There’s no doubt that The Terminator is an instant classic when it comes to sci-fi bravado with lauded action sequences and a compelling narrative. It was an accomplished mission impossible. When Terminator 2: Judgment Day came off in 1991, however, it immediately cements itself as the epitome of sequels that outdid the original. Aside from the bigger, tougher and grittier action sequences, the most pivotal step in engineering T2 is Cameron’s bold move to grant Linda Hamilton her wildcard. Making Sarah Connor a more vital role than even the Terminator is inarguably the reason why T2 matters.
Both Cameron and Hamilton did not return in any sequel that came after Sarah Connor ‘ canceled the apocalypse.’ From there, the franchise only went downhill with long-awaited sequels (Rise of the Machine, Salvation) and a reboot (Genisys) that keeps contradicting each other, losing the spiritual connection to the original canon even when Arnold Schwarzenegger’s been tagging along. It wasn’t until Terminator: Dark Fate that the franchise finally found the connection back, re-established the hurting canon and had a properly-deserved sequel. Hamilton and Schwarzenegger reprise their iconic role, while Cameron produced and blessed this sequel to retcon any other Terminator movie between this and T2.
Written collectively by David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel), Bill Ray and Justin Rhodes, Dark Fate takes the most radical narrative maneuver. First and most importantly, it honors the ending of T2 religiously. From there, the story blends up minor elements from Rise of the Machine and Salvation before adding some nostalgic moments to finally stand on its own. The result is more like a homage that somehow desperately attempts to please Terminator creator, James Cameron, in all the good ways.
The narrative is upgraded with an empowering twist. Focusing on three female protagonists, Dark Fate immediately introduces us to an augmented fighter, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), sent from the future to protect a Sarah Connor-esque woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes). Under the threat of a brand-new Terminator (portrayed by Gabriel Luna), Hamilton’s Sarah comes to the rescue. The thing is, the new Terminator model is indestructible and it can function at two places at once. There’s where the help of an old friend might make the nostalgia more plenary.
The narrative, by all means, is a Terminator story through and through. However, Dark Fate never makes the new lore (that spawned from lore that echoes Rise of the Machine ending) the motor of the story. A chain-reaction has triggered a series of events that will culminate in this sequel; however, none of them made it on-screen (even the send-off of a popular character). High-octane action sequences fuel up the new story more than the enticing new lore. From the beginning, Dark Fate seems to channel the needs for spectacles. The car chase scene kick-starts the parade of spectacles; however, the movie’s best spectacle takes place hundred meters above the sky in a C-5 cargo plane. Deadpool‘s director, Tim Miller, meticulously stages the sequences with sight sets dead ahead to Cameron.
To label it the best Terminator sequel since T2 might not be an understatement. It’s at least the best label Dark Fate can achieve. It’s a crowd-pleasing homage that only works because it’s bold enough to bend the legacy of T2. However, the intensity and the depth of this sequel never reach the level of the first two movies. The foundation that has been built by Dark Fate might be a two-edged sword for future installments (if any). But, for now, let’s just celebrate what we already have: a long awaited proper sequel.
Fueled with necessary nostalgia, Terminator: Dark Fate upgrades the franchise with an empowering twist. And yet, even when Dark Fate is way more superior than Rise of the Machines, Salvation & Genisys, it only proves that any attempt to follow up Cameron’s finest works is futile.