Although the Terminator franchise has had is fair share of poor entries, Dark Fate is far from bad. The film follows the journey of Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) as Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and Grace (Mackenzie Davis) fight to protect her against an arrival from the future: REV-9.
Terminator: Dark Fate is largely set in Mexico, where the capable yet inoffensive Dani lives in Mexico City. The portrayal of Dani’s character mirrors the portrayal of a young Sarah Connor in the original film, The Terminator (1984), which proves to be a very on-the-nose exercise in foreshadowing. The first major character we meet is Grace, who it is quickly revealed is one of the films’ heroines. Soon after, we meet the REV-9, a terminator sent from the future. Both of these characters are introduced in the classic terminator style, i.e. falling out of the sky butt naked. Throughout the film, there are lots of nods back to The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day(1991). Despite Grace’s fighting power and skill, they soon find they can’t defend against the REV-9 for long by themselves, and so unwillingly recruit the help of Sarah Connor and the T-800.
Although the franchise is very much a science fiction adventure, Dark Fate was almost overwhelmingly an action film before anything else, and in an unrelenting, unapologetic way. It’s funny too, in some places, although mostly at the expense of the interpersonal relationship between Hamilton’s Connor and Schwarzenegger’s T-800.
As mentioned, Linda Hamilton reprised her role as Sarah Connor for Dark Fate, and she does a really good job at recapturing the character’s energy. Although she is fierce and powerful in Judgement Day, she maintains this characterisation whilst she seemingly has become hardened and tougher yet over the last three decades. I cannot think of a better actor for the role of Sarah Connor than Linda Hamilton, she portrays the idea of human resilience and resistance phenomenally.
Mackenzie Davis plays the role of Grace, who – without giving much away – is a force to be reckoned with. Although she plays the role well, she does look like a brooding supermodel for much of the film. Natalia Reyes’ portrayal of Dani is okay too. She comes across as an introductory character who is awaiting several long years of character development by way of AI vs humanity warfare.
Arnold Schwarzenegger also reprises his role as the T-800, serving as a sentinel in Dani’s small army. I think the reveal of T-800/Carl would have been much more intriguing if the clip of him opening the door to his cabin hadn’t been used 27,000 times across various trailers for the film. It reminded me of his role in Killing Gunther (2017) somewhat, where he is supposed to be a mystery but is, in reality, anything but having been plastered over any and all promotional material in the campaigning months before a film’s release.
The terminator in this entry, the REV-9, is played by Gabriel Luna. Watching the film, it seems like Luna had been watching Schwarzenegger’s performance as the fearsome T-800 in 1984, as a lot of his movements were similar – I especially noticed the ‘eyes’ on more than one occasion. The terminator has minimal lines, and instead surprises the audience by his various abilities. The terminator is portrayed as a new and improved machine just as the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) was an improvement of the T-800.
Something not lost on most audiences, is that the film’s three main protagonists are women. I hope that Tim Miller didn’t make this choice because women’s rights are “trendy” in pop culture right now, and instead will mark the beginning of a cinema where strong and powerful female protagonists are commonplace. Thinking back to The Expendables, which came out just shy of a decade ago in 2010, progress made within the action genre is mammoth.
As is the case with most time travelling tales, the timelines can become confusing – mainly due to the nature of temporal paradoxes. Dark Fate requires its audience to do a lot of dot connecting and be accepting of quite a lot of reaching.
I guess the main question audiences will ask is where will the franchise go next? I think the Terminator franchise is in a really good position after the release of Dark Fate, and as long as we ignore everything that came after Judgement Day, we could expect a few more entries. One direction I would like to see the franchise take is to explore the nature of artificial intelligence and humanity on a deeper, more emotional level. If you’ve seen the film already, you will probably know the scene I’m thinking of when I say this. I also think it would be really great for the franchise to explore the idea of inevitability – insert Thanos joke here.
I would recommend this film to action fans, sci-fi lovers, and of course, Terminator fans. Dark Fate is by no means the best film in the series, but it’s still very much worth watching. The film is visually a spectacle, the action and fighting is so overindulgent, excessive and sometimes cliché, you can’t help but love it.