask to watch were ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’. That’s right. My entire family thought it was okay for a 4 year old to watch an R rated movie about a cybernetic killer coming back through time to murder a child. I think I turned out okay.
To say I’ve been a fan of the Terminator franchise for a while now is an understatement. To this day Terminator 2 goes back and forth between being my first and second favorite movie of all time. Their sequels, while I enjoy them to an extent, are nowhere near that high. I remember the hype to the release of Terminator 3, knowing that my favorite movie was getting a sequel and that I would actually be able to watch it in a theatre. I’m assuming that’s how most people who loved the Star Wars series felt when Phantom Menace released, they would get to see what they loved on the big screen for the first time if they missed the originals in the cinema. Unlike Star Wars fans, while I realized Terminator 3 was not the masterpiece T2 was I was still able to enjoy what it brought. We learned that Judgement Day is inevitable no matter how you slice it. The way that film ends with Judgment Day starting is actually a really cool ending, and I was excited for what was to come. Terminator Salvation was not a great film. However the idea of finally showing us the war against the machines was a nice change of pace from the usual go back in time and protect someone plot. We were going to see what John Connor had been prepared for his whole life to do. And while it felt short I at least appreciate that Salvation did something different. I’m not even going to touch Genisys.
Now we have Terminator Dark Fate. Which ignores T3 through Genisys and is the true third entry in the Terminator Saga. We have returning actors Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800. We have new faces like Mackenzie Davis as Grace, Natalia Reyes as Daniella ‘Dani’ Ramos and Gabriel Luna as REV-9 the new Terminator. Everyone here I thought did a great job. Linda Hamilton turned right back into this character as if she played her yesterday. It was really great to see Sarah Connor in a new film after we had teases of her sprinkled in the previous films. Mackenzie Davis, who I’ve only previously seen in ‘The Martian’, was very good. I honestly did not know what to think of her when the first image dropped. Seeing Sarah was great but I didn’t really think much of her. After the film however I can say she does a really good job at being a badass and one of the things I enjoyed about the film. Only knowing Gabriel Luna as Ghost Rider from ‘Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D’ I had an idea of what to expect, and I would say he delivered. While not overly intimidating I would at the least be nervous if I saw this guy walking in a dark alley. Then we have Natalia Reyes as Dani. She plays her like Linda Hamilton played Sarah Connor in the original Terminator. You can see throughout the film she is being trained to become what Sarah is now. Not knowing anything about Natalia, I think she did very well. I like how she wasn’t the damsel the entire film and by the end she does take a stand. And what can be said that hasn’t about Arnold Schwarzenegger at this point. He still plays the character well after all these years. He had some pretty funny lines in the movie as well, which he has become this joke-like character ever since T3. That’s a separate discussion however.
I’ll save spoilers in this review for now, but at the very end I’ll save a little spot. The plot of the film revolves around Mackenzie Davis’ character Grace being sent back through time to protect Dani from the REV-9 Terminator. When they meetup with Sarah Connor she decides to help them after discovering Dani is the new target as she knows how it feels to be that person. The plot of the film is its most disappointing aspect. Director Time Miller and returning Creator and Producer James Cameron, had a really cool chance to not only bring the series back to its roots, but to also do something new. However what we get is recycled plot lines from previous films, which this film supposedly ignores, and then when it sounds like something new is about to happen, they fall back on the same premise all over again. Let’s be clear here. There are six Terminator movies. Out of the six, five of them have the same plot of Terminator is sent back in time to kill, a protector is sent back to stop it. Once was cool, twice was great because it was a twist, third is ok I guess, fourth is alright a little different but ultimately the same and five is just can you please come up with a different story. A better approach I feel would have been taking a sort of ‘Sarah Connor Chronicles’ twist to the story where they go into the future and face Skynet there. The series has a very interesting lore and I feel like exploring other avenues of it would have benefited it greatly. Think of a RogueOne story of a group of resistance fighters that go in and infiltrate Skynet and find the one room it lives in and blows it up. Then at the end we see John Connor lead the final battle with Sarah beside him. The film was touted to be a soft reboot (again) however it ended up being the same thing over.
Now I can talk about what I liked about the film. The action is a lot of fun and is where the movie shines. The chase sequences, the fight choreography are all very well done and shot. Tim Miller can shoot very well and I can see he learned a lot with the work he accomplished in Deadpool. As I mentioned earlier Mackenzie Davis was a badass and she goes all in on her fight scenes. When Linda Hamilton comes on screen for the first time which we see in the trailer it’s just fantastic with the Terminator theme playing as she rips into the REV-9. Which brings me to my next point. The music in the first two movies fit so well and have this metallic sound to it, and synths that the others simply didn’t have. Outside of the main theme used in the other films I just didn’t really notice the soundtrack. Dark Fate brings back the music and incorporates that metallic sound back in which makes it stand out and feel like a part of the film rather than just thrown in on top of it. I even listed to the soundtrack after leaving the theatre which I only do if I really notice it. As for the look of the film, it’s very brown. As in there’s not much color in it at all, which I guess for a movie about killer robots from the future is valid. There are a good amount of homages to previous Terminator films and shots taken directly from them as well. As a whole the film looks fine but nothing truly stands out about it. The effects look great as well. There are some that I thought were amazing and I’ll talk about those at the end in the spoilers. The only other complaint I had was the scenes that tal place at night are way too dark. I get the movie is called Dark Fate, but someone took it a little too far.
Overall, as many other people have said this is easily the best Terminator film after the original two. But when the other films weren’t that great to begin with, the bar was set super low. I had fun with this movie. It’s not a bad movie by any means, and it’s very well paced and shot competently￼. What brings it down is the shadow of the original two films looming over it. Those two films are considered to be some of the best cinema has to offer and when something is put that high on a pedestal anything even slightly off from it is going to fail to reach the same status. I didn’t go into this movie thinking it was going to be anywhere close to the originals. I went in thinking how fantastic it would be to see these characters on screen together again and see what new adventures they go on. They went on the same adventure, but at least it was a fun adventure. As a fan of the series I hope it does get at least one more entry to try again, third time reboot is the charm right? The way the film ends it could go in a different direction finally. At the same time however, maybe we should all admit the story ended with the original two and keep it at that.
I’m going to give ‘Terminator Dark Fate’ a 3 Fresh Geeks out of 5.
SPOILERS BELOW DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU WANT TO BE SPOILED YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
So yes. I’m going to talk about John Connor’s death. This has been an ongoing issue since the film was released. Firstly, as I mentioned above, I need to give credit to the de-aging CGI. It looked so good that I was a bit taken back and for a split second thought they were using unused footage from Terminator 2. Secondly. While I understand why they killed John, the thing that gets to me is that it completely negates the reasoning behind the first two films. If this is truly meant to be the third entry, and you watch the original films and go directly into this, those films automatically do not matter. The reason for those films was to protect the leader of the resistance so humanity could live and within the first 30 seconds of this film he gets wiped out. At first I was okay with this. I actually thought it was a new direction they were moving in. But as I mentioned earlier it just falls back to the same plot of now there is a new person to protect. In a way it does make sense. In order to do something new they had to get rid of the John Connor shadow over the entire franchise, but it could have been handled in a much different matter. I’m not saying I’m entirely upset, because honestly after thinking about it I’m okay with the choice to do it, I’m just not happy with the execution (pun intended) of it.
The other problem was the way the T-800 Terminator is handled. Honestly, it makes sense in my mind. Once a machine completes its objective it no longer has a mission and it can do whatever it wants. It’s established in an earlier film that Skynet doesn’t want it to do much thinking and the chip is set to read only. However, it’s not too far off to think that if Skynet is no longer there to monitor the machine that it could eventually override itself and start to self learn. It’s weird that a person would never figure out he’s a machine, that’s a stretch but there’s not much to say here. I thought I’d just write something about it. Again, didn’t bother me too much.