Machines get older and grow gray hair and beards, too.
That’s one of the lessons of “Terminator: Dark Fate,” the sixth movie in the series. Except that this one ignores the three previous sequels (“Rise Of The Machines,” “Salvation,” and “Genesys”), instead opting to return to the characters and timeline of the best of them, “Judgment Day.”
Thus, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are back, but as subordinates to new characters. McKenzie Davis, who was so good opposite Charlize Theron in “Tully” (my review is here), is Grace, an augmented human sent back from the future to protect Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), a young Mexican woman who is being hunted by Gabriel (Gabriel Luna), another Terminator who has also returned from an apocalyptic future in which artificially-intelligent machines are wiping out the human race. Wait, I hear you asking, didn’t Linda and Arnie prevent that fate in “Judgment Day”? Yes, but they didn’t stave off humankind’s short-sightedness, which led to the same horrible result.
Fortunately, Sarah Connor is still around to hunt down these killing machines whenever they drop into her timeframe. The interesting thing about “Dark Fate” is that we’re halfway through the movie before Schwarzenegger shows up, and he isn’t missed. Sure, you know he’ll appear at some point, but the women-led plot moves along pretty well without him, complete with well-crafted themes of female empowerment.
Except for a couple of long speeches about humanity and the future, the script — which took six people to create — leaves plenty of room for spectacular fights, chases, and special effects. “Dark Fate” is full of them, masterfully done, giving you exactly what you wanted when you bought your ticket for a Terminator movie. The exception is one scene that takes place inside a plane, shot too dark and edited with so many quick cuts that it’s hard to follow the action. Other than that, director Tim Miller delivered all the necessary pieces, although I wonder how much control he actually had over the movie, considering it was based on a story by James Cameron, who also produced.
Hamilton, who’s had exactly three good roles in her career (Sarah Connor, Sarah Connor, and Sarah Connor) does her character justice, while Schwarzenegger slides back into his most famous screen persona easily, albeit with the semi-arthritic gait of a 72-year-old man. Luna is good as the mostly-silent mechanized assassin, Reyes is just right as Dani, but it’s Davis who steals the show as a kick-ass woman with a mission.
“Terminator: Dark Fate” is so much better than the previous three entries, a satisfying followup to the first two movies that put these stories on the map. I give it a 7 out of 10.