Movie Guru: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ really should be the third in the series |

Movie Guru: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ really should be the third in the series

Linda Hamilton's gritty soldier character is hardly ever played by a woman.
© Paramount Pictures

‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

Rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity

Story by: James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer and Justin Rhodes

Screenplay by: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray

Based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd

Directed by: Tim Miller

Starring: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Diego Boneta, Gabriel Luna and more

Grade: Four stars out of four

Finally, someone made the third “Terminator” movie. True, some people might think that this weekend’s “Terminator: Dark Fate” is actually the sixth movie in the series. Those people may have some vague, traumatic memories of actually seeing the supposed third, fourth, and fifth movies, which ranged from desperately boring to genuinely terrible.

Those who know, however, will realize that it took James Cameron and Linda Hamilton to finally make a movie that deserved to be called a sequel to “Judgment Day.” A surprising, action-packed, deeply moving look at hope and regret, “Dark Fate” is the first movie in decades to capture the spirit of the original films. The series’ version of time travel still might not make any scientific sense, but there’s a pretty good chance it’ll break your heart.

I can’t tell you too much about the plot without revealing spoilers, but I will say that it offers something of a “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” spin on the original “Terminator.” A very scary Terminator is hunting a young woman living in Mexico City, and a soldier from the future has traveled back in time to save her life. As in the first movie, the future will become a much more unpleasant place than it already is if this young woman dies.

The list of things that this movie gets right and “Rise of the Machines,” “Salvation,” and “Genisys,” got horribly wrong is immense. One of the biggest is realizing that the movies have never just been action films. They’re meditations on fate, choices, and regret, a darker look at what it means to be fated to save the world. The entire cinematic universe is built on impossible time-travel paradoxes, but it also looks at the emotional consequences of time travel more seriously than pretty much any other series. What does it really mean when your future has already happened?

Of course, it’s also a great action movie. Some stretches are so breathless I’m amazed they had any time to fit in an actual plot, and even the smallest fight scenes manage to be absolutely gripping. The fact that most of the action is done by women is even more fantastic and genuinely manages to choke me up a little. Kids who grow up with this movie the way I grew up with “Judgment Day” will know that women are just as capable of saving the world as men are.

They also deliver fantastic performances. Linda Hamilton is wonderful, the kind of gritty, world-worn solider I’ve never seen played by a woman. Mackenzie Davis exudes a wonderful heroic innocence, while Natalia Reyes slowly but surely reveals the steel beneath her civilian exterior. As for the only two notable men in the show, Gabriel Luna is unspeakably terrifying as the universe’s newest killing machine. Arnold Schwarzenegger manages a much more delicate balance, playing a machine that still somehow manages to be more human than many of the actor’s roles in recent years.

If you love the series, you need to watch this movie. If you even just like the series, you need to watch it. There’s more story to be told, and I, for one, am finally excited to listen.

Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at

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