This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
It’s certainly been a while since the last Terminator film. Genysis still ranks up there as one of the best installments in the franchise and seemed to be getting everything back on track so it’s a shame that we didn’t follow it up. Dark Fate is still pretty good though. I thought it had a solid story and good call backs to the originals. That said, some parts of the plot may be a little tough to buy into. With time travel there’s always a way of course but that doesn’t stop me from giving it a second glance at times.
So the movie starts off with with the Terminator showing up and destroying John Connor. He has just completed Skkynet’s mission at long last so that has sealed humanity’s hope. The films always made it clear that if John were to die then SkyNet would win. Humanity no longer has any kind of chance at surviving and it feels bad but at least we lasted a long time. Sarah reflects on this but then something odd happens…the world doesn’t end. There is no SkyNet and there is peace across the planet. What’s going on?
Well, Terminators still keep on appearing but it’s hard to say what their goals are and Sarah just goes around blowing them up. She gets mysterious text messages that let her know when they are coming. Their new target is now a girl named Dani. Dani is being protected by a cybernetically enhanced human named Grace but the newest villain (Rev-9) is a difficult man to keep down. It looks like they may all have to team up to stop him this time but it won’t be easy.
So a big thing here is that poor John was destroyed fairly early on. It’s been a rough road for him since the guy seems to always either die or get mind controlled. The main plot part I get skeptical about here is how SKyNet isn’t around anymore. Legion is the new villain since apparently SkyNet was never created but that doesn’t really add up for me. The whole point is that John is the only one who can stop Skynet so when the Terminator blew him up, that should be it. Now there are a lot of time loops, paradoxes, and everything going on with these films so there are a lot of ways to explain it away but it still feels a bit iffy.
Then apparently even if you beat Skynet they will just be replaced by another villain so it’s like there’s no point to whatever the heroes do. They’ll just be doomed either way. It’s not as bad as Star Wars episode 7 suddenly erasing the previous 3 movies by having the Sith army rise up again but it still does undermine the efforts a bit. I would have kept Skynet around as the main villains because it could have been an interesting way for the heroes to try and resist fate. Knowing that they are in a doomed timeline but they keep fighting anyway would really be a solid story right?
Well, Dani does a good job of taking up the mantle here. She’s more grown up than John was here so she’s able to take the situation more in stride than he ever could. I liked her confidence and she did make sure to step up when the chips were down so I appreciated that. She stuck up for her brother pretty quick even if it meant talking tough to the boss. Even at the end when they’re discussing plans, she is quick to volunteer to be bait. I definitely had no issues with her here.
Then you have her bodyguard Grace. Grace does well for a human against these robots but it’s a shame that she can’t use her abilities for longer periods of time. It felt like every other scene had her running out of energy or gasping for breath. She would need water often to keep her body heat down and it felt like the future humans really needed some better tech. If this was the best that they can do then it’s no wonder that they’re losing the war. That said, in a way the villains barely needed to send anyone to the past in that case. I could say the same about Skynet though, it’s always hard to believe the humans stand any kind of chance but they always manage to pull through somehow.
As for Sarah, she talks really tough and isn’t afraid of all these attackers. It’s rather impressive of her. Now the hype can be a bit much with her apparently taking down a bunch of terminators already though. I know she’s got a lot of guns and has the element of surprise but taking out terminators casually? It’ll take a lot for the film to get me to believe that unless all of the terminators have started getting really sloppy. Power levels aside, she is just a fun character though.
Then you have the main villain Rev-9 and he’s definitely cool. The guy’s even got a bit of a personality as he has fun messing with the humans. He’s very smooth with how he lies the whole time and that lets him sneak up on people. To the outside world this is just some guy but he knows how to get serious when fighting the heroes. His ability to split into two people was really cool and same with his regeneration and ability to manipulate his body. This is the kind of opponent that’s very dangerous to fight and he does deliver in each fight.
Finally you have Carl who gets a run role here. As the original Terminator you know that he’s seen a thing or two in his day. It’s impressive how well he holds up against the newer models since he’s very dated at this point. The idea of him just relaxing and enjoying the family life is also pretty interesting. It’s nice that he actually got to have a bit of a happy period of time here. Carl takes a lot of injuries and verbal shots from the other characters but never falters. He really did well to show that even a Terminator can have a heart. It never feels particularly cheesy either but just like a solid character development moment.
The fights are definitely really good here. The choreography is on point and you really get the feeling of the Terminator being portrayed as the hunter here. The characters are doing their best to stay out of his way and to keep moving while he just chases them relentlessly. There is no escape from an opponent like this and the film portrays that really well. There’s always a feeling of fear in the air.
Additionally I’d say the special effects were solid. Perhaps they could have done more in the future setting as I feel like Terminator 2’s dystopia looked more impressive which is saying something. This one didn’t get that same feeling across. The effects for Rev-9’s abilities are top tier though. The soundtrack is also good. Again, not as impressive as T2 but you get some of those old themes in the mix here. There weren’t a lot of new themes that I found to be very memorable though.
The writing is good and the film doesn’t drag on so all around it’s a solid experience. At most this film can suffer from the issue of having a villain that’s too powerful. You constantly feel like Rev-9 could have just ended them already. Every time he doesn’t you are a little skeptical just because of how crazy strong he is. All he should need is an instant to take Dani out.
Overall, There’s definitely room for more films and sequels as always so I’d like to see that. It would be cool if they can bring Carl back in some way and with time travel on the table that really shouldn’t be very hard. Throw that in and then things should get pretty interesting. I tend to like all of the Terminator films so I’m sure I’ll be satisfied with the next one as well. Just give me a lot of action and some time travel for good measure. Then I’m all set every time.