Terminator: Dark Fate

Twenty years after Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) went up against the T-1000, thwarting Cyberdyne's A.I. system-gone-rogue Skynet's Judgement Day and saving the human race, she's back to protect another seemingly ordinary young woman in Mexico City, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), as Kyle Reese once protected her. Ironically it is the very predator who once threatened her life, an old T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), that might be her best chance in overcoming the new Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) in "Terminator: Dark Fate."

Laura's Review: B

Cowriter/producer James Cameron returns to his franchise for the first time since "T2: Judgment Day" along with star Hamilton in what he says is the prior film's true sequel. Pay no attention to those other pesky “Terminator” sequels, as this one takes up where “T2” left off and is proof that this is where Cameron should have been spending his time instead of on “Avatar” sequels no one is looking for. The filmmakers have lifted a page from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” taking a temporal sidestep that sets up a new future to give us two very different terminators and two very different protectors while the story remains very much the same.

After a flashback to Sarah Connor’s unheeded warnings during the opening credits and another which sets her psychology for the current day, "Deadpool" director Tim Miller blasts off, barely giving us a chance to get our bearings before delivering a one-two-three punch of non-stop action. Dani and brother Diego (Diego Boneta) leave for work at a manufacturing plant where she learns her brother is about to be replaced by…a machine. Back at home, dear old dad gets a visit from a stranger, one who suspiciously calls his daughter Danielle, and when he shows up at Dani’s workplace, it is another stranger, Grace (‘Halt and Catch Fire’s’ Mackenzie Davis) who explains that this man is not their dad after repeatedly firing at him. A chaotic scene on the manufacturing floor leads out onto the highway, Dani taking the wheel as Grace throws steel beams like harpoons at the driver following them.

The Rev-9 can not only take upon the appearance of a human it has made (lethal) contact with, but can split off from its pitch black metal skeleton, creating two menacing fronts. Just when things look unwinnable, Diego lost in a fireball, a truck pulls up and out steps Sarah Connor with attitude and an arsenal. Grace drags Dani into her truck and takes off. Whew. Now we have time for some explanations.

Grace is not a robot, but an ‘augment,’ a mechanically modified soldier from a different future fighting an A.I. much like Skynet called Legion. She has superior strength and speed, but was manufactured for ‘short bursts,’ from which she has to recover with water and a cocktail of drugs.
When Sarah catches up to them, none too happy that they stole her truck, she fills in Dani’s story for her because, as she tells Grace, ‘I *was* her.’ In the ensuing twenty years since we lost saw her, she spends her time fighting terminators and drinking until she blacks out. And yes, we’ll get a most surprising answer as to why she’s still been fighting terminators that might have something to do with the fact that the address that has been texting her their locations ‘for John’ is the same one Grace was given to go to for help. That address happens to be on the other side of the border, the first of many obstacles the female trio will face while they are pursued relentlessly.

Aside from the rather obvious realization that in the future, one would imagine their must be an easier method to assassinate someone (armed laser beam anyone?), the script has been modernized to be relevant in today’s political climate. Once Dani’s been caught up to her reality, she is always in conflict with Grace, who knows her as the savior of her future, favoring fight over flight. Besides its Latina heroine, female warriors and tagging the dying manufacturing industry, Cameron and crew take on immigration at the southern border as well, the twist being the difficulty of getting a white woman across, the rev-9’s military disguise suggesting that the problem is within. Even the T800’s had an internal cultural shift (it’s been noted by many far in advance of the film’s release that it hasn’t aged, yet while it is unexplained here, the script gives it a solid reason for having wanted to make it so).

There’s nothing new here, even the film’s climax uncomfortably close to the original low budget B movie’s, but the mix of old and new cast members meshes beautifully, most of the action scenes are impressively staged and the rev-9 effects impressive. (Unfortunately the insanity of dueling C5 cargo planes is immediately followed by a murky underwater sequence that is also somehow less credible.) A new action star is born in Davis. Linda Hamilton will make you realize how much she’s been missed, her delivery wrapped in deadpan sarcasm that cuts like a samurai blade. Schwarzenegger, too, somehow shades his monotone. Even better, when he informs us that now he’s very funny, he delivers on the promise. Who knew this movie’s tag line would be ‘I do drapes?’

Robin's Review: DNS