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Blu-ray Review: Terminator: Dark Fate

January 29, 2020

By John Corrado

★★½ (out of 4)

The sixth entry into the Terminator franchise started by James Cameron in 1984, Terminator: Dark Fate serves as a direct follow up to Cameron’s groundbreaking 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day and, for better or for worse, essentially ignores the events of the other three films that happened in between.

Tim Miller, of Deadpool fame, steps into the director’s chair here, with Cameron serving as producer. Miller has some massive shoes to fill, and he does succeed at staging some decent set-pieces, but this belated sequel also feels simplistic and is somewhat frustrating on a narrative level. The film as a whole is okay, but ultimately can’t live up to the first two, which are among the most iconic sci-fi and action films of all time.

This film begins directly after Judgement Day ended. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her young son John Connor have defeated Skynet, and successfully prevented the world from ending on August 29th, 1997. They are enjoying the newfound peace, when Sarah watches her son get shot and killed by another T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that was also sent back at the same time to stop him from becoming a resistance leader.

The film then jumps ahead to 2020. Skynet was never built, but a system called Legion was, developing artificial intelligence that, by 2040, has taken over the world. The majority of the action is set in Mexico, where a new liquid metal Terminator, the highly advanced Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), has been sent back in time to kill a young factory worker named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), who will play a role in a future resistance movement. A mysterious, cybernetically enhanced human named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) has also been sent back through time to protect Dani.

In order to survive, Dani and Grace are forced to team up with an older, more grizzled Sarah Connor, who we find out has spent the years since her son’s death seeking vengeance by travelling across the country destroying rogue Terminators. The plot of Terminator: Dark Fate follows the basic formula of the other films, and you could think of it as a soft reboot of the series, in a similar vein to the 2009 Star Trek film. This is mainly done so that they can bring back Hamilton, and it is fun to see her back in the role, but the choice to kill off John Connor, whom the first two films are indirectly and directly about trying to save, didn’t really work for me.

The most frustrating thing about Terminator: Dark Fate is that the film retcons the best film in the series, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and renders the victories of that film essentially meaningless. If we know John Connor is going to get killed anyways, and another sentient AI will rise in place of Skynet, the events of Judgement Day feel a lot less impactful. While Dark Fate can be mildly entertaining on its own terms, and some of the action sequences, if generic, are admittedly well done, the film is also built upon an inherently frustrating foundation. Purely in terms of quality, the film is probably a bit better than expected for a belated sequel, but it also feels kind of needless.

The Blu-ray also includes a selection of six deleted and extended scenes (I Need Your Car, Internet Cafe, Augmentation Volunteer, The Crossing, Alicia Confronts Sarah, and Let Me Save You), as well as the four featurettes A Legend Reforged, World Builders, Dam Busters: The Final Showdown and VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly, which range in length from a few minutes to half an hour.

Terminator: Dark Fate is a Paramount Home Media Distribution release. It’s 128 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: January 28th, 2020

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