Some people might have a problem with it, but we have absolutely no issue with the newest movie in the long-running time-travelling sci-fi saga rendering all Terminator films since Judgement Day completely irrelevant. Dark Fate, once again with Linda Hamilton at the helm, her first movie in the series since Cameron's sequel of sequels, ruthlessly terminates Rise of the Machines, Salvation, and Genisys by returning to the timeline as we left it with Sarah and John Connor after they lowered a battered Model 101 down into a pool of career-ending molten metal.
The Terminator is perhaps Arnie's signature role, and he too returns to the fold alongside Hamilton in this 28-year reunion, but the first half of the movie is undoubtedly Hamilton's, alongside a couple of series newcomers. First, we meet Grace, an augmented super-soldier from the future played by Mackenzie Davis, who drops into the present day naked and feeling feisty, before heading out in search of her objective.
Next we meet Daniella "Dani" Ramos, a woman who (for reasons we'll not spoil) is important to the future, and who has been targetted for assassination by Gabriel Luna's Rev-9, an advanced Terminator from the future that blends future tech and melds together something akin to Robert Patrick's T1000 and a more skeletal T800 frame. This new threat can take the form of those it touches, kind of like the T1000 could back in '91, but it also has a few new tricks up its metallic sleeve, including the ability to split its liquid metal form from its skeleton and effectively be two terminators at once. Dani, played by Natalia Reyes, is soon on the run from this lethal killer and it's up to Grace to keep her alive. The odds might be against her, but at least she has some help.
Sarah Connor, still armed and extremely dangerous, joins the party soon enough, and it's at this point that Dark Fate starts to feel like a proper Terminator movie, not a spin-off made for the sake of financiers. Deadpool director Tim Miller might have helmed this movie, but you can feel James Cameron's presence lurking in the background, and the story is all the better for his contribution - the script's authority over these iconic characters gives the film authenticity that the last trio of Terminators simply didn't have.
Having said that, Dark Fate clearly has some big shoes to fill, and if you're hoping for a cinematic experience to rival the bold brilliance of the first two, you might be disappointed to hear that Dark Fate falls a little short of the mark. When Schwarzenegger appears some way into proceedings, it's not a moment to rival Rick Deckard's return, and Miller certainly doesn't control the lens with the same assuredness as Denis Villeneuve. Blade Runner 2049 set the bar when it comes revitalising iconic sci-fi franchises, and Dark Fate doesn't hit the same heights, mostly thanks to a script that's a little too self-reverent and pacing that's so focused on action that sometimes the atmosphere gets lost in all the explosions.
It is pretty fun though, and being the third-best Terminator movie isn't an achievement to sniff at. The Rev-9 makes for a relentless hunter as he's able to tap into the surveillance state using his built-in futuristic tech, which means that no matter where Dani, Sarah, and Grace run, he's always hot on their heels, leaving a trail of dead bodies in his wake. That means plenty of explosive setpieces and some excellent special effects, just as you'd expect from Hollywood royalty such as this. The hand-to-hand fighting is particularly interesting, with quick-footed soldier Grace going toe-to-toe with the Rev-9 in combat scenes that have the same post-Bourne intensity that we've all come to expect from top tier actioners these days.
The persistence of the Rev-9 culminates in an extravagant finale that brings all of the film's strands and themes together - not quite with a bow but you can't really do that when time travel is involved. We left the cinema satisfied that we'd seen a proper Terminator movie, and in a series that has spawned enough films for two trilogies, we're glad that all those mediocre missteps can now be consigned to the past. However, despite this being an improvement on more recent outings, Dark Fate isn't the modern classic that we had been hoping for. As for the question of whether Arnie and co will be back once again for another round? Who knows what the future holds.
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