Packed with action and great performances from returning stalwarts Linda Hamilton and Schwarzenegger and newcomers Mackenzie Davis and Gabriel Luna, Terminator: Dark Fate tries to add purpose to a franchise on life support. Either too much too late or too little too late, fans are decidedly split on the results for this possible final bow from the series. Sagging box office aside, Paramount delivers one hell of a beautiful 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation with a rocking robust Dolby Atmos audio track and a practically pristine native 4K Dolby Vision transfer. While not plentiful, bonus features are actually worth the watch. You may love the movie or hate it, but the disc is Recommended.
We also Reviewed The Blu-ray HERE
"Why do you care about her?"
"Because I was her."
August 29th, 1997 came and went. Judgement Day never happened - or did it? Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) had a normal life until a cybernetic-augmented warrior from the future named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) saves her from the lethal terminator model REV-9 (Gabriel Luna) capable of looking like anyone and splitting into two separate killing machines. With Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and a displaced T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Grace may be able to keep Dani and the future of the human race alive.
If Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the franchise return, Terminator Salvation the reimagining and Terminator Genisys the reboot, Terminator: Dark Fate is the retcon. Disavow previously failed sequels for a new path forward fully approved by the original series creator James Cameron. While it seems he was heavily involved behind the scenes, even Cameron's involvement isn't enough to keep the spark alive. Too many flubs too quickly have exhausted fans salivating for that tinge of nostalgia but hungry for something fresh and new. Judging by box office tallies, the Terminator franchise is long past critical condition, it's about to be permanently pulled from life support.
The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day are without argument the best of the franchise. Ever since we've had one entry after another struggling with a reason for existing beyond maintaining the presence of a potentially profitable intellectual property that always seems hellbent on crafting a "new trilogy." When it comes to sequels or reboots - I don't have a bias against them so long as there's a reason for them to exist. If it's just to do the same thing all over again, it's a waste of time. Worse than that is if the film manages to invalidate the purpose of the best films of the franchise. While Terminator: Dark Fate does bring back key creative personnel and cast members and does find an interesting way to move the franchise forward for future installments, it comes at the cost of invalidating the reason we watched The Terminator and T2: Judgement Day in the first place.
I don't want to go into spoilers. This is the internet, if you want to know what happens at the beginning of this film (if you somehow managed to not hear about it already) it's easy for you to find. I won't give that away here so forgive my intentionally cryptic verbiage. In an effort to be relevant to the times and find a way to move the franchise forward, it treats a very important character with such disservice that Terminator: Dark Fate essentially renders the first two films meaningless. If Dark Fate is truly intended to be a proper second sequel - what it does to a character makes watching the first two films pointless. There are so many different and better ways they could have handled that character and their arc in this new universe of Terminator films without doing that in that particular way. That act at the beginning could have been meaningful, instead, it was a means to just get a character out of the way. Vagueness over.
While I have a pretty big plot gripe with this film, I do like most of what it set out to do and the ride it puts you on. Tim Miller crafted exhilarating action sequences that get bigger and crazier giving the film - and the franchise - a sense of urgency. Mackenzie Davis as Grace was a cool addition to the series as the new personally motivated protector willing to sacrifice her life for the future. An augmented super-human she is fast, cunning, and lethal - but her enhancements can also be a weakness. Gabriel Luna as the REV-9 was the first time since Robert Patrick that I had any fear of the primary villain of a Terminator film. Linda Hamilton was awesome to see again as a rough battle-hardened Sarah who desperately needed a reason to keep going. I loved her in this and she's a big piece of what the franchise has been missing. Hell, even Schwarzenegger looks like he's back on better footing as the T-800 since T2 - but they seriously need to stop trying to give him a name. Carl, Pops - it doesn't work. Aside from that I really liked where this film aimed to take the franchise - it's how it decided to get there where I have a problem.
On the scale of Terminator films, Dark Fate is certainly better than Genisys, and I'd say I feel it's more coherent and interesting than Salvation. I'd put it about on par with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines for entertainment value. I'll still pull this one out from time to time to give it a watch as I do with all of the other movies, but it won't be the special film I'd hoped it would be. It won't be like the first two films where I make it a point to pop some corn, turn out the lights, and silence my phone each viewing.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount delivers Terminator: Dark Fate to 4K UHD in a two-disc 4k UHD Blu-ray + Blu-ray + Digital set. The discs are housed in a two-disc case with identical slipcover artwork. The disc loads to an animated main menu with a traditional navigation structure. None of the bonus features are available on the 4K disc.
