James S’s review published on Letterboxd:
Alrighty... here we are. The "official" sequel to T2 with Linda Hamilton finally returning to the franchise (well on camera) since the 1991 sequel. Arnold is also back but we knew that was inevitable. The trailers to this one looked like trash and so expectations were appropriately in check. Early reviews landed and said "This is the best sequel since T2" so that made me think "Maybe they've managed to find a way to make a solid continuation from T1 and T2". Yes, those first two films are firmly related to my childhood and even watching them today, they still hold up as the quintessential action movies of their time. But I'm also fairly open to 2019 action movies and willing to give the film any and all chances, despite it not being directed by James Cameron. Yes, he produced and contributed to the story but from all reports, he wasn't there day to day, directing or overseeing to the nth degree.
So the question is — is this a befitting sequel to the high calibre of action filmmaking that came before? Sadly, that's a pretty resounding "no". The simple matter of fact really is in Tim Miller's direction. He doesn't have the same eye as Cameron behind the lens, the action feels lifeless with so much CGI, it all feels super heightened, not unlike a Marvel movie, and I can't really recall any of the action scenes offering anything remotely new or memorable. Cameron managed to make his action lexicon mark numerous times in the first two films. But Miller just doesn't have level of expertise. Whilst technically, sure, he can shoot action with mostly good CGI, there's never any gravitas to it all, so it's hard to invest in the stakes.
Story wise, well that's certainly going to divide a whole bunch of people. Once you see the film, you'll know what I mean, but I went with it for the most part. I guess, going along with it, again, it all felt far too familiar, nothing new, just slightly different, and made me wonder what's the point of another sequel. The studio's hope to make two more sequels but after this, I don't really care to be honest. I think a hard reboot years later is the only way you're going to refresh this franchise to good effect.
Casting is what they been banking on and bringing back Linda Hamilton was a smart move. She's pretty good in this and definitely the most interesting and best character of the entire franchise. Of course we love Arnie and he's also the best he's been since T2 but enough already... The Rev-9, the new evil terminator is solid enough, as is Mackenzie Davis as Grace. Natalie Reyes is okay during the daylight scenes but there are a few here and there which are laughably bad.
For purists who loved the Brad Fiedel original scores of the first two films, he's not back unfortunately but Junkie XL does cover a few of the main themes at times. His new theme for the Rev-9 was actually pretty solid but everything else felt like generic in-your-face action music and fan service. Not likely something you will re-listen to in years to come.
Ultimately, Dark Fate is a mediocre follow-up to Cameron's classics at best. There are some moments here and there which channel some of that T2 vibe, mostly due to Hamilton, but overall, it's a messy, loud, inconsequential 2019 action movie with nothing new to add to the franchise or will make you want to see any further sequels. As a lifelong Terminator fan who always hoped he'd get a decent sequel to Cameron's first two films, this isn't it. I think the only person who could achieve that is Cameron himself but it's likely to never be.