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Whether Terminator: Dark Fate is the last chapter in this story or the first in an all-new franchise is, for now, irrelevant. The film works either way, bringing the tale of the first two films to a satisfying conclusion while reintroducing the classic storyline, in exciting new ways, to an excited new audience. It’s a breathtaking blockbuster, and a welcome return to form.
Easily the third-best Terminator film, which is more of a compliment than it sounds. It’s great to have Hamilton back in this role, but she’s ably matched by Reyes and Davis.
Dark Fate gets more right than it gets wrong (just about, anyway), and there’s an undeniable thrill in seeing Hamilton and Schwarzenegger reunited onscreen for the first time in almost three decades. But this fourth attempt at crafting a worthy sequel to James Cameron’s peerless sci-fi double bill only just gets passing marks.
It’s a pleasure to see Hamilton and Schwarzenegger back in action as leathery veterans, though the script shunts the cast onto some unexpectedly topical terrain, including a heroic escape from a US-Mexico border prison camp, with detainees’ cages flung open in triumph. Yet it’s Davis’s brusque and androgynous Grace who turns out to be Dark Fate’s most stonily compelling asset.
Dark Fate serves as a case study for the difficulty of crafting a satisfying follow-up to a pair of certified classics, a process that seems to involve constant toggling between hopelessness and insisting that all is not lost. As such, it’s hard to blame Cameron for keeping his old series at arm’s length. It’s also hard to stay interested in a franchise that looks, with each inessential sequel, more and more like a doomsday prepper rephrasing the same old prophecy.
At least Dark Fate is frequently bad in a funny way, without the dutiful dullness of the last couple sequels.
“Dark Fate” might close the door on the “Terminator” franchise, but every dull frame of it suggests that we’ll be trapped in that vicious back-and-forth ’til kingdom come. The good news is that you can forget about everything that’s happened since the summer of 1991.
It’s good to see Hamilton getting a robust role, although, sadly, she has to concede badass superiority to Davis. This sixth Terminator surely has to be the last. Yet the very nature of the Terminator story means that going round and round in existential circles comes with the territory.
Time Out
Even with the original stars returning, the sequel feels weightless, disposable and hardly the stuff of Skynet nightmares.
As blissfully simple as James Cameron’s original “Terminator” framework was, “Dark Fate” has a tendency to toss in unnecessary confusions.

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