'Terminator: Dark Fate' Review Round-Up: Yep, It's The Third-Best 'Terminator' Movie

Just a few days after the social media embargo lifted on Terminator: Dark Fate, the new sci-fi sequel from director Tim Miller, the full review embargo has now also lifted. In the early reactions, one thing was repeated again and again: Dark Fate is the best movie in this franchise since James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day. That's not exactly a tough accomplishment to achieve, considering its competition. But now that full reviews are out there, let's dig a little deeper and find out what else critics have to say about the movie.

Terminator Dark Fate Reviews

Matt Singer at ScreenCrush is the biggest Arnold Schwarzenegger fan I know, and while he praises the former Governator's performance, he also acknowledges that this is no longer his story:

Schwarzenegger is always memorable in these Terminator movies, and his new cyborg adds some entertaining new twists to his typical deadpan schtick. It's clear from the beginning, though, that Dark Fate belongs to his female co-stars, particularly Davis and Hamilton, each kicking an impressive amount of robotic ass while bringing significantly more passion and intensity than one might expect from the fifth sequel in a long-running franchise with a so-so-reputation. Hamilton, who's been out of the spotlight for most of this decade, is going to surprise people with the amount of power and melancholy she delivers. This is not a cash-in gig for her.

And even though Arnold has a supporting role, Jill Pantozzi at io9 actually thought he was in still the movie for too long:

Oddly enough, it almost felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger could have been left out of this film entirely. His initial appearance had me wishing they'd let him do less, not more, though the story does allow for some genuinely great acting moments for the man who just can't get enough of his most famous role.

Empire's Helen O'Hara says that the movie takes "true narrative risks":

Dark Fate feels like a real Terminator movie at last, from the breakneck, deeply terrifying chase that opens it to its moving finale. This was never just Arnold Schwarzenegger's series; it's Linda Hamilton that's the key ingredient.

Haleigh Foutch at Collider was impressed by Miller's direction:

Across the board, Miller's action is thrilling and precisely articulated. Miller fully embraces his Terminator's unique skill set and builds his action scenes around those abilities, as well as Grace and Sarah's, inventing thrilling and unexpected moments that punctuate his tightly constructed set-pieces with plenty of payoff. As a filmmaker, it's clear that he's a devotee of Cameron's school of action, and he's learned the technique well. The set-pieces move and they move the film forward too, making humanity's fight for survival feel as ferocious and kinetically thrilling as ever.

Nick Levine at NME says that even though the premise of the movie – it asks you to forget all but the first two films – is "kind of shameless," the results "are so satisfying that you probably won't care."

Miller delivers some savage action sequences including a gut-churning early car chase, but it's the compelling characters and ever-present tension that make this sequel really fly. One hinted-at final act showdown doesn't quite happen, which could be interpreted as cleverly ambiguous or a bit of a fudge, but it's not anticlimactic enough to spoil the closing scenes.

William Babbiani at The Wrap says that despite a slew of credited writers (which is typically a red flag), "the film never feels like a nostalgia cash-in or a cut-and-paste job made by focus groups and committee. This story actually demands to be told, and it gets told with precision and skill."

Tim Miller's welcome, topical, action-packed sequel smartly overlays the sci-fi spectacle of James Cameron's first two "Terminator" movies on top of a contemporary world which is, in its own way, just as harrowing...Not every film can push the envelope the way "Terminator 2" did, so rather than striving to push visual-effects technology forward, "Dark Fate" focuses on updating a classic story with memorable characters and surprising depth.

Sarah Connor in Terminator Dark Fate

But it's not all positive. Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson calls the movie a "stone-cold bummer," taking issue with the fact that the characters have repeatedly said there's "no fate but what we make," while the movies seem insistent upon "the inexorability of human collapse."

Entropy is the franchise's faith, the conviction that no matter what we do now, there will always be this horrible devolution of things, always the fire and death, and all we're ever doing to stop it is hacking at a Hydra. And maybe that's true! I'm as guilty of trading in doomsday humor as anyone else these days. The end lingers in the mind very stringently right now, though it's been a preoccupation of ours for most of humanity's history. What I found uniquely depressing about Dark Fate, though, is how resigned it is to the reality of its title. How it organizes itself as a paean to tireless scramble and triage, to the fight not for something better but for less of something worse. It's a bitterly pessimistic film. It may be a realistic one, too.

The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore says the movie works "awfully hard to dazzle us," but those efforts didn't seem to penetrate his endoskeleton:

Dark Fate does offer a fair bit of pleasure to those wanting a 21st-century retread of T2. But it suffers greatly from obeying the imperative the first sequel established: Trying to blow minds and up the ante the way that FX-pioneering adventure did, this one offers a series of action set pieces that go from big to huge to ludicrous, even as the script's additions to fear-the-future mythology underwhelm.

Micheal Gingold at Birth.Movies.Death essentially says the movie is fine, but he wishes it were better:

It's likely that many in the audience, some of whom won't have been born when the first Terminator came out, will find the deja vu comforting and maybe even exciting, and you can't deny that Terminator: Dark Fate gives the people what they want, and lots of it. As one of those people, who absolutely loved the Cameron films, I was just hoping for a little more of the groundbreaking in the action and science fiction genres that those movies represented.

Finally, Indiewire's David Ehrlich praises Linda Hamilton, but calls the movie "painfully generic" and says that the franchise itself is now "obsolete."

...there are only so many times you can watch a robot get shot, heal itself, and keep walking before you start praying for Skynet to kill us all, and "Dark Fate" hits that number in its first 30 minutes. It's nice (and perhaps unavoidable) that the "Terminator" franchise has finally reached back into the past to remind us that tomorrow is always up for grabs — that the future belongs to anyone willing to fight for it. When the present is this dull, however, it can be hard to remember what anyone is supposed to be fighting for.

Here's the film's official synopsis:

More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and re-wrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City with her brother (Diego Boneta) and father when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator – a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) – travels back through time to hunt and kill her. Dani's survival depends on her joining forces with two warriors: Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Rev-9 ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah's past that may be their last best hope.

Terminator: Dark Fate hits theaters on November 1, 2019.