There’s a familiar, nostalgic 80s and 90s feeling when watching ‘Terminator: Dark Fate.’ And it’s not because Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprise their iconic roles in the franchise, but more because James Cameron has come back to produce the film and it shows.
There’s an easy and simple narrative to the film; one that takes quite a lot of liberties with regards to physics and logic. What is more important in these proceedings are the emotional beats, cinematic moments (some of which can get quite meta), and the large-scale action sequences that defy any laws of science.
It’s a fun film if you don’ t take it too seriously. Even the actors and the director aren’t taking it too seriously, even though everything in the film feels like it is. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is forever scowling, a gruff and tough warrior who has fought too many terminators and in some ways have become a parody of her character in ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day.’
She’s having fun, for sure, but her character isn’t. In fact, Sarah Connor is starting to see that the battle between the humans and the machines rages on, in altered timelines now, and she’s being left behind. Her contributions are brushed aside as a new target has been laid out: a Mexican woman named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). And sent from the future to protect her is the augmented human Grace (played by scene-stealing MacKenzie Davis), who has no clue about Skynet and Sarah Connor.
Set as a direct sequel to ‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day,,’ ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ revisits a lot of the same themes of the first two films from the franchise with some updated sensibilities added on to make the work more universal, more contemporary; but it is essentially the same movie as ‘Terminator’ and ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day.’
With the savior of the human race a Mexican woman, it allows the film to veer into political territory by including into the narrative an illegal crossing of the borders from Mexico to the United States and a whole scene at a border detention.
There are quite a few of these new elements that come into play that makes ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ feel just like an updated version of the two original films in the franchise. Even the new terminator, the Rev9, played by Gabriel Luna, shares Dani Ramos’ ethnicity, in order to blend in.
The two things that stand out in terms of themes and narrative elements are Sarah and realising how her mission has to change in this new alternate timeline and Grace, as an augmented human, becomes a signpost of how this battle versus the machines will never really ever end.
MacKenzie Davis is a captivating actress and she has the physicality and the charisma to anchor the movie on alongside with Linda Hamilton. Along with Natalia Reyes, the three show a wide range of empowering women that becomes a signpost for the sort of resistance one is to expect in the future.
Because if there’s another update that is quite important in this new sequel of the franchise, it is how much more ingrained we are to technology. There’s a line that Sarah Connor makes saying, “They never learn,” which hits quite strongly when you realise that despite all the warning signs, we are still heading straight for that inevitable clash against AI. Even Grace, as a human augmented with machine parts, is a sign of our inevitable merging with machines.
So while ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is a fun, 80s and 90s style action film with exhausting large-scale battle sequences, the film rehashes old themes because it is making pointed criticisms about our relationship to technology and our inability to separate from it. The ‘Terminator’ franchise had warned us long ago about this inevitability in ‘Terminator’ back in 1984. 35 years later, and we are still here. The franchise still makes sense. We have not learned our lesson and the cycle continues.