Terminator: Dark Fate Chooses its Own Destiny

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The Good
Hamilton and Arnie are an awesome pair still
Mackenzie Davis should be the future of this franchise
Damn, that Rev-9 is the coolest shit I've seen in these movies
The Bad
The new characters are a little hard to care for--the myth is what matters
Clumsy dialogue doesn't really help the new characters
Another sequel would walking on thin ice

The trend of selectively rebooting film franchises has been rather rampant. But perhaps no other franchise has abused that option as much as Terminator has. After all, Terminator: Dark Fate would be the fourth attempt at a sequel for the franchise.

For those who may need a little bit of a catch up, the status of the story as we last left off in Terminator 2: Judgement Day (T2), had Sarah and John Connor working with a reprogrammed T-800 (courtesy of a future John Connor) to battle a T-1000–a superior Terminator essentially made of liquid metal capable of shape-shifting and cosplaying Carnage.

The T-800 also sacrificed himself to ensure no chance of Skynet’s eventual emergence via reverse engineering the future-tech chip behind its programming. This essentially ensures that the future it had come from would cease to exist.

But, obviously, happy endings aren’t good for sequels, so Hollywood proceeded to make not-good sequels.

Where Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (T3) found some contrived way to force Skynet back into the narrative, Dark Fate finds a more elegant solution to return to the familiar premise without sounding like a lazy attempt to repeat the spiel.

Linda Hamilton’s and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return certainly elevates the experience, and does more good than harm in this revival. Unfortunately, their presence alone is pretty dominating, and may have inadvertently prevented Natalia Reyes’ ability to shine given her potential significance in future installments.

Mackenzie Davis, however, holds her own throughout and is arguably the most interesting character in the franchise since Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. Gabriel Luna, whom I was worried would end up as a knock-off T-1000, turned out to be a worthy heir to both Robert Patrick, and Arnie himself. As the newly introduced Rev-9, Luna essentially fulfills the position as a new take on the T-900, somewhat similar but different in comparison to prior incarnations seen in T3 and The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series.

Unfortunately, there are times where the script gets a little clumsy and some of the shoddy editing reveals the many late-production changes. It prevents how believable some of the actors are in their roles, leading to my main gripe with the film: although it tries had to make you care for the characters but it doesn’t quite work. Ultimately, the only thing safe to invest yourself in is the mythology. If you aren’t already a fan of the universe, caring about Dark Fate might be a bit of a stretch.

I’ll be honest. While I prefer to forget T3 and am kinda okay with Salvation, I actually liked Genisys. Largely because it essentially closed itself of. It didn’t need a sequel, much like T2. Terminator: Dark Fate seems to borrow the self-containment as well, but–obviously–ensures enough room for a sequel.

While the post-T2 curse of every Terminator sequel/spin-off feeling a little futile is still present (I mean, how many more times are we gonna re-visit this, right?), Dark Fate offers the possibility of a more interesting future… I mean, for the franchise–the future of the characters in that world is clearly fucked.

Terminaor: Dark Fate is out now. But maybe refresh your T2 memories before heading in.