Director Tim Miller's 2019 film Terminator: Dark Fate understandably had fans of the series excited when details came out about the production. Miller was on a bit of a hot streak after the success of Deadpool, James Cameron had a hand in the writing process and the movie was bringing back not just Arnold Schwarzenegger but Linda Hamilton as well, the later of the two looking wonderfully world-weary and completely badass in the promotional photos that came out prior to release. The movie didn't succeed in setting the box office ablaze, however, likely because it doesn't really bring anything all that new to the franchise, now six entries strong.
The story, which basically asks you to ignore everything that came after Terminator 2: Judgement Day (in fact, it borrows footage from that picture very early on), as we see how nicely things have turned out since Sarah Connor (Hamilton), her son John (Edward Furlong) and the T-800 (Schwarzenegger) have saved the world from the rise of the machines. A few minutes later, a different T-800 arrives and shoots John Connor dead, right there on the spot. That might sound like a major spoiler but this literally takes place less than ten-minutes into the film and it's a necessary step in deleting the events of the films that came after T2.
From there (and we'll avoid spoilers from here on out, honest!) the movie exists in the Mexico of 2020. Skynet did not end the world as we know it, but an artificial intelligence dubbed Legion has caused problems of its own by sending Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), the most innovative Terminator yet, to kill Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) who, in the future, will become a resistance leader. Of course, the humans send a time traveler of their own to 2020 in the form of Grace (Mackenzie Davis). Eventually she and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), team up to save Dani from Rev-9. Sarah's been getting secret info from a secret source about when and where future Terminator's are going to appear, and she's been using that info to keep killing them off as best she can. Want to guess who has been giving her that info?
Better than Salvation and Genisys but more than a few steps away from the others in the series, Dark Fate delivers some really strong action, loads of impressive effects work of both the digital and practical kind and the chance to see Linda Hamilton reprise her most famous role. Is that enough? For some, yeah, it will be and that's fair but the movie feels less fresh than you'll want it to, almost as if it was calculated from the beginning to be a Terminator: Greatest Hits package. It lacks originality and tries to make up for it with bombastic set pieces. We've seen this all before and it no longer surprises us the way that it used to.
Production values are strong here. The score is tense and exciting and to the film's credit, most, though not all, of the digital effects blend in with the practical quite nicely (although there are still a few spots where the CGI sticks out like a sore thumb, at least it is the exception rather than the rule). Plenty of stuff blows up, there's a lot of extremely impressive action in the picture, and the whole thing generally looks really good.
The cast is a mixed bag. It's fun to see Furlong return to his role for two-minutes, but that's really all he does: show up and die. Schwarzenegger isn't breaking any new ground here, but odds are most viewers don't want him to or need him to. He's fun to watch in the part. Linda Hamilton is the best part of the movie, she's quite convincing as an ass-kicker even if she is old enough to be a grandmother at this point. She still very much looks the part and is believably hardened here. Gabriel Luna does the strong silent thing well enough and the Rev-9 design work looks kind of cool. His performance is a physical one, but he pulls it off. Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis are okay, not amazing but okay, though there isn't as much of interest done with their characters as there could have been.
Terminator: Dark Fate arrives on UHD by way of a HEVC / H.265 encoded 2160p 4k transfer framed at 2.39.1 widescreen on a 66GB disc with Dolby Vision and HDR 10. This is, by any standard, a very strong transfer. The image is consistently crisp throughout and when compared to its Blu-ray counterpart shows noticeably better detail and stronger, more lifelike color reproduction. Black levels are nice and deep here, and colors look gorgeous. You really do notice a lot more here in terms of detail, and this isn't just in close up shots (where you can see every pore on the face of every actor) but in the backgrounds as well: dust on clothing, the texture of a brick wall, the dirt on a car, the wear and tear on a gun. It's impressive throughout, showing no problematic noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression issues at all.
Audio options are offered up in English language Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 options, as well as French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Subtitles are provided in English, English SHD, French and Spanish. The Atmos soundtrack on this disc is, in a word, flawless. There's loads of excellent channel separation and surround activity evident throughout the movie and when the movie calls for strong bass, your subwoofer will really get a serious workout. Dialogue stays clean throughout all of the action and gunfire, while loads of rear channel activity pulls you further into the movie. There are, as you'd hope for a brand-new film, no problems with any hiss or distortion. The levels are always perfectly balanced and there's loads of depth and dimensionality to the track.
There are no extras on the UHD disc at all. As this is a combo pack release we also get a Blu-ray version of the movie as well as an insert card for a digital HD download of the film. This release also comes packaged with a slipcover.
The regular Blu-ray disc does contain some supplements, however. First up are nine-minutes of Deleted And Extended Scenes. These scenes entitled I Need Your Car, Internet Café, Augmentation Volunteer, The Crossing, Alicia Confronts Sarah and Let Me Save You. There's nothing super Earth-shattering in here but they're interesting to see. A Legend Reforged is a twenty-minute featurette that quickly brings us up to speed on past events in the series before then detailing the work that Tim Miller, James Cameron, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the picture as well as talking up the new recruits to the Terminator universe and the use of the T-800 in the film. The thirty-three-minute World Builders examines the digital effects work used in the picture, the shooting locations, the set design work, the stunt crew, the action set pieces and lots more. This is definitely the most interesting and thorough supplement on the disc. The nine-minute Dam Busters: The Final Showdown takes us behind the scenes of the film's big finish and shows off some interesting behind the scenes material. Last but not least, the three-minute VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly is a quick look at how the effects were put together for the main future battle scene that takes place in the film.
Menus and chapter selection are provided for both discs in the set.
Terminator: Dark Fate is as entertaining as it is predictable. The movie fails on delivering anything all that new or original when compared to past entries in the franchise, but succeeds in delivering some decent tension, solid stunt work and impressive action set pieces. The UHD/Blu-ray combo pack release from Paramount has an okay set of extra features and a very impressive audio and picture quality, which makes it easy to recommend to fans of the series so long as you keep your expectations in check going in. Far from a masterpiece, this is an entertaining enough mainstream action picture.