¡¡¡¡When it comes to the Terminator franchise, I share the same opinion as most people. The 1984¡¯s original became a cult classic, and it¡¯s one of the most influential sci-fi/action films of all-time. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of the (very) few sequels to such a beloved movie that actually improves on its predecessor, standing as the number one film of the saga, quality- and entertainment-wise. James Cameron left the franchise, and suddenly it all went down the sewer. While Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is still tolerable, Salvation is absolutely terrible, and the reboot, Genisys, failed to change the saga¡¯s history compellingly. So, obviously, even with the return of Cameron to the production team, my expectations were moderately low.
¡¡¡¡That said, Dark Fate is the best Terminator installment since T2 ¡ which is not saying much. The last two flicks have great casts (from Christian Bale to Emilia Clarke), but their scripts are baffling bad. This time around, the cast has amazing chemistry, and their characters have better dialogue, but it comes at a cost. The last three movies possess stories that are not as captivating or entertaining (or even rational) as the first two films. Dark Fate has a much better screenplay, but again it comes at a cost. What cost is this? Basically, it repeats the exact same bits as The Terminator.
¡¡¡¡An extremely thin line exists between paying homage to a movie and blatantly copying it. Tim Miller¡¯s team of screenwriters walk that line, stumbling to both sides several times along the way. Some scenes are indeed wonderful nods to the saga¡¯s first two installments, but a lot of other moments (too many, to be honest) are pretty much a copy-paste version of a significant plot point or character development arc from one of those films. In case you¡¯re wondering, this is the reason behind some of the ¡°hate¡± from both critics and fans all over the world. Nowadays, people are harsher with this sort of homages, and the previously mentioned line is getting thinner and thinner.
¡¡¡¡Another reason for the divisive opinions is the opening sequence. Don¡¯t worry, I won¡¯t spoil. They simply make a sudden and surprising narrative decision that takes some of T2¡¯s emotional impact, at least without first clarifying why they made such a call. Therefore, I gave the movie a chance to develop its idea, but it doesn¡¯t. It just goes with it, and it never returns to this initial moment. Having this in mind, I understand if people instantly decided to hate the film based on just that very first scene¡. Because it really doesn¡¯t have any justification besides ¡°well, we need a story¡±.
¡¡¡¡Dark Fate¡¯s screenplay is emotionally resonant, and it¡¯s also packed with (mostly) well-directed action sequences, but it resembles the 1984¡¯s original plot too much. There¡¯s even a direct line from Sarah Connor saying that a particular character is the equivalent of her son, John. This unnecessary and lazy exposition is surprisingly not as used as I expected it to be, but when it occurs, it¡¯s like they chose the lamest, silliest, worse possible moments to place it. However, I can¡¯t deny I actually had fun with the movie.
¡¡¡¡With a much better script than the last films, the cast was able to not only shine in a few scenes, but their incredible chemistry allowed for outstanding moments. Seeing Linda Hamilton portray Sarah Connor once again is a delight to my eyes, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is an awesome badass with hilarious lines. These two are phenomenal! Nevertheless, Mackenzie Davis steals the show as the enhanced soldier, Grace, especially regarding the action scenes. I don¡¯t think Natalia Reyes offered what her character needed since she¡¯s the protagonist, after all, but she¡¯s able to stand her ground. I did enjoy Gabriel Luna take on the Terminator Rev-9, but I wish he had a little bit of more screentime besides the action.
¡¡¡¡Tim Miller brings his talented directing chops from Deadpool and applies his action techniques to deliver a lot of entertaining sequences. The VFX team provides with some impeccable CGI, but there are a couple of shots concerning a few speed bursts that should have received better treatment.
¡¡¡¡All in all, Terminator: Dark Fate is the best Terminator installment since Judgment Day, but it still doesn¡¯t even reach the latter¡¯s heels. It boasts a fantastic cast, with Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to their respective iconic roles, but Mackenzie Davis outshines both with some badass moments and great acting. Natalia Reyes, as the protagonist, is disappointingly fine. Despite the action being well-directed and the screenplay being well-written, it all comes at the cost of essentially replicating the 1984 original¡¯s plot. Some homages are notable, but it¡¯s so identical story-wise that it takes away any sort of surprise, severely lacking creativity. In addition to this, it makes a narrative decision in the opening sequence that removes some of T2¡¯s emotional impact, damaging the saga¡¯s best movie and one of the greatest sci-fi/action films of all-time. I don¡¯t exactly recommend it, but if you¡¯re a fan of the franchise, go see it but with moderate expectations.