Linda Hamilton returns as the ass-kicking Sarah Connor in Terminator: Dark Fate. A direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the film is pretty much a retread of that storyline. The plot is unoriginal and disappointing with an abrupt start. But slick visual effects coupled with monster action scenes deliver the eye-popping wow factor. Deadpool director Tim Miller has tremendous skill designing and shooting elaborate chases. He does an excellent job, ramping up the action to an astonishing climax. Terminator: Dark Fate may not live up to the narrative of its predecessor, but is a must-see action juggernaut.
In 2020 Mexico City, Daniella Ramos (Natalia Reyes) and her brother (Diego Boneta) go to work in a car factory. As Dani learns they are going to be replaced by machines, a robot from the future, the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), attacks her. Terrified and bewildered, the Ramos siblings are saved by Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an augmented soldier from the same dystopian period. They race away from the factory with the unstoppable Rev-9 in pursuit. Just when they are cornered on a bridge, an aged but still formidable Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) comes to their rescue.
Grace has never heard of Skynet or John Connor. Sarah Connor thwarted Judgment Day, but did not change humanity's fate. A new artificial intelligence was born in Skynet's absence. Grace demands to know how Sarah knew their exact location and came equipped to battle the Rev-9. Sarah asks why Dani is so important, and how the apocalypse came to be. The women realize that someone has brought them together for a single purpose. Protect Dani at all costs, mankind dies with her.
Fans are going to have issues with how John Connor is handled. The central character to decades of established Terminator lore becomes an afterthought. He's unceremoniously replaced by Dani, who's the new savior, girl power version. I have zero problems with a female super soldier or primary protagonist, but it's done so haphazardly. It feels like the studio made a politically correct marketing decision to change the sex, race, and ethnicity of the hero. John Connor becomes a non-factor in a franchise based on his story.
Terminator: Dark Fate is essentially a T2 redux. Two futuristic weapons fight over the life of a young revolutionary, who's protected by a powerful mother figure. Linda Hamilton props up the film with the gravitas of her character. Sarah Connor commands the screen, even though she's doing the exact same thing twenty-eight years later. You can easily guess how Arnold Schwarzenegger as the T-800 fits into the picture. Terminator: Dark Fate reminds me of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It's the same tried and true formula with a gender swap for the primary character.
While the plot lacks creativity, the action sure as hell does not. Gabriel Luna's Rev-9 is truly a terminator for the twenty-first century. He's black liquid metal over a terminator exoskeleton. This means he can separate into two pieces. The robot pummels while the other half oozes its way for a second assault. Tim Miller has the Rev-9 attacking on land, under water, and in the not so friendly skies. The climactic air battle above a dam is spectacularly done. Terminator: Dark Fate hammers you with epic action scenes. Action junkies will certainly get their fix.
Terminator: Dark Fate is entertaining, but only a serviceable sequel to T2. I may be in the minority, but enjoyed Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The action is better here, but that film had a more cohesive plot. That said, Terminator: Dark Fate easily surpasses the mediocre Terminator Salvation and awful Terminator Genisys. A new storyline begins with a sequel sure to come. We'll see if Dani Ramos can fill the shoes of John Connor. Terminator: Dark Fate is a production of Skydance Media and Lightstorm Entertainment with US distribution by Paramount Pictures.