Terminator: Dark Fate, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonTerminator: Dark Fate movie (2019)
image © Paramount Pictures

Article updated: 2020.06.26

The Terminator: Dark Fate is a futuristic action film. The movie was reviewed by Kadmon.

Product: Terminator: Dark Fate movie (2019)

Original title: Terminator: Dark Fate

Series: Terminator

Setting: Terminator universe

Previous films in the series: The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Product type: Film, Genre: Futuristic / Horror, Style: time travel, bad characterisation

Release: 2019.10.23

Reviewer: Kadmon, Type: Male, 40s, Taste: Immersive, logical story, consistent setting, prefers surprises

Watched: Very recent (2019.11), first time

Rating: Weak (2- out of 3 points), Enjoyment: Bad (1 out of 3 points)

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This is my review of Terminator: Dark Fate movie, a futuristic adventure movie from 2019. It's about a group of people trying to survive the relentless attacks of a killer robot from the future. As a fan of the first two movies, I was curious what would James Cameron do after getting back the Terminator rights due to the fumbles of the previous reboot films. I was not satisfied by the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

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Review (spoiler-free) - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

When I was a kid, I liked the Terminator series. I've seen all of the movies thus far, and I've read a couple of comics. It was inevitable that I watch Dark Fate too. I've seen the trailer before watching the film, so I was prepared.

The Terminator: Dark Fate movie (2019) is a futuristic / fantastical horror movie. It's about time travelling warriors trying to change the future, while the people in the present try to survive those attempts.

The basic plot is a little confusing. The action scenes are okay, but not outstanding. The actors are a little wooden, but they are not terrible.

The trailer does spoil parts of the film, but I think it's a good indication of what will you get if you watch the movie.

My experience

It's hard for me to review this movie. At parts, I couldn't see what was happening, as lots of thing were happening at night, and it was filmed in badly lit conditions. Then, at parts, I couldn't recognise what was happening, because the action sequences were filmed Michael Bay-style, instead of allowing the watcher to see the action. Then, for the rest of the movie, I couldn't understand what was happening, because we didn't get enough information about what was happening or what is motivating the characters.

I did not enjoy this film. I tried to follow what was happening. I watched it until the end in the hope that it will start to make more sense, but it didn't. If it weren't part of the Terminator franchise, I'd probably given up earlier.

There is a good chase scene in the beginning of the film, but that's about the only thing that's easy to digest.

Also, Mackenzie Davis, playing Grace, looked good in the Terminator: Dark Fate film, so there's also that.

Rating: Weak (2- out of 3 points)

Enjoyment: Bad (1 out of 3 points)

Chance of watching it again: Very low. I didn't like the plot, and I didn't enjoy the action. There's nothing in the Terminator: Dark Fate movie that would make me want to watch it again.

Rewatchability: I'm not sure. If you liked the film for the first time, you probably liked it because of the action, not the plot, so you might like watching Terminator: Dark Fate multiple times.

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Will you enjoy this?

If you like mindless action flicks, you might love this film. There's no tension to it, but it's full of action scenes in a lots of different settings to make them different from each other.

If you like logical sci-fi and time travel, you will be disappointed.

If you are a fan of either Linda Hamilton or Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might get some enjoyment out of this. Although you might get more enjoyment out of watchin Terminator 2 again.

If you are a fan of the first two movies, you might be disappointed by the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

If you are a fan of the whole Terminator film series, you might enjoy seeing yet another reboot of the franchise, as you'll get some killer robots, time travel, and lots of action scenes.

Watching for plot points

If you are only watching this film because you are curious about the "canon" continuation of Terminator 2, you won't really be satisfied. More about this in the spoiler review.

Do you need to see the other films in the series to enjoy this?

That's a good question. I think, if you are enjoying the Terminator: Dark Fate film, you'll enjoy it for its own sake. You won't need extra background information to understand it better, as it basically starts over everything. Actually, knowing anything about the previous installments might detract from your enjoyment.

Terminator: Dark Fate, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonTerminator: Dark Fate movie (2019)
image © Paramount Pictures

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Review with spoilers - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

As a standalone film, this movie is empty.

