Terminator: Dark Fate seems to be the final film in the nearly 40-year-old Terminator franchise. Sadly, it didn’t set the box-office world alight when it came out in November last year, partly due the still runaway success of Joker, and partly because of fans of the franchise feeling burnt with every film post-Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The reality is that this latest film is the best since arguably the original 1984 film. T2 has its fans, and I do like the film, but Edward Furlong’s John Connor is so annoying that you end up hoping somebody will kill him.
This new film opens with a scene which I’m not going to spoil. It has divided fans of the franchise, and I’m firmly in the camp of it’s the best thing that could happen. The opening also moves it back into the territory of the first film, where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 is the villain. The rest of the film is very much in the vein of what Disney has done with the recent Star Wars: bringing back most of the old favourites along with adding a smattering of young, new characters to the ride. You also get the inevitable part of the film where the new characters find one of the old characters.
What makes Terminator: Dark Fate interesting to me is that they actually incorporate some interesting ideas into the mythos of the Terminator machines. Mackenzie Davis plays one of the new characters, a resistance soldier, Grace, who has been sent back in time to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), The future Dani sent her. Grace has volunteered to undergo experimental surgery to become a cyborg-human hybrid who can mimic the abilities of a Terminator for short periods of time. This puts it into the interesting world of transhumanism, which is just as influenced by actual science as it is by science fiction. The rise of transhumanism predates the original film by a couple of years, but films like Robocop and The Terminator greatly influenced the movement for years thereafter. After completing a mission, the T-800 has integrated into human society, married and had a kid, and even grown a conscience. While not quite as deep on a philosophical level as the world of the Blade Runner films, it adds some depth.
One of the biggest draws of a Terminator film is always the big action set pieces, and this once most certainly doesn’t disappoint. The sequence aboard a Lockheed C-5 Galaxy is particularly memorable, and there is a great high-octane chase sequence where you get the first glimpse of the new advanced Terminator, called Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), which can split into its cybernetic endoskeleton and shape-shifting liquid-metal exterior at the same time. The whole timeline is a complete mess, mainly due to the last three films in the franchise, but logic is not always the best thing to bring to these kinds of films.
I hope Terminator: Dark Fate gains the audience it rightly deserved when it came out in October/November of last year. It’s a mix of some heady themes with top-notch action filmmaking. Arnie seems to be having a ball (and a nice paycheque), although as always a couple of line readings from The Governator will have you in stitches, intentionally or not. Linda Hamilton’s return as Sarah Connor, along with the new mainly female characters, brings it full circle to the feminist themes that got diluted in the last three films. Naturally loads of “film bros” got pissed off by this, claiming they were trying to “feminize” the franchise… have they watched the second film, or any of Cameron’s other films? I’ve always been sceptical of Cameron’s greatness, but he had a strong 2019 as writer/producer of this and Alita: Battle Angel—shame he is going to waste the rest of his life making those Avatar sequels nobody wants. I’m very intrigued with what Terminator: Dark Fate‘s director Tim Miller will do with the long-in-development-hell adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, which he is currently still attached to.
The disc includes around a hour of featurettes and nine minutes of deleted scenes.