Terminator: Dark Fate recently came roaring into theaters, promising a return to the gritty sci-fi action that made the first two films all-time classics. Linda Hamilton's return piqued fans' interest, and Tim Miller in the director's chair meant good action was a sure thing. The end result is a mixed bag, with critics divided over its quality.
Regardless of where one falls in their general opinion, everyone can agree that some things worked, while others fell flat. No one can say it was perfect, but detractors would be just as erroneous to decry it as complete garbage, so the following list will compromise and point out five things we loved about Terminator: Dark Fate, and five things we didn't.
10 Love: The First Act
The opening scene has its problems, but the first act as a whole is easily the strongest part of the movie. The characters' introductions are all intriguing scenes, and the mystery as to why the Rev-9 is hunting Dani pulls viewers into the world and makes one sympathize with the young woman thrown into this bizarre situation.
It is all topped off with an impressive car chase, which also turns out to be the best action sequence in the movie. It goes downhill afterward, but having one strong act is better than none.
9 Don't Love: The Other Action Scenes
The car chase and prior hand to hand fight between the Rev-9 and Grace is excellently filmed. It is chaotic but the viewer can always tell what is going on. Being the first bit of action in the movie, however, means the ensuing encounters try to top it, leading to some ridiculous set pieces.
Maybe bemoaning over the top sequences is silly in a movie about robots from the future fighting each other, but the franchise has always felt grounded in its own way. Terminator and T2 have weight to their fights, helping immerse the viewer into the world and making it feel real. Fighting in a crashing plane and landing in on a Dam reminds the audience how impossible its concept is.
8 Love: Mackenzie Davis
The plot retreads a lot of common ground, but Mackenzie Davis's character adds a unique concept to the franchise – augmented humans. She comes from the future and has been enhanced with superhuman combat capabilities.
She's not invulnerable, however, and can only fight at her peak abilities for a few minutes before needing to rest and use medication. This concept is cool enough on its own, but the actress's performance is a highlight of the film. This was her first blockbuster action movie, and she handled it like a champ.
7 Don't Love: The CGI
Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a landmark in visual effects. Its use of CGI was unparalleled at the time and remained so for many years afterward. At the end of the day, however, CGI made up a small fraction of the visuals. Much of the action in Dark Fate uses computer images as a crutch.
It wouldn't be as much of a detriment if it looked good, but some of the shots are comically bad. For this franchise, it is better if the set pieces rely on practical effects. Terminator 3 is lauded by many, but at least the action looks convincing more than a decade after release. Dark Fate's CGI looks bad today and is only going to age with time.
6 Love: Arnold Schwarzenegger
While the necessity of including Arnold in every Terminator film is arguably one thing holding the movie back, one cannot deny how fun it is to see him on screen again.
Some don't like the turn his character takes in this movie, but his performance works as some great comedic relief. Arnold's humanized T-800 delivers the funniest lines of the whole movie. As a two in one bonus, he still gets to kick some butt.
5 Don't Love: The Plot
If you gave a brief plot summary of the first two Terminator films and this one, they would all sound the same. People run away from a homicidal robot from the future.
It worked in T2 because of the bigger budget, twist about the T-800 being a hero, and the story actually pushing the plot forward with Sarah Connor's story and the protagonists' mission to prevent Judgment Day. In Dark Fate, however, the basic plot is exhausted, and the movie does little to make it feel fresh.
4 Love: Music
The music is done by Tom Holkenberg, who some might better recognize as Junkie XL. Before Dark Fate, the musician had already amassed a sizable catalog of film scores, ranging from Mad Max: Fury Road to Deadpool. Fortunately, he can add this movie to his resume of impressive works.
His rendition of the main theme is a particular highlight, with the guitar and several other instruments added to the classic piece of music reflecting the movie's main Mexico setting.
3 Don't Love: The Intro
Despite being a direct sequel to Terminator 2, the opening scene of Dark Fate immediately undoes all the victories Sarah and John accomplished in the prior outing. Turns out, Skynet sent several Terminators back in time, and one of them caught up with the Connors and takes John out in the middle of the day.
It's a pretty cheap way to reverse the second movie's finality and barely makes sense in the lore. It would have been more interesting to see an older John Connor looking for purpose after the future is saved and he is no longer a destined hero, kind of like Terminator 3.
2 Love: Linda Hamilton
Not only has Sarah Connor returned, but Linda Hamilton got into tip-top shape to step back into the iconic character's shoes. It would have been enough for her to put on some dramatic performance, but she waltzed onto the set ready for action.
Hamilton underwent a grueling training regiment lasting over a year in order to get her body into the condition seen on screen. It's especially difficult for older people who haven't been keeping up with fitness, but she delivered.
1 Don't Love: Getting Rid Of Skynet
Instead of Skynet, Legion is the system that plummets humanity into oblivion. It's meant to show humanity's stupidity and their inevitable demise but giving it a different name feels weird, especially considering the machines' similarities to Skynet's army.
In a way, Dark Fate does several things the retconned movies - Terminator 3, Salvation, and Genysis - do, like changing Skynet to a different system and showing the apocalypse is unavoidable. Why they needed to exclude those movies to make the same points again is a little strange, but it is nice to see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton coming back to tell the story.