By Chic DiCiccio
There have been a lot of “Terminator” movies since 1991. There was one with Emilia Clarke, another with Claire Danes, and the most notorious one featured behind the scenes footage of Christian Bale verbally pummeling a grip. That must be the affect that starring in a subpar, poorly conceived action movie has on people.
It turns out that all of those lackluster entries into the franchise were missing the “Terminator” secret sauce, and no, it’s not Arnold Schwarzenegger’s standard appearance as the T-800 robot assassin.
It’s Linda Hamilton’s return as Sarah Connor, the true heartbeat of this entire story. “Terminator Dark Fate” is elevated above its “been there-done that” plot simply because of her.
Hamilton has help from two other strong female leads in Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes. Davis is Grace, a soldier from 2042 who has been surgically enhanced to have Terminator-like abilities. Grace travels back in time to 2020 Mexico City in order to protect Reyes’ Dani from a new Terminator called a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna, very cool and creepy in the part), who is a combo of the liquid metal robot from “Terminator 2” and the standard solid endoskeleton from the original film.
One of the best aspects of “Dark Fate” is how it completely ignores every single “Terminator” film other than the first two James Cameron-directed entries. Cameron hasn’t been involved with the franchise since “Terminator 2” and his influence on the story is very clear. However, director Tim Miller applies his own style to the film, which is more interested in close-quarters fistfights than sweeping action set pieces with hundreds of CGI robots on screen.
The story leaves a bit to be desired. “Dark Fate” falls into the action movie trap of following a big action scene with loads of exposition that is detailed simply by characters sitting around and talking. This allows for several lulls, even if many of them feature an extra salty Sarah Connor’s colorful language.
There’s no debating that seeing Hamilton and Schwarzenegger stand shoulder-to-shoulder while firing automatic weapons at a killing machine is extremely cool. The nostalgia factor is cranked to maximum levels, but each of them are so comfortable in the roles that silly plot lines don’t matter.
If you come for Hamilton and “Ahnold,” stay for Davis and Reyes.
Davis is everything you could want in an action lead as she looks the part and has perfect quippy timing. Reyes’ Dani undergoes the most development as the movie progresses, and she never allows it to feel forced.
Forget gender-switch, unoriginal reboots. “Terminator Dark Fate” has all the Girl Power that you need. Hamilton, Davis and Reyes are an incredible trio, and it shouldn’t be lost on viewers that the only dudes in the movie are fairly emotionless robots. It’s good, not great, but easily the third best film in the franchise after the original duo.
And if this is the end for Sarah Connor, it’s been a great ride. Linda Hamilton took her from valley girl to emboldened warrior to cynical attack dog and created a truly iconic character.