In “Terminator: Dark Fate” enhanced, mostly machine super-soldier from the year 2042, Grace, played by Mackenzie Davis, stridently protects young Dani, played by innocent strong Natalia Reyes, from advanced liquid metal Terminator Rev-9, played by relentless Gabriel Luna, also from the future, sent to terminate her. Now older Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton – reprising her original character, returns as the maternal Hero.
Sarah is the mother of John Connor, who becomes the savior of the Human race in the future war against the Machines controlled by the sentient A.I. gone horribly amok – Skynet. In James Cameron’s 1991 “Terminator: Judgement Day”, Sarah altered that possible future. That Judgement Day never happened. Or did it?
Director Tim Miller’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” reboot of the franchise suggests that the sins of the future may have come back to haunt the present. His occasionally distracted narrative unexpectedly explores the nature of fate. Although at times dominated by digital visual effects and pulse-pounding action, in the end, Tim displays an unquestionable heart.
The screenplay by David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray takes place 22 years after “Judgement Day” 1997, which was apparently averted in that narrative. Tim Miller, who also directed “Deadpool”, has dismissed the numerous sequels following “Terminator 2”. That’s actually a blessing. Just saying.
Linda’s Sarah is the grizzled warrior renegade bent on killing all the Terminators sent from the future. Sarah’s personal war is one of vengeance, after suffering heartbreaking tragedy. Linda embodies world-weary strength and sadness that makes “Dark Fate” poignant. Her forced allegiance with aged, white-bearded Terminator T-800, reprised by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who goes by Carl, the drapery man, is strange cinematic karma. Humorless, singular Sarah warns Carl, when this is all over, “I’m gonna kill you.”
Fortunately, amidst this literal tipping point at the end of humanity, adrenaline-fueled chases, and brutal battles, Tim Miller displays a welcome sense of humor, be it Carl describing the irresponsible drapery decisions of one of his customers. Carl has done his best to become human since his Terminator mission completed. He may have found a purpose in life. Arnold reflects eloquent wisdom. In a way, “Dark Fate” is surprisingly about finding one’s purpose.
Mackenzie Davis is Director Tim’s charismatic force as Grace, protector of Dani and the future of the known world. Mackenzie literally towers over Linda and Natalia in their scenes together. Not just physically, she commands the calm powerful presence. Mackenzie is a star. And she’s the total badass.
Her Grace holds out her hand to Dani, “Come with me or you’ll be dead in 30 seconds.” Reminiscent of Arnold in “Terminator 2”. Then in the ensuing visceral fight scene, Grace choke-slams Rev-9 to the floor. Boom.
Sitting in the back of a pick-up truck, Grace gently touches Dani, who’s asleep on her lap. Linda’s Sarah looks on thoughtfully. This is more than just some military operation. Mackenzie is a surprising nuance. Her humanity, in concert with Linda’s innate gravitas, elevates “Dark Fate”.
At the narrative arc of “Dark Fate”, the humanized Terminator Carl asks, “Sarah, do you believe in fate?” Sarah’s choices in the past had determined and guided the unknown future, not preordained. So do you believe in fate?
Maybe, we all do our best: Making our best choices possible in who we are going to be, what we are going to do. Perhaps, that’s what Tim, Mackenzie, Linda, and Arnold are asking us to look at: Who do we choose to be? Fate may well be. Yet, choice matters. That being said, take a chance on “Terminator: Dark Fate”. Then choose for yourself.
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Photo credit: Screenshot from video