Just when you thought the future, past, potential futures, and sideways time shift things were all so screwed up by this point that there’s absolutely NO WAY Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to materialize out of a sphere again to hassle or help Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), along came “Terminator: Dark Fate.” I mean the spacetime continuum must be at its breaking point by now.
After all, Sarah’s been dealing with this crap since 1984. You’d think that, by now, the robot time travelers of the future would realize that it’d be much easier to just jump back to the same time they did originally in the 1984 movie, minus a month or so to avoid dealing with Michael Biehn, and be done with this already. Without Kyle Reese, Sarah would be dead within minutes. Why they keep spacing out their attacks with so many years in between must only make sense to super-A.I.s of the future, who must have a whole lot of legacy Alexa source code hanging around.
Anyhoo, it’s the present (mostly) and a now super-grizzled Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is terminating Terminators who apparently continually time-jump back every couple years in some attempt to do something. All of those guys, however, are clearly the “C team” because today the future decided to send back a “REV-9” terminator bot (Gabriel Luna), and he and the team collectively rack up $10 million + of property damage in the first few minutes after walking out of the hot time-sphere thingy.
Ok so here’s another question: why didn’t they just send back 200 REV-9s instead of one, all materializing within a few hundred yards of each other, and all AT THE SAME TIME. Seems to me that would make quick work of things, but again, I’m not a super future A.I. (This thing must have some of Siri’s original source code too.)
Anyway, back to the REV-9. He materializes in Mexico City in pursuit of Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), future mom of another future great leader-type person we’re lead to believe, and proceeds to do a bunch of damage. But not so fast, slappy: Grace (Mackenzie Davis or Cameron from “Halt And Catch Fire,” yay!) is here to protect her this time. She’s not a full terminator though: the future’s more budget-conscious these days and only sends back an “augment,” who’s a human with some robot innards to help.
They then proceed to wreck an automotive plant, severely setting back Mexican-American trade deals, and escape by the skin of their augmented teeth.
Things are looking pretty bad, until Sarah shows up on the highway sporting a bazooka and manages to slow down the REV-9 guy long enough for Grace and Dani to steal Sarah’s car and bail, stranding the one-time future super-mom along on the highway with a rapidly re-materializing terminator thingy intent on killing all humans.
At this point it’s revealed that being an “augment” means you need quick access to water or you die after battling Terminators. This may seem like a pretty bad design flaw in the whole augment thing, but it gets worse: they also need steady injections of a bunch of stuff, a medical cocktail containing “any anticonvulsant, sodium polystyrene sulfonate, insulin, benzodiazepine” and presumably other junk.
So they do what you would and barge into a Mexican pharmacy and steal that stuff and a bunch of syringes. So well-hydrated and doped up, Grace is okay to go now.
What now? Never fear, this is a “Terminator” movie, so the gang is quickly re-united, and after a little ice-bath in a disgusting motel room bed, and an injection of all that crap from the pharmacy, the basic plot is spilled by Grace (Davis): this future is 2042, the old super-bad Skynet A.I. never existed, thanks to Sarah’s meddling in “Terminator 2,” but another super-bad Legion A.I. took over instead and did basically the same thing. Ain’t that a kick in the huevos, Sarah?
At this point Sarah reveals she gets mysterious texts warning her about upcoming Terminator landings, which she uses to create more reckless property damage battling them. Grace takes Sarah’s phone out of her chip bag (because the foil of said chip bags makes her phone impervious to tracking, we’re told) and in seconds locates the mysterious sender “outside Laredo” Texas: the exact geographical coordinates, we’re further told, that Grace is supposed to go to in case the crap hits the fan. Laredo, here we come.
The first obstacle here is getting across the border, which would be mind-numbingly easy except for our old pal REV-9 (Gabriel Luna). Gab’s stealthy infiltration of U.S. border patrol facilities leaves dozens of mutilated corpses in his wake, which creates zero suspicion among the alert U.S. border patrol workers. Anyhoo, REV-9 blows up a bunch of stuff, and the gang gets captured, and then escape in a helicopter.
But ol REV-9 isn’t so easily dissuaded.
The gang points the chopper to the cell phone coordinates and here they find “Carl” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) , who’s since hung up his plasma cannon for a custom drapery business, lives in a quaint house in the middle of nowhere Texas, and has a long-time girlfriend named Alicia… who never copped on that Arnie was a robot and must have the sex drive of Melania Trump.
More exposition happens, and nobody considers why Arnie – an artifact from the no-longer existent SkyNet – can possibly be standing here ripping these dead-pan quips. If SkyNet never happened, he was never created, and therefore the Laredo custom drapery business would have become a much more competitive business vertical since Arnie would’ve ceased to exist when the timeline altered.
Maybe? Ahh who knows. Nobody knows what the hell the true nature of spacetime is or which time travel logic operates here. We have stuff to explode.
Exposition scenes are a great way to give the bad guy time to locate our gang, and this time’s no exception. Gab shows up in a chopper and blows up a bunch of stuff, ruining the only weapon the gang figured would stop the REV-9 from committing even more property damage.
But wait, there’s more! Turns out Grace has a secret weapon in her power plant. Remember she’s “enhanced” which means she’s got an Ironman like battery pack jammed inside her, and it screws up advanced Terminators like our pal Gab. Again, seems like a pretty serious design flaw for the Legion A.I., but don’t get bogged down in details of futuristic killer android design.
More exposition here reveals that Dani (Natalia Reyes) isn’t being hunted for her womb, but for herself. See she’s the new “John Connor” in the Legion A.I.’s world, and they choose this random point in her past to come back and kill her. Again why they didn’t send 10 or 200 REV-9s instead of one, or what made this point in time perfect for their ambush (presumably they could choose any time, like how about when she's a helpless baby?), well your guess is as good as mine.
A whole bunch of more things explode and millions of more dollars of property damage happen, until we are led directly to the Final Showdown, where Gab meets the gang for the epic final battle. Guess who wins?
True, there are some logic holes, specifically in the nature and philosophy of time travel and Arnie and his quips are both showing their age, but on the whole “Terminator: Dark Fate” is an enjoyable sequel to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” even after so many years have elapsed in our timeline. I loved seeing Arnie and Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner again, and the beginning de-aging scene showing her, Ed Furlong, and a younger Arnie, set shortly after the “Terminator 2” story ended, was truly stunning.
A must for die-hard fans, you can pretty much ignore all those other Terminator movies since 1991, sit back, pop a Corona and enjoy.