'Terminator: Dark Fate' Review: A worthy addition to the Terminator franchise

A Potpourri of Vestiges Review

By Murtaza Ali Khan

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (aka T2) is undoubtedly one of the greatest Sci-Fi films ever made. As an action film too, it is nigh unparalleled. Perhaps, the greatest triumph of the film is that at the start Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T800 appears like a human but feels like a machine and towards the end it appears like a machine but feels like a human to us. Often this is the biggest challenge for any filmmaker trying to tell a story with an AI character. But it is something that’s rarely been achieved in all of cinema.
In fact, one of the biggest reasons behind Steven Spielberg’s success as a filmmaker is how well he handles the human emotions: be it the alien in E.T. or the Mecha child in A.I. or the giant in The BFG. Now, James Cameron is not far behind as evident from what he achieved in T2 and later on in Avatar. Interestingly, Terminator: Dark Fate is the first since Terminator 2 to have franchise creator Cameron involved. If you aren’t already hooked then let me tell you that Dark Fate is a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In other words, Dark Fate makes the three sequels to T2 viz. Terminator 3: Rise of Machines (2003)Terminator: Salvation (2009), and Terminator Genisys (2015) completely redundant.

The story of Dark Fate begins three years after the events of T2 wherein Sarah and John Connor had managed to defeat the T-1000. Sarah and John are holidaying in Guatemala is the year 1998 as a T-800 suddenly arrives from the future and kills John on the spot, leaving Sarah devastated The story then takes a 22 year leap, as a cybernetically-enhanced soldier, Grace, and an advanced Terminator model, the Rev-9, are separately transported from the future to Mexico City. While the former’s mission is to protect Daniella “Dani” Ramos, the latter is here to terminate her. In other words, Dani is the new John, Grace is the new T-800, and the Rev-9 is the new T-1000. In keeping up with the old tradition of the Terminator films, the antagonistic Rev-9 is shown to be more advanced than anything we have ever seen before—it is nearly indestructible thanks to its singular ability to split itself into its powerful endoskeleton and shapeshifting liquid metal exterior.
Now every time I watch a Terminator film I am least concerned about the visual effects because they are always trend-setting. Also, the story isn’t something that I am particularly interested in but it’s pretty much the same thing that unfolds over and over again. What I look for, above all, are performances and characterisation. In this regard, I don’t think that any actress has ever come close to matching Linda Hamilton’s physical transformation for T2. In Dark Fate, Mackenzie Davis (as Grace) succeeds in matching Hamilton’s brilliance. Also, Hamilton is back as Connor after an absence of nearly three decades and she looks tough as ever. Arnold Schwarzenegger fans too wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s really a pity that Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9 is nowhere near as menacing as Robert Patrick’s T-1000 and that’s one of the major reasons why Dark Fate fails to match the brilliance of T2 but it is certainly a worthy addition to the Terminator film franchise that has been in a desperate need of a serious rejig for quite some time.
Rating: 7/10
A version of this review was first published in The Sunday Guardian
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