Before going to see “Terminator: Dark Fate,” I rewatched the first two films, which are arguably two of the greatest movies of all time. “The Terminator” is a sleek and tense, sci-fi version of classic monster movies with a genuinely terrifying threat in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800. “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” is one of the best sequels ever made, as it expands on the original movie in smart and believable ways. It also has fantastic action and some tears shed along the way. My favorite part of “Terminator 2” is how it definitively ends with very little opening for a sequel. However, the way Hollywood and money works, three more sequels were released, all of which were labeled as the true sequel to “Terminator 2.” Not a single one of these movies featured the character of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and all of which were received poorly by critics. So, when “Dark Fate” was announced with “Deadpool” director Tim Miller at the helm, legendary director James Cameron writing and producing, as well as Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising their roles, I was stoked! While “Terminator: Dark Fate” is my favorite “Terminator” sequel, it still is an underwhelming and storytelling disaster of a movie.
As with most movies I have seen lately, my positives lie in the main cast. It is a sight for sore eyes to see Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor. Her transformation into a battle-hardened, Terminator-killing badass in “Terminator 2” carries over perfectly to this film. Her motivations are always the most well understood throughout because of the past she’s had and through what they set up for her in this movie’s prologue. Mackenzie Davis plays a new form of enhanced human being and is great as usual. This role demanded a lot of physicality and she absolutely delivers. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays heavily against what a terminator has been set up to be by previous movies, but there is no denying he does a great job and provides a lot of much-needed humor to this otherwise dull product. Director Tim Miller also did a fine job with the action sequences that keep the movie moving at a brisk pace. I expected to be rather bored by this movie, but luckily Miller infuses a sense of urgency through the action sequences that keep the scenes moving.
I guess, as a mindless action movie, “Terminator: Dark Fate” gets the job done. However, this is a sequel to two of the best movies ever made, so mindless action movie really doesn’t cut it. My biggest issue with the movie is its god awful script. At times, it felt as if I was watching a “Terminator 2” fan film with the exact same plot but different characters. I really wish they had strayed away from the usual “Terminator” formula that just entails a powerful robot trying to kill a human. When you see the same story beats hit through three different movies of the same franchise, it comes off as lazy and disrespectful to what has come before. “Terminator 2” followed a very similar story structure to the first film, but added enough extra heart and action to improve upon its predecessor. “Dark Fate” feels like a factory turned-out product with very little love for the original source material. Like I mentioned earlier, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 character is so far opposite what a terminator is or how he would react to a certain situation. This situation I am referring to, without spoilers, is one of the most disrespectful and insulting aspects of a franchise movie that I have ever seen. It happens so early on in the film that I considered leaving the cinema after it happened. This moment is a bad choice to make, especially because it retroactively makes “Terminator 2” worse on re-viewing.
On top of the story being a muddled mess, Miller’s use of color and CGI hasn’t improved from “Deadpool” in the slightest. All of the shots are grey and bland, filled with rubber-looking visual effects that look beyond worse than the original movies. I can’t recommend this movie to anyone. Sure, it is competently made with some solid action and great returning performances, but when “Zombieland 2,” the epitome of mindless action-comedy is in theaters now as well, it’s hard to recommend the 128-minute visual effects fest. I also can’t recommend it to “Terminator” fans because the scenes at the beginning are going to bother you throughout the film. It really is such a disappointment that they haven’t made a good “Terminator” movie in 28 years. Hopefully, this will be the nail in the coffin for this once great franchise.