VOD film review: Terminator: Dark Fate
Ivan Radford | On 20, Mar 2020
Director: Tim Miller
Cast: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes
If you can’t do better, do bigger. That’s the golden rule that has underpinned franchises and sequels for decades in Hollywood. In more recent years, though, another rule has emerged: if nobody likes your sequels, retcon them out of existence and start again. And so, after X-Men: Days of Future Past and 2018’s Halloween, the Terminator series follows the same formula, rebooting back to just after Terminator II and carrying on from there.
It’s a nifty idea, one that finally tries to break the cycle of previous outings, which repeatedly went back to retread old ground, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cameos and guest roles increasingly less surprising. Dark Fate, however, does actually take Arnie’s legacy into new territory, as we catch up with the original characters after T2 – not The Terminator, but Sarah Connor, played by actual Linda Hamilton. Here, she’s a tough-as-nails veteran who’s gone off-grid, and she becomes the grizzled mentor to Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an augmented human soldier.
Grave is sent back from the future to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), a factory worker whose livelihood is under threat from robots. She and her brother (Diego Boneta) soon find that threat take on a new, lethal edge as a Rev-9 model is sent back to kill them – and the opening chase sequence that brings them all together is one of the best set pieces in the franchise to date. There’s a non-stop feel to the pursuit, one that’s choreographed with explosive wit by Deadpool director Tim Miller.
That lean, mean structure owes a lot to the original Terminator, and while Arnie does turn up with something new to do – even bringing some ambiguity to his familiar mechnical figure – the fun here is seeing the baton being passed to new heroes. That’s not just Hamilton, whose no-nonsense action chops have been missed from the franchise, but also Davis, who – after years of impressing on Halt and Catch Fire – finally gets the big screen leading role she deserves, and becomes a Hollywood action star with thrilling charisma.
The result manages the tricky task of going backwards while looking forwards, with a refreshingly female-led ensemble that gives you hope a sequel can be better as well as bigger.
Terminator: Dark Fate is available on Sky Cinema. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, as part of an £11.99 Sky Cinema Month Pass subscription.