Three years after director Tim Miller blasted into our consciousness with his record-breaking, super-fun Deadpool, he’s breathing new life into the long-dead (well… felt-like-dead) Terminator franchise, and he’s bringing James Cameron and Linda Hamilton along with him.
Yes, there have been three movies in the series since creator Cameron and star Hamilton jumped ship in the wake of 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but even with Arnold Schwarzenegger on board for two of the three, did they really count… or, more importantly, matter?
No. No, they didn’t.
Thankfully, Miller and the gang are back with Terminator: Dark Fate to remind us what was so fun about the franchise in the first place—terrifying and invincible robot killers, frantic chase scenes, and delightfully cheeseball dialogue stuffed with one-liners. It all adds up to what feels like the perfect buffet of summertime cinema goodness, despite arriving at the beginning of November.
Without any sort of refresher course (a back-to-back binge of the first two flicks is recommended), Dark Fate jumps right in with a post-T2 prologue featuring resistance leader Sarah Connor (a digitally de-aged Hamilton) vacationing with her teenaged son John (a digitized Edward Furlong)—instantly getting us back in a Terminator state of mind. Fast-forward 22 years, and we’re in Mexico City watching cyborg super-soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis) land from the future in a hail of lightning to protect young Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) from a new, super-lethal Rev-9 Terminator (Gabriel Luna). And just when it looks as though the Rev-9 is too much for Grace to handle, up struts present-day Sarah Connor (real-life Hamilton), looking every inch the badass we remember. “Come with me if you want to live,” she snarls. Because of course.
The cat and mouse game then gets underway in earnest, taking us across the border and eventually to the doorstep of the T-800 (Schwarzenegger), who now has a wife and child and is living comfortably in the mountains as Carl, the human. Though he is still robota-non-grata in Connor’s world, she eventually relents, and they all team up to try to destroy the Rev-9 and save civilization as we know it. And it all happens in a non-stop barrage of fights, shoot-outs, and CGI-heavy set pieces—including a spectacular air chase that includes a military cargo plane, a Hummer, and an entire Air Force refueling mission.
Working from a story by Cameron and four others (which then became a screenplay-by-committee from David Goyer, Billy Ray, and Justin Rhodes), Miller didn’t pull any punches with Dark Fate. As big and loud as any movie this year, it is not only a roof-raising heckuva time, it’s also a welcome return to what made the franchise so popular in the first place. Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are both more than a bit longer in the tooth, sure, but you can tell they’re as glad to be back as Miller is to be putting it all together.
It may not be cinema at its height of depth and nuance, and, heck, it may not have even been entirely necessary, but Terminator: Dark Fate will give fans what they’ve been missing. As for everyone else, it’s a slam-bam final taste of summer movie fun before the snow flies.