'Terminator: Dark Fate' review: Nostalgia, action aplenty in formulaic sequel

WATCH: 'Terminator: Dark Fate' trailer

Full disclosure: die-hard Terminator fan here.

I saw Terminator 2 in theatres as a teenager seven times, at the very least. Then there were the endless rewatches at home with friends. Suffice it to say there were big personal stakes going to see Terminator: Dark Fate, technically the sixth movie in the franchise, but story- and plot-wise, the third. (Just go with it.)

Starring our old favourites Linda Hamilton (as an ass-kicking Sarah Connor) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (interchangeably T-800 and “Carl”), the movie picks up where Terminator 2 left off. A future dominated by Skynet and the machines was erased by Sarah and John Connor, with the help of the T-800, but what the trio didn’t account for was a new future. What happens in that future?

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That’s what we discover in the first several scenes of Dark Fate, the exposition nicely provided for those in the audience a bit fuzzy on details. Of course, it’s almost essential to not get bogged down in time-travel specifics; Terminator movies are best watched with suspended disbelief.

Get to the point, man! Is Dark Fate good or not?

Let’s put it this way: if you’re a Terminator fan, you will enjoy this movie. There are endless nods to the original two films, including the music playing when a Terminator “lands” on Earth, a truck they use to escape and infamous quotes tweaked slightly. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) has said that he’s a lifelong Terminator fan, and it shows in the finished product.

While the movie isn’t going to win any awards, it’s a rare victory in modern cinema’s current endless quest for nostalgia. There were loud hoots from the viewing audience, and even cheers. As with the other movies in the franchise, there’s some cheesy dialogue and not everything makes total sense, but somehow it all comes together and works. Another critic wrote that this movie has “heart,” and that’s a perfect descriptor.

How are Hamilton and Schwarzenegger?

Much older, and although they’re stiffer and slower to move from one side of the screen to another, when it comes to action scenes it’s like no time has passed. They also have an excellent chemistry, and it’s wholly believable when they trade barbs and subtle digs. Again, you have to ignore that Schwarzenegger, playing a machine, has aged; it’s also best to shut off your analytical brain when you see how tiny in stature Hamilton is while yielding a gun larger than her entire body.

Despite it all, you’ll never want their scenes together to end.

There was a lot of speculation about an Edward Furlong cameo. Is there one?

Yes, in a way. I won’t spoil it here.

How are the other actors without any previous connection to the franchise?

You’re asking about Canadian Mackenzie Davis, who plays “augmented human” Grace, and Natalia Reyes, who plays Dani Ramos, the woman who must be saved from the “Rev-9” Terminator (Gabriel Luna, who aces the mostly silent part of murderous automaton). Davis is at her ass-kicking best and relative newcomer Reyes holds her own with these big players. At certain points in the movie, it’s these two women and Hamilton taking on the baddy as a trio.

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The nicest element of this is so many movie directors and producers nowadays shoehorn women into “positions of power” in order to showcase how “woke” they are. Dark Fate doesn’t need to shoehorn. It makes sense that these women are in charge here. There’s also a revelation near the midpoint, further solidifying the importance of women to the overall Terminator story. The audience was just as thrilled watching women battle the Terminator — after all, a good fight is a good fight, and they’re wholly organic.

So what’s the bottom line?

Full of action and packed with nostalgic references, Terminator: Dark Fate is one of the rare modern movies that tills its franchise past in the right way. Despite going note-for-note in some scenes, for whatever reason it doesn’t come off as pandering, nor does it get annoying. It’s actually fun to spot all the Easter eggs throughout the film. Anchored by the leonine Hamilton, all feels right in the world again.

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.

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