Review of 'Terminator: Dark Fate'

Bright Future

Review of 'Terminator: Dark Fate'

So here we go again. The critics panned it. The box-office in the first few days is not impressive. All manner of self-appointed prognosticators pronounce the franchise deader than an outmoded Terminator model, because that's what it is.

But my son Simon and I saw it last night. In the Magic Johnson theater in Harlem, in Dolby, in seats more comfortable than a Lazy Boy, which rumbled when the action on the screen called for it, which it often did. And... we enjoyed it immensely.

[Some spoilers follow]

This Terminator movie was made by James Cameron, his first since the iconic and brilliant Terminators 1 and 2, lo those many years ago. It tells a story that takes a different path, and obviates the non-Cameron sequels that followed Terminator 2. I enjoyed those, too. But not as much as this new movie.

Skynet is indeed destroyed. But young John Connor is killed by an Arnold Terminator anyway, sent back before Skynet was destroyed. This killer Terminator took some time finding John Connor, but he did. All of that, in effect, is prelude to the story in Dark Fate, where we see another newer Terminator model—that dwarfs T-800/Arnold's powers—hunting a young woman which another monstrous digitized war-system, Legion, has unleashed on its past and her/our present. This new model, a REV-9 that goes by the name of Gabriel, is so potent a machine that no one human or lesser model like a T-800 can destroy it.

I'd say that's the makings of an excellent movie, and Dark Fate was. Linda Hamilton is back as a much older Sarah Connor, with a hatred of the T-800 who killed her son. She gave an effective performance. Arnold is no great actor, but he put in an outstanding performance as the T-800, showing a combination of humor, sensitivity, and ferocity as called for. Mackenzie Davis was good as an augmented human Grace from the future, Gabriel Luna was effective as Gabriel, and Natalia Reyes was appealing as Dani, the woman Gabriel is after, first thought by Sarah to be another mother-of-the-savior version of her but who turned out to be someone different (that was pretty easy to figure out, but that didn't put too much of a dent in the fast action and suspenseful pleasures of the movie).

Like many time travel movies, Dark Fate suffered from the problem of, once we find out that Dani in the future sent Grace back to save her, we know that Grace had to succeed, otherwise there would have been no Dani in the future to send Grace back. There are ways of handling this—like the multiple worlds scenario—but the Terminator movies, especially the first two, were never about working out all those metaphysical paradoxes of time travel. There were about the human/machine interface, and, even though I love those paradoxes dearly, the two movies succeeded grandly.

As did Dark Fate. So, I predict that some year before too long, we'll indeed see another Terminator movie, contrary to all the current doomsayers. I'll look forward when that happens to reviewing that movie, and putting in a link to this one.

The androids are coming out into the open, for the first time in centuries...

movie review
Paul Levinson
Paul Levinson
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Paul Levinson

Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code (winner Locus Award, Best 1st Science Fiction Novel of 1999) & The Plot To Save Socrates. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context has been translated into 15 languages. 

See all posts by Paul Levinson