Tim Miller, best known for directing Deadpool, has crafted Terminator: Dark Fate into a sci-fi action movie that surpasses its predecessor, Terminator: Genisys, with superb action sequences and a much better cast playing old and new characters. However, this sixth entry in the franchise does not offer much beyond these aspects.
Dark Fate offers a fresh take on the franchise’s narrative as the second film after Genisys not revolving around Sarah Connor’s son and future resistance leader John Connor. The movie instead features newcomer Natalia Reyes as Dani Ramos, a young girl hunted down by Gabriel Luna as the Terminator villain Rev–9, sent from the future to take her out. Luckily, Ramos is protected by Linda Hamilton as an older Sarah Connor, Arnold Schwarzenegger as the iconic T-800 terminator, and Mackenzie Davis as the young cyborg Grace.
While Schwarzenegger is always a welcome presence and Hamilton delivers the best entrance, one which will please fans of the franchise, Davis stands out with her fierce performance during action sequences. Next to Davis, Reyes plays Ramos as a strong-willed youth, but her character’s easy acceptance of the sci-fi events happening around her strain credibility. Still, Davis and Reyes have some decent chemistry that creates a sister-like bond between their characters during the climax. But the film deviates from Ramos to focus more on Grace and Sarah’s storylines, exploring their trauma from fighting the machines in their own worlds. Their storylines evoke the series’ overall commentary about how war affects everyone through pain and loss, regardless of age or era. Still, the script could have had stronger dialogue scenes to push the cast’s social dynamics for better character relationships.
Miller helms Dark Fate’s action sequences as brutal set pieces because of well-executed stunt work balanced with the haunting atmosphere from composer Tom Holkenborg’s musical score. Each action scene benefits from an impressive blend of resonating sound design, visual effects, and gritty cinematography to instill the scale of the dangers faced by the main characters. The film’s fast-paced editing between close-ups and long takes during the fight choreography provides a smooth flow that perfectly elevates tension.
Despite the movie’s action sequences, the story has expositional scenes that drastically slow the film down due to characters unpacking backstories that become bland to sit through. In addition to these scenes, the film suffers from enormous continuity errors as a reboot that ignores the events from the last three instalments to be a sequel to T2: Judgment Day. With the franchise correcting its story arc through this reboot, the movie presents massive problems for viewers that care more about consistency than captivating action sequences. Moreover, the plot is essentially the same as the first Terminator, but with different characters. Even Rev-9, as cool as he is, emerges as a mixture of other Terminator antagonists from previous entries and could have been a more conflicted villain.
Overall, this latest sequel is certainly better than its predecessor. And yet, Tim Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate could have pushed its story more, and suffers from some other severe pitfalls. The movie succeeds only at what it sets out to be: a sci-fi action flick with commanding action sequences and a powerhouse cast.