Review by C.J. Bunce
A new cyborg, old heroes, a new fate, and another revised timeline. It must be a new Terminator movie. If you’re in the mood for science fiction nostalgia with a new twist this month, Terminator: Dark Fate is still in theaters and it’s one of those films meant for a big screen. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s also coming to all home video and streaming formats next month and is now available for pre-order here at Amazon. Featuring the return of two of science fiction’s greatest movie icons, Arnold Schwarzenegger′s original cyborg Terminator and the woman who would save 3 billion lives, Linda Hamilton′s Sarah Connor, Terminator: Dark Fate is a worthy addition to one of sci-fi’s biggest and best franchises up there with Doctor Who, Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, Alien, Star Trek, and Predator.
It turns out skipping over the third (Terminator: Rise of the Machines), fourth (Terminator: Salvation), and fifth (Terminator: Genisys) movies didn’t really matter all that much. Skynet kept sending Terminators back in time, and when a new hero sees another new hero in the future, you get the feeling the timeline has been visited and revisited many more times. In many ways it’s ideal for a series–you’ll never really arrive at an ending. When the timeline is revised again in a spectacular opening that de-ages Schwarzenegger and Hamilton (the best de-aging CGI on film this year), you just jump on and enjoy the ride. We meet a new time traveler named Grace, played by Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis, a tough, tall-statured cybernetic human who returns to the present to save a young Mexican woman named Dani (played by Natalia Reyes), who has a potentially important future. Dani is pursued by yet another updated Terminator, an REV-9 model played by Gabriel Luna (Ghost Rider in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), who can split into two and reabsorb himself Robert Patrick/T2-style to and from a metalized slime state.
What makes a great entry in a Terminator movie, or for that matter, any movie? That right combination of humor and action. For me in these films it’s how they use Schwarzenegger′s strengths as an actor. So the weakest film was where he was absent from acting (governing California)–during Terminator: Salvation–which was also the film with no humor, darker than the others, entirely set in the grim post-apocalypse future. I prefer Arnold as the Terminator, since no matter who is writing for him he delivers the best lines–writers always seem to know exactly how to get the best from him. So long as Arnold is around, we’ll have a Terminator franchise, and after that, who cares about the series anymore? Deadpool director Tim Miller combining with producer James Cameron to bring these actors and characters back together in Terminator: Dark Fate was always going to be a great idea.
Along with Arnold, who has extremely funny lines again and steps right back into that character that made AFI’s list of best heroes and best villains (the only one), audiences have the opportunity to marvel at Linda Hamilton′s transition as Sarah Connor over the course of the series. Who would look at the first movie and foresee all she could do? She’s very much like Jamie Lee Curtis’s latest turn as Laurie Strode in the Halloween series–no longer that young woman from the first chapter, or the mature woman from the next, she’s a tough fighter of the mouthy grandmother variety. Both the actor and character make a good show of maintaining that edge they had when we last saw them 28 years ago, taking (and receiving) one crack after another at a cyborg that just won’t give up, dodging threats, and being flung to pieces inside a crashing cargo plane.
While you can debate whether Terminator: Dark Fate was better or worse than the last entry, Terminator: Genisys, which starred Arnold with Game of Thrones and Solo’s Emilia Clarke as a young Sarah Connor, what matters to audiences is both are fun additions to the story. Terminator: Genisys was much more fun, with Arnold as old borg Pops, while Terminator: Dark Fate has more of the look and feel of the original, with Arnold as old borg Carl as a welcome treat. You’re always going to run into problems when your movie has a long list of writers–as happens with the new film–but Terminator: Dark Fate keeps you interested regardless.
It’s for people who love everything borg. If you’re looking for a holiday sci-fi bonanza that’s all for fun, don’t miss Terminator: Dark Fate, still in theaters, and arriving on home formats in January, available for pre-order now here at Amazon.