I quite enjoyed Terminator. Terminator 2: Judgement Day is an excellent film that I can watch at any time. Sadly I can’t say the same for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I barely remember Terminator Salvation and never even gave a chance to Terminator Genisys aka the one with Khaleesi as Sarah Connor. And between all the travelling back and forward in time, changing the past and future, going onto Terminator: Dark Fate, I immediately wondered if I would keep up or be able to understand what the previous film’s have left for this sequel.
Fortunately I think director Tim Miller and the screenwriters also wanted to avoid this slog and instead decide to stick to the original storytelling of Judgement Day, with some changes. The biggest of all is bringing back Sarah Connor herself, Linda Hamilton, in a tough woman role that made her so memorable in the second film. With these two actions, Terminator: Dark Fate is off to a right start: rewriting the story and bringing back one of the most beloved characters.
Set in the present day, we meet an augmented soldier from the future, Grace (Mackenzie Davis, a far cry from her role in Black Mirror’s San Junipero), sent to Mexico City to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) as a new Terminator Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) comes to attack her. It’s very similar to the Sarah Connor story, which is why of course she turns up. Then naturally all roads lead them to the original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is now living in the woods in the USA, reeling from his old actions from this timeline.
What I find interesting is how this sequel revives the series without only servicing diehard fans. It’s engaging and feels back to form. Indeed whilst there are sequences and dialogue that seems copied from previous movies, the movie stands on its own, which is hard considering the series first debuted in 1984 with a much younger Schwarzenegger. Most of all the visual effects are superb. The first 20 minutes feels like a shortened version of Mad Max: Fury Road; relentless and frenetic. The choreography is insanely good and it’s a solid sequence and start to the film.
Sure there are lame moments of dialogue and some cop outs, but for the most part, the film succeeds. Davis is absolutely phenomenal in her role, a true vehicle for her acting ability. She embodies the roughness of a Terminator with a sincerity and human element that Schwarzenegger could never find the right balance of. Reyes is also very cool in her role, easily playing on the trope of the confused average person whose life is said to become incredibly important. And Luna is also very strong as the new Terminator, another star vehicle that will hopefully cement him in future roles. It’s also worth noting the strong Hispanic representation in the film, with both Reyes and Luna’s inclusions, as well as their own incredible talents and excellent writing from the scriptwriters.
Hamilton is a presence on screen, heightening anxiety when necessary and the fearless leader of the pack when necessary. There is the tension between her and Grace, then her and the Terminator, which she plays out carefully. There is also the changing of the guard, where she is now protecting Dani, who is now the Sarah Connor of the story: hunted for her future and in need of saving. The trio are a strong set of women who hold their own and the end nods to this as well. Sadly having the original Terminator come back in does undermine this attempt but ultimately it succeeds most of the time.
Kickass sequel with fierce female leads and plenty of action. A throwback to the original films, but modernized as well. Add it to the list of must watch action flicks this year.
It’s still just a Hollywood action flick. Sometimes the visual effects are a bit too overwhelming and dialogue can often be uninspired. A few lame jokes ruins the Sarah character, but could we expect more after 5 sequels?
Originally published on Back Row, 16 November, 2019.