As a sequel, it's awful, as the Terminator: Dark Fate film makes the first two movies unneccessary. They need not happen, as the Terminator kills John Connor anyway in the second scene of Dark Fate, even though Skynet was destroyed, and they had only sent back two Terminators according to T2. We learn that Sarah Connor hunts Terminators sent back in time. So, where are these additional Terminators coming from? Who sends them back? It's not Skynet, because John defeated them before they could send more, than Sarah stopped Skynet from becoming a reality.

Plot summary

In Terminator and Terminator 2 Skynet sends killer robots into the past to kill John Connor, so he won't become the leader of the resistence in the future. The robot fails for the first time to kill Sarah Connor, who will be the mother of John. Then we learn that Skynet sent back two robots, but the robot fails even for the second time, and as a karma backlash, Sarah prevents Skynet from being created, so there won't be any robot-apocalypse.

However, at the beginning of the Terminator: Dark Fate film, a third terminator kills John Connor. We don't get any info, how is that possible, who sent it back, if there were only two robots sent. Then, some time later, two time travellers appear. The first of them looks like a female looking robot, who quickly wrecks a group of policemen to steal their stuff, so she appears to be the bad guy. Then the other starts to do the terminator routine of pressing people for info then killing them, so we realise that he is going to be the bad guy. Then the bad terminator is stopped from killing a girl, Dani Ramos, by the good terminator. We later find out she is not a robot, just a very enhanced cyborg, and she is from a future, where Skynet is called Legion, but it's less of a bleak future, even though the killer robots are invincible there. We learn that Dani will be the leader of the resistence in the future, that's why Legion wants her dead. Then the terminator chases them, then Sarah Connor (who spent those years killing terminators) joins the team, then the terminator that killed John Connor joins the team. Then they destroy the terminator together, but both the John-killer terminator and the cyborg girl has to sacrifice themselves.

The setting

The setting of the Terminator: Dark Fate film is not entirely clear. In the first movie, we got to know that in the future, Skynet will start a nuclear war to destroy mankind, and it is able to send one robot back in time through a time machine to change the past. In this present, however, the future seems to be that Legion starts a nuclear war to destroy mankind, it creates a time machine to send back at least one killer robot, but there are also multiple terminators from Skynet - are they also from alternative, aborted futures? The story doesn't make the setting easy to understand, and the characters don't even bother to understand it, they just react to the threats the script throws at them.

The message of the story

It's hard to say. I'm not sure there's any message in this.

The structure of the story

The scenes of the Terminator: Dark Fate film are played in sequence, with many flashback scenes. It has the usual arc of the dramatic structure (introduction, action, resolution). It doesn't close the story, it ends in a way that allows sequels.

Time travel cycles: According to my understanding, we are in the second time-travel cycle in the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

  • Original timeline: Dani grew up to be the leader by herself.
  • First time travel: Legion sent a terminator, and Dani sent a soldier back to the same time, when it became apparent that the Terminator can be killed by blowing up the power cell, and by using the help of the good T800. In this timeline Sarah Connor was probably killed, as the cyborg girl doesn't have any memory of her.
  • Second time travel: Having the information from the first time travel, Dani gave the coordinates of the good terminator to the cyborg girl, and let her know that her power cell can kill the terminator.

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Problems with the story - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

The title - Dark Fate

There is nothing that would explain the choice of title. Previously, there was the "There's no fate but what we make for ourselves." quote from Terminator 2, but I don't think it would refer to that, unless to imply that it was Sarah's making that she lost her son.

Stupid or questionable elements

There were multiple small problems in the Terminator: Dark Fate film I do not even list, I try to focus on the big problems.

The death of John Connor: One of the problem with this (beyond angering fans of the franchise) is that it makes the previous films in the series pointless. No matter how much they have fought to keep John alive, he gets killed in the first scene. His death is sudden, and worse, it doesn't affect this film. There is no buildup for it in the Terminator: Dark Fate film, and we don't get time to mourn him, because we get quickly cut to the next scene to introduce new characters. This just shows that the life of John is not important.

Sacrifice of the cyborg girl: Her power source is the only thing that is able to destroy a terminator. If the whole thing was planned from the beginning, why doesn't she have a secondary power source in her body, that is easy to remove and doesn't cause her dead?

The time travelling cyborg: It's unclear why is she chosen to send back? She doesn't appear anything special, and it looks like getting cyborg parts is normal in that timeline. She receives her cyborg parts due to fatally wounded. If Dani could choose any healthy soldier to get enhanced, she'd get better results. As Dani knows she'll need a time travelling agent, she could just train someone to be that perfect time traveller. Also, males are a lot stronger, so choosing a male would get a more fit agent to start with.

The date of the time travel: Why did Legion choose this specific time in history to get rid of Dani? In the Terminator: Dark Fate film we don't learn anything about how Legion uses time travel, and whether they can choose any time, or just have to travel randomly. We also don't learn how does the resistance use time travel.

By the way, in The Terminator, it was implied that Skynet is about to be defeated, that is why only one terminator was sent back. In Dark Fate, it doesn't seem that way, so there's nothing stopping Legion to send a squad of terminators to the same time.

The method of time travel: It was explained in the first film in the series, The Terminator, that time travel is only possible by things covered in flesh. And the evil terminator travels without a flesh cover. But as Terminator 2 already violated this principle, I give that a pass.

Countryside terminator: The whole T800 back-story in the Terminator: Dark Fate film is just awful. The fact that the T800 kills John, then just leaves Sarah alive is stupid. I'm pretty sure Sarah would also become dangerous to Skynet if she survives, so the basic programming should make her a secondary target. By the way, there must be a couple of other secondary targets in the memory of the Terminator, so it's not like he was sent back for one job, then he could just retire and build a farm. The fact that he started to change, and feels sorry, and is now having a happy family, is just plain stupid. First, Terminators don't change, unless they are being reprogrammed. Second, it's almost impossible to hide being a Terminator from your own family.

Skynet terminators: In Terminator 2 it was told that there was a second terminator sent back before the resistance took the time travel facility. After defeating Skynet, it's unlikely they wouldn't have found out if it sent further killer robots into the past. Yet, according to Dark Fate, several more terminators arrived since the end of Terminator 2.

Legion terminators: The whole point of the terminator was that it was an infiltration unit - that is why it was human shaped, and had real human tissue on the metal skeleton. Also, that is why it was sent back, because living tissue cover was a requirement of time travel. As Legion terminators have shapeshifting nano-tech, that is also able to travel time, why do they need the metal skeleton? Also, what use is there to have a humanoid robot, when you could have way more efficient ways to build a killing machine?

Future world: The world of the future is ruled by Legion, that destroyed everything, and hunts humans to eradicate the world. The robots Legion uses are way more advanced than the Skynet robots were. Yet, we see that the human resistence is a lot more advanced than the ones in the first movies, they have high-tech weaponry, cybernetics, and overall more competent. This doesn't seem plausible.

Future weapons: According to what we see in the Terminator: Dark Fate film, the future terminators are invincible killing machines that mow through the high-tech human commandos. The only thing that can take them is a power cell that the cyborg girl has. As they can create such power cells, why don't they use it in their weaponry? As they know they will meet Legion terminators, why do they send those commandos, without proper weapons, just to get killed? It would be a lot more efficient to send them with at least one of those power cells in a rocket, so they would have a fighting chance, otherwise it's totally pointless to make a 3 second stand before getting killed.

The T-800 identity: As JM McNab (keatonbrows) points out, the attacks of the T-800 in the first two Terminator movies were well documented by the police, and he was caught on camera multiple times, and the perpetrator was not caught, so they are still looking for him. The good terminator must have a hard time evading police cars and security cameras to avoid getting arrested.

Invincible and all-powerful terminator: According to interviews, the creators of the terminator sequels seem to take pride in creating better and more advanced terminators, as if that is what makes a better movie. What it makes it, however, is harder to make believable battles between regular humans and the terminators. Probably that's why they decided to up the ante with a cyborg resistance soldier, but this just leads to a Lensman Arms Race, and it makes the whole thing less and less believable and relatable for the audience. As CinemaSins points out, the new terminator that is capable of tearing cars apart, slashing and maiming humans with shapeshifting melee weapons, just carefully pushes the protagonists around, to avoid seriously hurting them. This just removes any tension from the scenes. If the writers would have used the terminator to the maximum of its capabilities, it would have just killed its target in the factory, ending the film at the 15 minute mark. Possible solution: Instead of coming up with ways of avoiding killing the main characters with an all-powerful robot, it would have worked better with a non-all-powerful one. The original terminator was a perfect design - it had incredible strength, was very hard to hurt, and didn't need to sleep, but that was all it had. It didn't have superhuman speed, shapeshifting abilities, built-in weaponry, couldn't control electronics remotely - it was easy to understand its abilities and the limits of those. I also think sending less advanced terminators would be more fitting to the theme of Skynet getting defeated constantly.

Small problems:

  • CinemaSins's idea: The terminator and the cyborg girl arrives at the factory at the same time, even though the girl arrived sooner, and she even got a car.
  • CinemaSins's idea: How does the cyborg girl get into the factory, holding a shotgun, when there are even metal detectors at the gate.
  • CinemaSins's idea: Sarah receives exact coordinates and times to arrive to, when terminators arrive. Why don't she comes earlier to those coordinates, so she can prepare?
  • CinemaSins's idea: If Sarah receives those coordinates of arrival, what does she do on the freeway, instead of the house where the terminator arrived?
  • CinemaSins's idea: Why does Sarah leave the downed terminator to chase the girls who stole her car? Isn't she's there to make sure the terminator is destroyed?
  • CinemaSins's idea: How does she find the stolen car with the girls? They use a car to get back into the city, and the first time they stop at the store, Sarah gets there after a minute.
  • CinemaSins's idea: The terminator spends a lot of time to be polite before trying to kill somebody.
  • CinemaSins's idea: The terminator switches to pushing people when he gets to main antagonists, making sure not to harm them too much.
  • CinemaSins's idea: The terminator doesn't change his face throughout the movie, while he commits multiple murders on camera. Shouldn't the police try to arrest him? They always act like they don't know who he is.
  • CinemaSins's idea: While fighting near the turbine, the protagonists have multiple chances to seriously hurt / possibly destroy the terminator, but they just stand there or do stupid things.

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How does it compare to the other works of the creators?

Most of the crew took part in productions of average / boring action movies (with Terminator: Dark Fate film adding one more to that list). It was only Tim Miller who had directed one good film (Deadpool), but it seems like this story was too hard for him.

How does it compare to the other films in the series?

Terminator: Dark Fate compares badly to the other films. The first two films were good, the next three were incoherent messes. The Terminator: Dark Fate movie joins those three in being a mess.

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Possibilities of improvement

Visually it was mostly okay, it was the plot that fell apart. I don't think any edit could help the story.

Action scenes: The lighting was bad at parts, more light might have been useful to understand what is happening. If there are wide angle shots of the action scened, with some added light they might make a better movie.

Future saviour: The writers tried to mislead the watchers by suggesting that the girl will be the mother of the saviour, but it turns out that she herself will be the future leader of mankind. The whole thing tried to subvert expectations built on the first two movies, but this is stupid in context of the plot. I'd have left this part out.

Legion: I wouldn't have changed the name of Skynet to Legion - Skynet is an established name, and Legion is just a rebranded Skynet anyway. The existence of Legion defeats the purpose of T2, so using the old name won't really matter.

How it could have been better?

Action scenes: One of my problem in the Terminator: Dark Fate film was with the lighting, as several scenes happened at night. Those scenes were probably dark to make it look more scary. However, nowadays dark scenes make the watcher think that they try to hide some flaws of 3D animation, and a good action scene looks good even if it happens in the daylight. Sure, The Terminator used a lot of night scenes, and even Terminator 2 had some of those, but in this episode, the bad terminator is not afraid of going public, and it is basically invincible with the available weaponry, unlike the T-800 that is easily damaged or even destroyed using conventional firearms and explosives.

Non-invincible terminators: It would make the movie more believable.

Not killing John Connor: Although killing him is not a problem in itself for this specific film, but the whole story could have happen without killing him. His death angered many fans, and it will restrict future writers, in case there will be sequels of the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

Terminator: Dark Fate, movie (2019) - Film review by KadmonTerminator: Dark Fate movie (2019)
image © Paramount Pictures

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Resources - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

IMDB: Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): Database article.

WikiPedia: Terminator: Dark Fate: Database article.

Box Office Mojo: Terminator: Dark Fate: Database article.

Terminator Wiki: Terminator: Dark Fate: Database article.

Creation - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

Flicks And The City: Making of TERMINATOR 6 DARK FATE Behind The Scene Clips & Bloopers: Video about creating the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

Parental advisory information - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

Jeffrey M. Anderson (for Common Sense Media): Terminator: Dark Fate: Parental advisory information article about the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

Reviews with no spoilers - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

Black Nerd Comedy: TERMINATOR: DARK FATE - Movie Review | Black Nerd: Review video with no spoilers.

Jeremy Jahns: Terminator: Dark Fate - Movie Review: Review video with no spoilers.

Mark Geraghty (for Pop Movee): TERMINATOR: DARK FATE (2019) MOVIE REVIEW: Review article of the film, with minor spoilers, but no more spoilers than the trailer.

Paul Selluloid (for World of Entertainment): Movie Review – “Terminator: Dark Fate” (2019): Review article of the film, with no spoilers.

Scott Davis (for HeyUGuys): Movie Review – Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): Review article of the Terminator: Dark Fate film, with minor spoilers, but no more spoilers than the trailer.

Tasha Robinson (for The Verge): For better and worse, Terminator: Dark Fate is a throwback for the franchise: Review article of the movie, with no spoilers.

Reviews with spoilers - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

AngryJoeShow: Terminator: Dark Fate BOMBS & DESTROYS Franchise! - Angry Rant: Review video with spoilers.

AngryJoeShow: Terminator: Dark Fate ANGRY RANT! - [Spoilers Discussion!]: Review video with spoilers.

Black Nerd Comedy: I Have To Explain TERMINATOR Dark Fate SPOILERS | Black Nerd: Review video with spoilers.

Chris Stuckmann: Terminator: Dark Fate - Movie Review: Review video with spoilers.

Christy Lemire (for Roger Ebert): Terminator: Dark Fate: Review article about the Terminator: Dark Fate film with spoilers.

CorderyFX: Terminator Dark Fate is a WASTE OF TIME: Review video with spoilers.

David Ehrlich (for Indie Wire) ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Review: This Isn’t the Worst ‘Terminator’ Movie, but It Should Definitely Be the Last One: Review article about the Terminator: Dark Fate film with spoilers.

David Fear (for Rolling Stone): ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Review: Sarah Connor Saves the World (and the Franchise): Review article about the movie with spoilers.

Jay Exci: Terminator: Garbage: Review video with spoilers.

Jeremy Jahns: Terminator: Dark Fate - SPOILER Talk (What I HATE About It): Review video with minor spoilers.

Nerdrotic: Terminator: Dark Fate Destroys Sarah Connor | Spoiler Review: Review video with spoilers.

Phil de Semlyen (for Time Out): Terminator: Dark Fate: Review article about the Terminator: Dark Fate film with no spoilers.

RedLetterMedia: Half in the Bag: Terminator: Dark Fate: (FULL SPOILERS): Review video with spoilers.

the video on YouTube

Robert Kojder (for Flickering Myth): Movie Review – Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): Review article about the movie with spoilers.

Screen Junkies: Honest Trailers Commentary | Terminator: Dark Fate: Review video with spoilers.

Stuart Monroe (for Get on My Damn Level!!): Movie Review: "Terminator: Dark Fate" (2019): Review article about the film with spoilers.

The Critical Drinker: Terminator Dark Fate review - Yes, it really is that bad: Review video with spoilers.

The Dave Cullen Show: Terminator: Dark Fate Review (Major Spoilers): Review video with spoilers.

Analysis - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

CinemaSins: Everything Wrong With Terminator: Dark Fate In Zzzzzzzz Minutes: Analysis video about the problems and plot holes.

JM McNab (keatonbrows) (for Cracked): Sequels That Disregarded Key Scenes From The Original Movies: Analysis video about the consistency of the series.§

Further resources - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

How It Should Have Ended: How Terminator Dark Fate Should Have Ended: Video, with a humorous take on the Terminator: Dark Fate film.

Looper: Biggest Unanswered Questions In Terminator: Dark Fate: Video about the plot.

Screen Junkies: Honest Trailers | Terminator: Dark Fate: Video, with a humorous take on the movie.

Screen Rant: 25 Things You Missed In Terminator Dark Fate: Video about references to other stories.

Buying the product - Terminator: Dark Fate movie

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Have you seen the Terminator: Dark Fate film? How do you like the movie? Would you recommend it to others? Do you know reviews or resources you'd like to add? What further thoughts do you have about it? Tell your opinion in the comments!


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