Director: Tim Miller
Writers: James Cameron (story by), Charles H. Eglee (story by)
Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta.
While the world may not have needed another Terminator movie, this one cuts to the chase, so to speak, reverting back to what made the first two films undisputed classics.
Gone is most of the convoluted plot baggage that muddied Terminator Salvation and Terminator Genisys. Those films aren’t without merit, but both seemed forget what really drove Terminators 1 & 2(and even the underappreciated Terminator 3) was the thrill of the chase. We were given a crash course in time travel – just enough to accept the premise without scrutinizing it too hard – before pummeling us into submission. I haven’t met many people who cared much about the franchise’s temporal logistics anyway.
Terminator: Dark Fate ignores the last three films altogether, which is ironic since it essentially cops the “Judgment Day is inevitable” assertion of Terminator 3. Only this time it isn’t Skynet sending terminators back in time to dispatch the Connors. Now it’s a computer network called Legion and the target is Dani (Natalia Reyes), a feisty young assembly line worker in Mexico. It’s never effectively explained how Legion evolves to threaten all humankind, nor does it really matter. Once the Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna) arrives in the present day, it’s up to mechanically-enhanced super-soldier Grace (Maclenzie Davis) to keep Dani alive for whatever purpose she serves in the future (revealed late in the film, though the viewer will have figured it out long before).
Of course, the big drawing card (or at-least it should have been) is the welcome return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Ever since preventing Judgment Day decades earlier, she’s been hunting terminators, though Grace has never heard of her, Skynet or John Connor (unceremoniously killed by a terminator in the very first scene). In fact, Sarah and Grace have an amusingly antagonistic relationship throughout most of the film. Still, she sees a lot of herself in Dani. Playing Sarah as a grizzled, cynical and bitter warrior, Hamilton is clearly having a lot of fun.
It just occurred to me I haven’t yet even mentioned Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s probably because he doesn’t show up for at-least an hour, his existence & motivations are sort-of contrived and – narratively speaking – he’s the least essential character in the film. But hey, it’s not a Terminator movie without Arnold, even if he’s often regulated to being comic relief.
Like the original Terminator, there are no concurrent timelines, no altering the future to save the world. It’s all about the simplicity of the chase, with exciting action sequences and large-scale destruction (though nothing as groundbreaking as T2), relenting just long enough for occasional story or character exposition. None of it ends up being really necessary, but it sure is a lot of fun.