Sourced from a 4K digital intermediate, Terminator: Dark Fate conjures up a beautiful 2.39:1 2160p transfer with Dolby Vision HDR - HDR10 is likewise also available. The amount of added detail this image gains over the 1080p release can be a little of a blessing or a curse. On one hand - you can see and appreciate all of the fine facial features and costuming and set design work. I was actually most impressed with the improvements in skin details for Grace where you can see more clearly defined surgical scars from her augmentation process. This also follows with some of the film's better CGI visual effects. When the time was taken to give the effect a real presence like the first time we see the REV-9 split apart on the truck into two separate machines as the camera pans around - it's a great effect and you can distinctly see the tiny rendering details.
However, here this level of resolution combined with HDR is that when the CGI becomes weightless - as the Gabriel Luna REV-9 leaps off the truck high into the air like some kind of balloon - or when he spiderly runs over the cages in the detention center - the effect just becomes that much more obvious. Gripes about inconsistent CGI quality aside, Dolby Vision offers up numerous improvements to the black levels of the film, contrast, and heightened colors. The film already comes packed with a sandy-yellow color pallet. Where the 1080p disc just felt yellow, the 4K Dolby Vision is given some gradience into tans and browns with richer shadows and shading. This was especially notable when Grace time travels in the night and is approached by the cops. That whole sequence enjoys much more color definition. Likewise, the rest of the primary spectrum enjoys a kick while maintaining natural and healthy-looking skin tones.
I was most impressed with the brief scenes we have of the new future war where the tones are a starker black, white, and gray with little primary presence. The added black level presence gave this nightmare world more object weight. Some of the CGI still stood out, but it felt more immersive with added image depth than I saw in 1080p. Truthfully this is a practically flawless 4K presentation. My only gripe as it is with many major blockbusters - when viewing at an increased resolution and improved colors - it pulls back the curtain behind the CGI trickery. When the effect already looked great - they look even better here. If they were already cartoonishly weightless, it just looks rushed and unsatisfying. Thankfully most of this movie looked great. You can see where they spent that budget.
Cue Brad Fidel's classic Terminator theme - you'll want to crank the Dolby Atmos audio for this one! Not that it's soft or poorly mixed like some other releases from a particular studio. Naw. You'll just love having the explosions, Junkie XL's score, bullets, screams, crashes blasting out of your sound system at a volume that wouldn't cause your neighbors to call the police! While this mix ticks off all the marks for dialog and scoring - it's the object placement that really crunched for me. When Grace or the REV-9 travel back through time, the lightning cracks, the blast and their subsequent pinpoint sounds for their fall to the ground were spot on.
Throughout the show the action sequences get the biggest punch for obvious reasons - they're the main draw for a movie like this. When Grace is slamming away at the REV-9 with the sledgehammer - each hit has such a distinct impact with a great LFE punch. Likewise, during the subsequent car chase - every impact was met with a sub-rattling oomph that really made this mix immersive.
Levels are spot-on for this track. While I recommend you crank it for full impact, you don't need to go out of your way to ride the volume while you watch. Dialog is clean and clear throughout occupying the front/center channels while the surrounds carry the heavy load of active sound effects and atmospherics. Plenty of effects make use of the vertical channels - the helicopter chase and the airplane crash sequence is near-constant vertical activity. Even during the quiet bits, there's enough activity spread through the soundscape to give each moment plenty of atmosphere. The movie moves fast and loud and the Atmos keeps pace perfectly.
Bonus features may not be the robust arsenal that previous Terminator releases enjoyed, but what we're getting here is quality stuff. A Legend Reforged and World Builders are some solid in-depth features. The deleted and extended scenes aren't much to speak of, wise cuts including a cringe-worthy action sequence that was a smart removal. All Bonus features are on the standard 1080p Blu-ray disc.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (HD 8:54)
A Legend Reforged (HD 20:11)
World Builders (HD 32:46)
Dam Busters: The Final Showdown (HD 8:30)
VFX Breakdown: The Dragonfly (HD 2:33)
Terminator: Dark Fate proved to be an energizing albeit problematic return for a franchise that was already treading on thin ice. Bringing back James Cameron as a producer, Linda Hamilton and Schwarzenegger are like a pair of old shoes comfortably fitting back into their career-defining roles. Newcomers Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes give it their all to add relevancy and justification for this film to exist as a springboard for a new trilogy while Gabriel Luna delivers the first truly suspenseful villain since Robert Patrick's T-1000. But all of this greatness comes at the cost of a key franchise character - which has proved to be too much of a sticking point for many fans.
Paramount Pictures delivers Terminator 4K UHD Blu-ray fans a technically terrific visually stunning and sonically engrossing disc to add to the collection. The native 4K transfer with Dolby Vision delivers picture-perfect visuals while the Dolby Atmos mix rattles your sound system with every bullet and explosion. Bonus features may not be a huge range of material, but it's solid stuff. Fans will have to decide how much this entry matters for their personal collection - that said - it's a great disc even if the movie itself may not be everything you hoped for. Recommended.