"Terminator: Dark Fate" is an enjoyable entry in the Terminator franchise that continues the high-octane action the series is known for.
A movie that ignores the events of every Terminator after "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," "Dark Fate" sees the return of franchise veterans James Cameron and Linda Hamilton, who team up with director Tim Miller to create the best Terminator sequel since Cameron’s "Judgement Day.” Although the film is a fast-paced action thrill ride, the movie is unable to escape the similarities of its predecessor. Aside from being an entertaining update for the 35-year old franchise, “Dark Fate” accomplishes very little.
Taking place 28 years after the events of "T2," the film retcons every event after the first sequel, and instead charts a new story. The film follows Natalia Reyes’ Dani, an ordinary factory worker who lives in a world where Judgement Day never happened. However, Dani’s life takes a drastic turn as she is inexplicably and relentlessly pursued by a new Terminator. On the run, Dani is aided by an enhanced human guardian named Grace, who hails from the same future as the unknown Terminator. As they attempt to destroy the unwavering machine, they enlist the help of Sarah Connor.
Just from reading the plot synopsis, audiences can already begin to draw major similarities between “Dark Fate” and the first Terminator film. In the same way that “The Force Awakens” tried to reinvigorate the Star Wars franchise by using a familiar plotline, "Dark Fate" takes a similar approach by modifying a well-known story for a new generation. Despite what could have been a problematic decision, "Dark Fate" avoids feeling like a direct repeat, in part due to a diverse selection of new characters, along with major changes to familiar ones. The film benefits from a balanced combination of new and old, as new ideas are fleshed out thanks to a formula that is proven to work.
Much of the film works in large part thanks to the intense action that is consistent throughout. The impressive action set pieces keep the film exciting and energetic, moving at a brisk pace that comes at just the right moment in the story. This can be attributed to Miller’s talent for imagining well-developed action scenes, as each set piece avoids feeling generic or one-note. These imposing scenes are a destructive force that make great use of the environment and characters, inducing an exhilarating feeling reminiscent of the franchise’s earlier days.
Despite maintaining a story and pace similar to the first film, what Miller does do differently may lead to backlash from longtime fans. Since "Dark Fate" is a sequel to the first two Terminator films, the film is required to take liberties in order to justify a story after the finite ending of "Judgement Day." These new changes complicate the already convoluted Terminator timeline, and the film starts to feel like a soft reboot to introduce new fans to the franchise. The adjustments will arguably divide audiences, as fans of the original films may see these new developments as disrespecting the franchise’s history.
"Terminator: Dark Fate" doesn’t break new ground, offering more of the same with it’s characters and story. The film feels more targeted at new audience, kean on developing a story of it’s own while still entertaining dedicated fans of the franchise. Although the film may feel too similar to prior entries, there is enough here to keep both audiences entertained.