Terminator: Dark Fate film review: Sarah Connor is back…but is the series back to its best?

Is Terminator: Dark Fate the sequel to finally return James Cameron’s franchise to its glory days?

In this latest sequel – the one that pretends that no other sequels happened after Judgment Day – Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is back and ready to lend a hand when a far more advanced Terminator (Gabriel Luna) tries to kill Dani (Natalia Reyes), a woman who clearly has an important role to play in saving the altered future of the human race. Dani already has assistance in the form of augmented human, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), who’s been sent from the future to protect her, but the three together are a force to be reckoned with.

While so many of the Terminator films have made John the focus, even when he wasn’t on screen, there is a delightful shift here that acknowledges the importance of Sarah and everything she has done to keep both him and his future safe. In newcomers Dani and Grace, she gets amazing new comrades in the ongoing fight against the machines, each with their own hidden depths.

The action is relentless and highly impressive (apart from one sequence that briefly gets so over-the-top that it’s hard to know where to look). The fight scenes here feel more intimate: there’s more hand-to-hand combat and the careful choreography and execution of those sequences, especially between Grace and the new Terminator, work brilliantly. Of course, there’s plenty of big explosive action, too.

Getting Hamilton’s Sarah and Schwarzenegger’s Terminator back was a bold move and one that could have backfired. Yet seeing the two of them together really is just as magic as fans might have hoped. There is history there and the emotional baggage these characters bring with them is not forgotten, despite the many years that have passed.

It’s no T2 (what is?!) but in Terminator: Dark Fate we have the sequel Terminator 1 and 2 deserved. The character development mixed with all that action means that fans can continue the story with the characters we loved, while still finding time to enjoy something new and exciting with Grace, Dani and a new Terminator. It’s fun, smart and action-packed and retains the heart at its non-mechanical core.