After several polarising sequels, original Terminator star Linda Hamilton and producer James Cameron return to give the franchise a hard reboot.
Terminator: Dark Fate takes the same approach as the recent Halloween – ignoring the inferior sequels and bringing in the original’s big guns to create a direct follow up to the Cameron-directed classics. Set in the same timeline as the first two movies, it announces its status as a ‘real’ Terminator sequel with footage of Sarah Connor’s grim Judgement Day warning from T2 as a prelude.
22 years after the apocalypse that never happened in 1997, history begins repeating itself with the arrival of a pair of time travellers in New Mexico – one a protector, the other a Terminator. The mutual target this time is a young factory worker named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who is rescued from the liquid metal clutches of her machine assassin (Gabriel Luna) by augmented future soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis).
During a frenzied freeway chase that piles on vehicular mayhem (de rigueur for a Terminator film), a fourth party enters the fray. Although bearing a spooky resemblance to Steve Tyler from Aerosmith, it’s none other the legendary Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), packing some serious firepower and badass attitude. And the girls should come with her if they want to live…
Dark Fate doesn’t make the same mistake as prior sequels by rewriting franchise history and corrupting the timeline, but instead uses the two Cameron films as a foundation to tell a similar story – much the same way The Force Awakens used the original Star Wars as a relaunching pad. There are a number of familiar beats in flash-forwards that reveal Grace’s story and Dani’s value to the future, as well as a lethal new model of Terminator, the Rev-9 – a polymorphus oil slick that can detach from its metal endoskeleton creating a doubly unfair advantage. Diehard fans will also find plenty of temporal knots to unpick concerning Judgement Day and Skynet.
While acknowledging upgrades in technology (that create an advantage for the new Terminator) as well as the current political climate (the Rev-9 assumes the human disguise of a Mexican Border official), these nods are mostly superficial and don’t hinder what is essentially a non-stop chase movie.
Plot similarities notwithstanding, it’s the trinity of Hamilton (still awesome), Cameron (who should have written the screenplay), and of course Arnie (returning as comic relief and getting all the best lines) that makes Dark Fate feel like the Terminator is well and truly back.
In cinemas: October 31, 2019
Starring: Mackenzie Davis, Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by: Tim Miller