‘When this is all over, I am going to kill you…’
As someone who is both generally forgiving of films in the Terminator franchise and an outspoken advocate for Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator: Dark Fate should have been right up my street. Not only does Arnie return, but he is reunited with Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and master director James Cameron (albeit in the role of producer here). Dark Fate chooses to ignore every Terminator sequel since Judgement Day in an attempt to revitalise the ailing franchise. Instead, it has probably terminated it for good…
Last time we saw Sarah Connor, she had saved both her son John, and humanity at large. This is all rendered obsolete within the first five minutes of Dark Fate however, as John is shot in the head by a different Terminator (still played by Arnie) and Judgement Day is merely delayed and credited to Legion instead of Skynet. One sure fire way to piss off a fanbase is to make them feel that a film they loved had no consequences. And so, we are off to a bad start.
Meanwhile, Dani (Natalia Reyes) is attempting to deal with some clumsy social commentary in the form of her job being under threat from machines. Thankfully, this subplot is immediately shelved when a goddamn new Terminator shows up, the ridiculously named REV-9 (Gabriel Luna). Despite the offputting moniker, REV-9 is actually the best thing about Dark Fate, or rather the SFX that the character elicits provide the films best moments. The reunion of Arnie and Linda Hamilton, which had the potential to be something really special, is rendered kind of flat by the decision to have Arnie playing an entirely different Terminator from the one he portrayed in Judgement Day. Also, he is called Carl now for some reason. Despite being at the centre of perhaps two of the most iconic and essential sci-fi movies ever made, Hamilton and Schwarzenegger struggle to wring any kind of emotional resonance out of their homecoming.
Mackenzie Davis tries her best as Grace – a kind of robot/human hybrid also sent back from the future – but this is well trodden ground. It’s difficult to imagine why Cameron and director Tim Miller (Deadpool) decided to cast aside all the Terminator sequels so that they could deliver the same ideas that we have seen before, and in the end, Dark Fate is far more plodding than it is thrilling.
There could have been a genuinely great Judgement Day sequel. The lore is there. The technology is ready. But if James Cameron can’t even pull it off , it is probably time to let this franchise go.
Please don’t be back.