REVIEW: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ excels where it counts: the action

So this is a “Terminator” film where a person or machine from the future has to fight off a far more deadly machine also from the future in order to protect someone.

Sound familiar?

This time around, the movie is more focused on a new character, rather than Connor family like previous installments. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is the main protagonist in “Dark Fate” and is being hunted by a terminator. Because of the action taken by Sarah Connor in “Terminator 2,” though, the terminator hunting Dani is from an AI program in the future called Legion, rather than Skynet.

In her fight for survival against the advanced Rev-9 model terminator (Gabriel Luna), Dani is assisted by another being from the future, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), a human who’s been given robotic enhancements. In trying to escape the Rev-9, Dani and Grace are eventually helped by Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) herself, who’s spent the last several years hunting machines from the future.

This movie basically sets up an alternate timeline so “Terminator 3,” “Terminator Salvation” and “Terminator Genisys” are all disregarded here. Instead, as mentioned in the lede, the movie goes with a new timeline, but a similar framework.

One aspect helping “Dark Fate” separate just enough from its recent, less than stellar predecessors, are the trio of lead characters. What works especially well is the relationship between Grace and Sarah, as the two develop a sort of rivalry between each other.

PHOENIX

Each one has their own opinion on how best to protect Dani and ensure her survival, and in their quest they have an interesting back-and-forth. Having Dani be the main protagonist with a different background than the same old Connor family is also a welcome change.

Following these characters as they go on the run is fairly compelling to watch. Indeed there’s a familiarity here, the story goes over covered ground, yet making adjustments to “Terminator” lore and tweaking the concepts of the series’ characters was an advantage.

PHOENIX

Helping this aspect is the acting from the leads. Hamilton does fine work in portraying Sarah as a grizzled warrior who’s long left behind any optimism while Davis plays Grace well by showing her toughness along with her vulnerability with having become part machine.

Reyes is also convincing as she gives a performance reminiscent of Hamilton in the original picture where her character grows from terrified person on the run to a fighter who recognizes the threat and decides to take it on.

Not everything about “Dark Fate’s” characters work perfectly. One would hope the terminator villain might be more interesting by now, but Luna’s Rev-9 machine is just another generic silent killer. Arnold Schwarzenegger also returns here as another Terminator, but the direction taken isn’t all that interesting and honestly the character wasn’t much necessary.

Where “Dark Fate” absolutely hits its stride, though, is its action. This embraces its action movie label and the entertainment here is absolutely worth the price of admission. There are several scenes featured here that are very well crafted on a technical level.

There’s an especially amazing sequence in the first act where Grace is fighting the Rev-9 with a sledgehammer. It’s wonderfully choreographed and hooked me for the ride.

“Dark Fate” isn’t too deep on a sci-fi level, but the movie clearly sets out to be an action movie and it succeeds with a lot of entertaining sequences and characters an audience can root for. 3.5 out of 5.

Photos courtesy Paramount Pictures, Skydance Media, 20th Century Fox and Tencent Pictures.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, and I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2009 graduate of Rainy River College and a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University in Moorhead. At MSU, I studied journalism and film. Outside of movies, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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