Terminator: Dark Fate    
Directed by Tim Miller. Starring Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta. Length 128 minutes. Rotten Tomatoes 71%

Terminator: Dark Fate is the latest instalment in the Terminator series. But it is a pale shadow of its illustrious predecessors, The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (T2) (1991). With James Cameron as their director, the bar was set very high for subsequent directors trying to milk every last dollar out of the franchise. T2 is considered one of the best hundred films ever made.

In the 28 years between T2 and Dark Fate there have been three films, a TV series and web series. But with James Cameron as a producer and actress Linda Hamilton returning as Sarah Connor, the creators of Dark Fate have tried to distance themselves from all the Terminator films since T2.

Using the wizardry of time travel to smooth out the contradictions in the plot, Dark Fate is being billed as the real sequel to the first two films. But this distancing from the flops which left the narrative a confused mess, has not led to a Terminator resurgence.

If you haven’t seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009) or Terminator Genisys (2015) or any of the TV or web series, you’re not missing out on much. Even so, it’s difficult to get your head around the story considering the time between the release of T2 and Dark Fate.

Dark Fate begins in 1998 after Skynet, the A.I. company, has been destroyed. Sarah Connor and her son John Connor are living peaceably but then John is killed by a T-800 robot that looks very much like the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then the T-800 disappears.

Twenty-two years later, in Mexico City, a more advanced Terminator appears from the future to murder a girl named Dani Ramos. But like clockwork an augmented soldier (half dead human with robot bits which keep her alive) called Grace is sent from the future to protect her.

Dani is wanted because she is the new John Connor and despite the destruction of Skynet, another A.I. company called Legion (when or where or how this company was created is never explained) wants to stop her leading the resistance against the A.I. in the future.

Hence an epic chase and struggle begins between the good and evil robots. Sarah Connor has become a terminator exterminator since her son’s death and comes to the aid of Dani and Grace as the Rev 9 closes in for the kill. They form a trio and then an old T-800 (Arnold Schwarznegger) who has remained in this time period also comes to the party as the Rev 9 is incredibly strong and really, really wants Dani dead.

In a nutshell, Terminator 6 is a reboot of Terminator 2. The action is more epic and more realistic; both humans and robots have a fuller back story; and the themes are more politically correct.

But unfortunately the Dark Fate team tried to use the same story arc as T2 with more advanced action sequences. It was once said that “Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish”. Well, sadly, Dark Fate bursteth the Terminator bubble.

The film has been punished at the box office. The film cost US$185 million to produce and $80 to $100 million to distribute and market. But it only made $29 million at the US box office on its opening weekend.

It’s the second worst opening weekend of all the Terminator movies, behind Terminator Genisys. Box office analysts also told Variety that Dark Fate is projected to make a final worldwide gross of between $180 million and $200 million, which will result in a total loss of $100 million or more.

Recapturing the magic of a hit blockbuster is no easy task even with the original writer and director attached to the film. Judgement Day has arrived for the Terminator franchise.

Sebastian James is a Sydney journalist.  

Michael Cook

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet