Yes, he’s back: Schwarzenegger is a ‘Terminator’ again

Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Terminator: Dark Fate”

If you’ve seen any “Terminator” movies past the first two, you may wonder why they even needed to exist, past being presumed cash cows at the box office – and even that hasn’t always been the case.

You might greet “Terminator: Dark Fate” with the same skepticism, but the pleasant surprise is that it’s actually pretty good. That stems from it going back to the initial story threads and giving them some fresh twists while holding quite true to what filmmaker James Cameron set down the first time.

Included in that is a reunion of stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. Their characters have come a long way since that cyborg ventured back from the future to eliminate her son, who would grow up to lead a revolution. Though they still have that link, they’ve developed … the former killing machine now fitting into society as almost an average Joe, and her, an expert warrior ready to blow away anyone who earns it.

Gabriel Luna evokes “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” by playing a biologically souped-up enemy, but “Terminator: Dark Fate” largely goes back to the original picture’s plot, with another futuristic traveler (Mackenzie Davis) trying to protect yet another future mom of a revolt-against-the-robots kingpin (Natalia Reyes).

That it’s woman defending woman can’t be purely coincidental in this day and age, but as relevant as that is, it’s really the enjoyment from the Schwarzenegger-Hamilton reunion that gives “Terminator: Dark Fate” its biggest charge. The history of their work together in the franchise goes a long way toward giving their reconnection its impact, and it surely will help a viewer to know that background, though it’s not absolutely necessary.

With Hamilton having been missing from preceding chapters, “Dark Fate” makes it a point to explain how her Sarah Connor fits into the saga, and it wisely does so in a way that won’t test the patience of those who already know. It’s a help that skilled genre veteran David S. Goyer (well-known for his “Dark Knight” work) is one of the screenwriters here, with the aforementioned Cameron appropriately having had a hand in developing the story as well.

So many sequels simply are money grabs, it’s refreshing when one actually makes sense for existing. The “Terminator” pictures have fallen prey to the lower end of that spectrum, but with “Dark Fate,” the series happily is back on track.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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