With franchise expectations heavily diminished following three increasingly crummy entries, the Terminator series undergoes (another) partial reboot in a film that positions itself as the true follow-up to 1991's legendary Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
In Mexico, a young woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes), finds herself pursued by an unstoppable killing machine (Gabriel Luna). Protection shows up in the form of Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a cybernetically augmented human soldier from the future, and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), a grizzled Terminator hunter haunted by a tragic past.
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Oscar-winner James Cameron, who directed the first two Terminator movies, has a story credit here, and the film, directed by Deadpool's Tim Miller, is clearly trying to replicate Cameron's style. An effort has been made to evoke the sense of impending, inescapable doom that drove the early films, and Dark Fate spends a lot of money trying to live up to Terminator 2's weighty, industrial action set pieces.
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Despite what her character has suffered, Hamilton has some fun playing Sarah Connor again. Reyes is fine as our ostensible protagonist, but Mackenzie Davis walks away with the movie in a role that takes the franchise's tradition of ass-kicking female characters to a new level. Davis is frankly phenomenal as a character who can physically compete with a Terminator, and she elevates the whole enterprise considerably.
The way Dark Fate uses Arnold Schwarzenegger is unexpected and some viewers may not like it. I did.
It's easier to make the case for this film in the context of the franchise's many missteps. Speaking as someone who still worships at the altar of T2, I appreciated that this new film obviously shared that worship, which allowed me to see past its weaker elements. This is unquestionably the best Terminator movie released since 1991.
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta
Director: Tim Miller
Running Time: 128 minutes
Verdict: A love letter to T2 that delivers high octane fan service.