The entire Terminator franchise is inarguably one of the most beloved, long-lasting, and unique action and science fiction film franchises in history. The original film The Terminator came out a whopping 35 years ago, but this latest installment into the series, Terminator: Dark Fate, is here to prove that the entire Terminator universe has only just gotten started.
This movie is envisioned as a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and it tells the story of the living legend Sarah Connor along with two major newbies, Dani Ramos and Grace. Dani is the target of the newest Terminator, and Grace is a mechanically enhanced human who has been sent back in time to save her.
Thankfully despite the fact that a few of the other Terminator films haven't quite lived up to the original duology, Dark Fate is a pretty great addition to the Terminator universe. It's not perfect, but it's still awesome. Here are five ways in which this movie beats all previous Terminator films, and five ways in which it's worse.
WARNING: Major spoilers to follow.
10 Better: The Girl Power
The original Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day —which are supposed to directly precede Terminator: Dark Fate, effectively cutting the rest of the films out of the franchise — are iconic films for a few reasons, but one of the biggest and most obvious is that they were two of the first action films to put a female character front and center as their action hero. And Dark Fate obviously wanted to pay homage to these origins when it made its new lead characters two seriously badass girls who were more than worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the OG, Sarah Connor.
9 Worse: The Pacing
One of the things that Terminator: Dark Fate has made clear is that Sarah Connor has significantly altered the future, so much so that she is no longer "the great Sarah Connor." In the future that will eventually exist, she's really a nobody in the human resistance against the machines.
However, Dark Fate built a lot of mystery around this new future and the new character that needed to be protected for it, so it was hard to follow some of the characters and stories, and difficult to get invested in them when the audience didn't know what they were actually investing in. The movie forces the audience to ask a lot of questions, and it would have been easier to follow if those questions were answered sooner.
8 Better: The Special Effects
Anyone with half a brain would have expected this installment of Terminator to be a step up from previous films in the special effects technology department, because obviously visual effects are developing insanely quickly and only keep getting better.
Terminator: Dark Fate no only excels; it surpasses expectation. The rendering of the new Terminator and all of the fight scenes are really cool, but one of the earlier scenes in the film that portrays Sarah Connor, John Connor, and a T-800 Terminator shortly after the events of Terminator 2 was absolutely jaw-dropping to see.
7 Worse: The Future
Although she had to lose almost everything to do it, it's clear that Sarah Connor has significantly altered the future through her experiences and constant war against the machines. However, something that was a little hard to follow is the fact that she, John, and the T-800 terminators completely changed the future that once existed, but somehow the future that now exists seems to be nearly identical to the other future. The whole theme of fate versus free will is obviously a huge overarching aspect of the Terminator franchise, but this confusing alternate-but-not-alternate reality seems to solidify the notion that some things are inevitable.
6 Better: The Technology
One of the obvious issues with the Terminator franchise as it has grown and continued is the fact that the creators of each film have to constantly one-up the previous installment when it comes to creating a Terminator that's nearly impossible to defeat. Honestly, it was going to be really hard to top the T-1000 anyway, but the Rev-9 (Dark Fate's latest and greatest Terminator) is a pretty awesome concept.
This Terminator has the classic structure with a few modifications and upgrades, but it also has a liquid metal component that allows the Terminator to transform its appearance and also actually operate independently of its skeleton. So it's pretty much two Terminators in one.
5 Worse: The Old Messiah
Dark Fate is meant to be a return to the original heart and soul of the Terminator franchise, but within the first few minutes of the film it's painfully obvious that the movie's creators wanted to return to that heart so it could completely rip it open — along with the audience's. The opening scene is of a young John Connor, not long after T2, being shot and killed by a T-800 terminator. This death erases John Connor from the future timeline and completely alters everything that will happen going forward. And it was a brutal, unexpected, and sad end to the mythological figure that the Terminator franchise had built.
4 Better: The New Messiah
When Sarah Connor first meets Dani Ramos, she assumes that Dani has now taken the world title as the new Sarah Connor. Namely, that Dani is the woman who is going to give birth to the messiah now that John Connor has been killed. And after letting that assumption marinate for a while, Grace finally reveals that Dani isn't the mother of the future's savior, she is the future's savior. Again, Terminator and T2 were iconic action films that put the world's toughest mother front and center, but it seemed like an appropriate new twist to make Terminator's newest hero into a girl who isn't going to raise her kid to save the world — she's going to do it herself.
3 Worse: The Misplaced Emotions
After the intensity of being introduced to Arnold Schwarzenegger, mechanical killing machine, in the first Terminator film, it was a masterful move to take the scariest of villains and turn him into the hero in Terminator 2. However, Terminator: Dark Fate takes the T-800 that successfully terminated John Connor in a very unexpected direction by making him something very close to human.
After terminating John, this Terminator has no purpose in existence and nowhere to go back to, so he essentially starts living his own human life. And humanizing the machine in T2 worked, but in this movie, that particular narrative decision just takes it a little too far.
2 Better: The Action
The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are rightfully regarded as two of the greatest action movies ever made, and clearly Terminator: Dark Fate was aware of the legacy that it needed to live up to. If you're going into Dark Fate hoping to see some serious action, then best believe you will not leave the theater disappointed. The fights are absolutely insane; they're everything that anyone could hope to see when killing machines go head to head. The movie really includes everything but the kitchen sink when it comes to making the action scenes as extreme and intense as they can be.
1 Worse: The Terminator
This newest iteration of the Terminator is known as the Rev-9, and for the bulk of the movie he is played by actor Gabriel Luna. While the technology behind this Terminator is cool and Luna gives a great performance, this particular Terminator doesn't feel like much of a character. Perhaps a Terminator really shouldn't be, but it's hard to deny that some of the most memorable aspects of the early films were Arnold Schwarzenegger's and Robert Patrick's characters. In order for an action film to cement itself as a classic, it seems like the villains need to be as memorable as the heroes. Terminator: Dark Fate falls short.