The “Dark Fate” of the Terminator Franchise

Is This The End of 80’s Franchise Nostalgia?

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is the latest attempt to cash in on a previously terminated franchise.

This installment directly follows the events of “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” and sees the return of James Cameron as a creative producer. Years after Judgement Day, an enhanced cybernetic supersoldier from the future is sent to Mexico City to protect Dani Ramos from a new terminator. The Rev-9 model originates from a new alternate timeline in which an artificial intelligence known as Legion has taken over the planet as opposed to the previous franchise villain, Skynet.

The film also sees the return of Linda Hamilton to the role of Sarah Conner, who mysteriously intercepts Grace’s rescue attempt and claims that she hunts terminators. Together, Mackenzie Davis’s Grace, Natalia Reyes’s Dani and Sarah must travel to Texas to find an outdated T-800 model named Carl, played by veteran franchise actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the final stand against the machines and Garbriel Luna’s ferocious Rev-9.

While “Terminator: Dark Fate” is marketed as an attempt to draw the series in a new direction as previous films of the franchise heavily relied back to the previously established “Terminator” cat-and-mouse formula. Once again, a machine is sent back to kill the leader of the future resistance, so a lone protector is sent back to stop them.

Unfortunately, a lot of creative material appears to have been reused by previous films in the franchise. The story follows similar beats to “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” and Garbriel Luna plays the Rev-9 model very similar to Robert Patrick’s iconic performance as the T-1000. The concepts of new timelines and an older version of the T-800 are also pulled straight from the film “Terminator: Genisys.” While all this may be overlooked, the film fails to establish its own distinct voice.

One of the movie’s strengths is Tim Miller, fresh off his feature directorial debut in “Deadpool.” The melee combat scenes are white-knuckled and fierce, which makes the suspense considerably higher than the previous installments. Miller brings the familiar grit from “Deadpool” and uses it to build a much bleaker world that allows the film to live up to its R rating.

Hamilton and Schwarzenegger beautifully fall right back into the roles of Sarah Conner and the T-800 respectively. Conner is given a surprising amount of depth and the chance to show the true strength and emotion in her character. The T-800, who has taken on the identity of Carl, is surprisingly complex and Schwarzenegger is able to bring a nice balance of levity and emotion to the role in a very unique way. It’s bizarre and sincere to see the original terminator model as both a father and a drape designer, making for a nice juxtaposition against the dark themes of the story and adding some much need humor to make the film a more enjoyable watch.

Despite the incredible skill behind the camera, “Terminator: Dark Fate[’s]” story is far too familiar and takes far too many risks that have a minimal payoff. This serves as a major negative, as the inciting incident of the film involves the death of a legacy character that feels neither earned nor executed well, which acts as a disservice to long-time fans of the franchise.

While “Terminator: Dark Fate” serves as a much better followup to “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” than many of its predecessors, it ultimately misses the mark of the franchise’s highs while also avoiding its all-time lows — giving its rabid fan a mediocre return. It looks like the “Terminator” franchise might not be back.