A big reason for this is that Dark Fate marks the return of franchise creator James Cameron, who first put the killer robots from the future on-screen back in 1984, and then again with T2: Judgment Day in 1991. Ignoring the trio of films (and the one TV show) that came and went since then, Cameron has ceded the director's chair to Deadpool's Tim Miller, though he's still offering his guidance as co-writer and producer.
Also returning is Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, who hasn't done battle with a Terminator since T2. And while Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in two of the three Terminator films between T2 and now, his return now feels much more significant — and it could mean that more Terminator sequels are on the way. Though it's ultimately up to the box office performance, the critics are largely praising the return-to-form retcon/sequel.
Variety declares Dark Fate is a movie that's "designed to impress you with its scale and visual effects," it ultimately works because it "earns its lavish action (and its emotions, too), because no matter how violently baroque its end-of-days vision, its storytelling remains tethered to the Earth."
The Wrap is saying it's the most timely and relevant update to the long-running franchise. Specifically pointing out that "the pieces of the original Terminator movies are still in place, but the world around them has changed, and our cultural conversations have shifted. It’s Terminator all over again, but the way Terminator would be told if it were made for the first time today."
Similarly, Collider also heaps praise on the film, particularly Hamilton, noting the Halloween-like approach to attaching itself to the franchise's earliest installments. "Ignoring everything after T2, and the decades that have passed since then, allows Dark Fate to explore new facets of the iconic character and by dropping her in a future that looks an awful lot like the one she sacrificed so much to prevent brings out new shades of Sarah Connor’s dark determination, wrapped in guilt and regret."
Hamilton also draws praise from ScreenCrush. "Sarah Connor is the focus this time around," the review begins, adding that "it’s time everyone recognized she’s the coolest and most interesting character in this franchise."
Empire points out that while Dark Fate "occasionally leans too heavily on the homage," it never stops being a "worthy descendant rather than a cheap cash-in. For the first time in a long time, we can look to the future of Terminator with hope."
Others disagreed, however. Vanity Fair called Dark Fate "a bitterly pessimistic film," writing that the franchise constantly delaying humanity's eventual destruction "seems gratuitous at this point," and noting "nothing about Dark Fate feels novel."
Similarly, Polygon said the return of Hamilton and Schwarzenegger actually detracted from the film's new characters. "There’s enough meaty material in Dark Fate — the immigration subplot, the bond between Sarah and the T-800 — that its steady, clichéd moments stick out like robot wiring under human skin."
This was echoed by The Hollywood Reporter, which praised its predictably well-done CGI and elaborate action sequences, but ultimately found the film ended up "distracted from the staleness of this storyline by sequences that strain awfully hard to dazzle."
You can decide for yourself when Terminator: Dark Fate opens in theaters everywhere Nov. 1.