Twenty years ago the future was changed, but not as much as Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) had hoped. Now dedicated to a life of hunting terminators, Sarah finds herself on the run with an enhanced soldier from the future named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and Dani (Natalia Reyes), a young woman whose future is key to the survival of the human race. But will they be able to outrun the deadly new terminator (Gabriel Luna) that's chasing them?
Dark Fate follows the same basic premise as the first two movies, and while it never quite lives up to them, it is by far the best movie to have come since, by some considerable margin. It takes the story in an interesting new direction, one that provides an apparently unintentional jab at US immigration and border control policy. As always, thanks to time travel there's someone who needs protecting from a terminator, and a warrior sent back to protect them by the human resistance. Natalia Reyes brings strength to Dani, and an innocence. Whereas Mackenzie Davis' Grace is a conflicted soul, although struggling with what she has become, and tired of war, she is doggedly determined in her mission.
After turning Deadpool into an international box office hit, director Tim Miller has attempted to something similar for the Terminator franchise. By making Dark Fate a direct sequel to T2, the filmmakers (which includes an actively involved James Cameron) have effectively wiped the slate clean, making all the other sequels obsolete - or at least relegated to an alternate timeline. Lets face it, this isn't the first movie in 2019 to fudge the rules of time travel. Dark Fate works as a kind of conclusion for the first two movies, whilst also rebooting the franchise with a whole new timeline. There may be "no fate but what we make for ourselves", but it seems that the human race is doomed to near destruction by machines.
As much as they have tried to distance Dark Fate from the other (post T2) sequels, it does share design and story elements with almost all of them. The ageing T-800, the new horrible future that's fairly similar to the old one, despite the actions of Sarah and John Connor to prevent it. Even the advanced new terminator is reminiscent of the T-X from "Rise of the Machines", albeit sleeker and more sinister. Gabriel Luna brings a cool charm to the Rev-9, able to combine a charming smile with cold, dead eyes. The big difference between the two models is the Rev-9's ability to separate its endoskeleton from its liquid skin; two terminators for the price of one.
Much like he did with Deadpool, Tim Miller happily dials up the action to eleven. With as much of the movie as possible shot practically, the visuals are mind-blowing. Beautifully choreographed fight scenes that emphasise the superhuman abilities of some of the players, and epic chases involving every kind of vehicle imaginable, combined with the incredible visual effects used to bring the terrifying Rev-9 to life. The movie's big centre piece, an exhilarating Zero-G fight to escape a giant cargo plane that's quite literally falling out of the sky, is definitely worthy of the franchise.
But the biggest draw for Dark Fate is the return of franchise creator James Cameron, and the original cast, especially Linda Hamilton. I like what they did with Arnie's character - known as "Carl" - it answers an interesting question about what a terminator does when it has completed its mission and is left without purpose. But Hamilton has always has been the true centre of this universe, and even 28 years after T2 she has no trouble reminding us of that. She is just as tough, and now has the look - the 1000 yard stare - of a woman who has spent her life fighting for humanity. If anything, the toil that this life has taken on her has left her almost cold, and emotionless, much like the machines she's so determined to destroy. Even after the destruction of Cyberdyne, it's hard to believe that she would ever be able to rest on her laurels. Now Sarah has a new mission, lets hope we get to see her complete it.
It may not be quite as good as The Terminator or Terminator 2, but Terminator: Dark Fate is the best sequel to come since. Tim Miller, with the help of creator James Cameron has pointed the franchise in an exciting and action-packed new direction. Dark Fate is meant to be the start of a new series of movies, something that has definitely been said before but never materialised, hopefully that's not the case here.
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