Despite technically being the sixth film in the franchise, Terminator Dark Fate retcons Terminator 3, Salvation and Genisys and takes its place as the third film chronologically. This is the first of many smart moves the team behind Terminator Dark Fate have made. While Terminator 3 may have had its charms, it was little more than a rehash of T2 and the less said about Salvation and Genisys, the better.
Another, very, smart move is bringing back Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. For reasons I won’t detail to prevent spoiling anything, Sarah has returned to her nomadic life on the road. Avoiding authority and tracking Terminators.
While Judgement Day has been prevented, she can’t stop fighting. It’s all she knows and without it, she would be lost. However, this isn’t Sarah’s show. She’s a bit-player in a larger story. One starring Dani and Grace.
Terminator Dark Fate Review
Dani lives in Mexico City with her father and brother and she works in a factory building cars. Her brother loses his job due to automation (a pretty clumsy allusion to the film’s themes) before the Rev-9 Terminator tracks her down.
Like the first Terminator film, it’s not a Terminator sent to protect Dani, but a human instead. Albeit a cybernetically modified superhuman, played by Mackenzie Davis.
Grace is singularly focused on her mission to keep Dani alive and has personal reasons for doing so. Following an attack by the Rev-9 on a freeway, Sarah Connor arrives and saves Grace and Dani. The trio reluctantly agrees to travel together with Sarah telling Grace that she’s helping because Dani is the new “Sarah.”
They believe the machines are hunting Dani to prevent her from giving birth to the new hero of the human resistance. It’s a retread of previous Terminator plots, but there are enough new ideas and plot threads to make it stand apart.
It’s interesting to note that in Dark Fate, the story is anchored by the three female leads. Male characters are relegated to the background either as villains or supporting characters. It’s really great to see females dominate Terminator, however, it’s rare for this film to pass the Bechdel Test.
When there are multiple women on screen at a time, it’s rare for them to not be talking about a man. That being said, these women have their own drives and their own personalities. They’re not merely plot points nor are they there to service the story of a man.
It’d be nice if they could stop talking about John Connor for five minutes though.
On the road
A long section of Terminator Dark Fate is dedicated to showing Grace, Sarah and Dani as real people and establishing their motivations. It’s quite a long time before any major male characters, aside from the Rev-9 make any impact.
Eventually, Terminator Dark Fate delivers Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 in the form of Carl. Carl has lived as a human for many years and even has his own family and adopted son.
Carl’s life contrasts sharply with that of Sarah. He, an unfeeling, inhuman machine has found purpose and even love. While Sarah has arguably lost almost everything that makes her human. It’s a clever bit of writing that makes you look at these characters differently than you might have initially.
The trio’s reasons for seeking out Carl are best left to unfold during the movie, but once they find him, he agrees to help them defeat the Rev-9 and prevent Dani’s death. From here, Terminator Dark Fate puts its foot to the floor and delivers some incredible and thrilling action set pieces for the remainder of the duration.
No Fate But What We Make
Directed by Tim Miller — Deadpool — Dark Fate looks brilliant. The harsh, hot desert of Mexico and southern USA evoke the broken future in which machines rule. The film gradually shifts its colour pallette and locations as it reaches its crescendo, opting for blues and darker colours instead of the duty browns and oranges of the beginning.
This transition follows the characters as they each change and are changed by this journey. Both Dani and Sarah experience the most and go through the most in Dark Fate and it’s clear that they’re moving in opposite directions.
The three female leads are all excellent and deliver wonderful performances but it’s Mackenzie Davis and Linda Hamilton who own this movie. They are powerful presences on screen and give audiences a way to connect with the wilder, more sci-fi elements of the story.
It’s been a long time since a really great Terminator film, but Dark Fate has filled the void. It may not reach the lofty heights of T2 but it’s certainly worthy of standing alongside.
Leo Stevenson attended a screening of Terminator Dark Fate as a guest of Fox.
Movie title: Terminator Dark Fate