‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Review: Linda Hamilton Can’t Bring Back ‘T2’

Sorry to be a Terminhater, folks, but Terminator: Dark Fate is a real disappointment. Having Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor is worth her weight in gold, but she’s the only one bringing anything that still resembles the original classics. That includes Arnold Schwarzenegger

Linda Hamilton in Terminator: Dark Fate | Paramount Pictures

When I say I liked Terminator: Genisys better, I should qualify that to say I did enjoy Terminator: Genisys. I know people hated it and that’s why they didn’t continue that story despite all the Easter eggs they set up for presumptive sequels. If those fans like Dark Fate more, great. We both got at least one Terminator sequel we liked. 

It’s not the day after ‘Terminator 2’

The posters are calling Terminator: Dark Fate the day after Judgement Day.” It’s not. It picks up several years later, although still in the ‘90s. Then it jumps to sometime in 2020 if my math is correct based on the film’s title cards. Director Tim Miller promised Dark Fate would deal with the consequences of T2 and it really doesn’t except to say Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is still wanted in the U.S. 

Mackenzie Davis and Linda Hamilton
Mackenzie Davis and Linda Hamilton | Paramount Pictures

Grace (Mackenzie Davis) and the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) arrive from the future. Grace is there to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes) from the Rev-9 and Sarah Connor intercepts them. It takes the movie a really long time to reveal why Dani is the target, and when they do it is not the surprise the movie thinks it is. 

It’s okay that the movie takes its time re-introducing the original Cyberdine model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). We know he’s going to show up so they can be dramatic. It was a mistake not to build Dani up the way John Connor was, and the film never earns the relationship it wants Grace and Dani to have.

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is doomed to repeat history

Terminator: Dark Fate gets really bogged down in parsing out a new future which isn’t all that different from the one Sarah Connor prevented. Obviously there is still some sort of future where machines take over and sens them back in time, and I can appreciate that. People don’t learn from mistakes so even if you stop Skynet, some fool is going to create Legion. In that way, Terminator 3’s theme that Judgement Day is inevitable holds true.

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger
Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger | Mike Marsland/WireImage

That’s humans though. Legion is still a machine. Can’t a machine compute that if there’s always going to be an AI that kills the humans, there’s also always going to be a leader of the human resistance? Even if they kill the next John Connor, someone else will take his or her place. They have the data to analyze what’s happened before and determine it’s pointless to keep sending robots back in time.

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ doesn’t know what to do with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Every Terminator sequel since T2 has struggled to justify the model 101. In T2 is was a clever twist that he was programmed to protect John. But then to keep programming a 101 to be a protector made less and less sense. It’s really only because you want to have Arnold Schwarzengger in the movie, and I guess he doesn’t want to go back to playing an evil terminator, which at this point would be the most dramatic twist. Salvation actually got to enjoy a little moment with that. 

Terminator: Dark Fate - Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger | | Han Myung-Gu/WireImage

The explanation for why he’s good in Terminator: Dark Fate is so stupid. I get what they were trying to do. The enemy of my enemy is my friend and they need a terminator to fight the Rev-9. The explanation for the terminator’s turn is so thin it sounds like a plot synopsis they forgot to elaborate into a full scene. Terminator 3 went overboard with the gay bar and outdated catch phrases like “talk to the hand,” but Dark Fate is sillier. I found Pops in Genisys a more compelling aging terminator. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator
Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator | Paramount Pictures

Meanwhile, grizzled Sarah Connor calls B.S. on each compounding plot contrivance and Linda Hamilton’s reactions are great. That doesn’t change the fact that she’s right though. A Terminator plot should be better than this. 

It’s ‘Deadpool’ action, not ‘Terminator’ action

The action scenes in Terminator: Dark Fate seem heavily influenced by Miller’s Deadpool in that they’re very green screen with actors floating on wires. As such, they feel more like superhero action than Terminator action. These are supposed to be heavy machines. Now they’re weightless superheroes. I don’t care how much more advanced they are in the new future, they should still be heavy.

Linda Hamilton and Natalia Reyes
Linda Hamilton and Natalia Reyes | Paramount Pictures

Dark Fate has some promising ideas about terminators in a modern context. The opening future war scene imagines terminators in a setting in which we’ve never seen them before. Setting a terminator chase in a border crossing detainment center should be compelling, but it doesn’t play out any differently because of the context. 

The new characters have potential Terminator: Dark Fate never fulfills. I like Grace’s look when her scars light up as here augmented cybernetics kick in. The Rev-9 can divide and conquer, using his T-1000 morphing power and leaving a metal skeleton behind. He doesn’t really use that as a threat to attack on multiple fronts though. Mainly, he sheds his skin to free his skeleton from a trap.

Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9
Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9 | Paramount Pictures

I’ve been defending the continuation of the Terminator franchise just because I always want to see more. After entries like Salvation and Genisys, other fans have argued it’s time to stop before they keep making more bad movies. I still believe it’s always worth seeing what else you can explore in the next one, but Terminator: Dark Fate has made me a Terminhater.