The best thing this sequel does that no other sequel since T2: Judgement Day has done is to shift the focus back to Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton). The second best thing it does is not mess with the first two Terminator films in any way that changes their impact and enjoyment. Like 2018's Halloween reboot, the film center's around three strong women that must stop a seemingly unstoppable male killer.
Moving away from Arnold Schwarzenegger being the connective tissue among a series of so-so to awful sequels, Terminator: Dark Fate gives Linda Hamilton time to shine as Sarah Connor. She's back to stop an unassuming teenager, Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes), from being terminated. Why? Well, that would spoil things but mainly it is because Sarah knows how much it sucks to be hunted by a machine that wants to kill you. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent from the future to help protect her. She is an enhanced human soldier who is humanity's last hope in protecting the future leader of the resistance against the machines. The new terminator (Gabriel Luna) is the most advanced one the series has seen.
If the structure of the plot sounds familiar to you it's because it is. The film is largely structured like Judgement Day. A young teenager in peril has one thing trying to kill them and two trying to save them. The film doesn't have many surprises as a result but it does have two things going for it. Director Tim Miller is capable of pulling off a couple of thrilling action set pieces, especially that early car chase, and Linda Hamilton is compelling as Sarah Connor. Connor is now bitter, spending most of her time hunting down terminators. The story also understands the Terminator universe thanks to James Cameron stepping in for a story credit.
While Dark Fate is certainly the third-best sequel, it isn't without several problems. Dani is not as compelling a character as John Connor, mostly because there isn't the same myth-building around her. Arnold does play a significant role in the film but his character's storyline is laughable and so silly it threatens to break the film. These elements keep the film from being anything more than passable. Passable is pretty good though given the last couple entries in this franchise.
There is something odd about Tim Miller's rather predictable film here. He is one of the directors behind Deadpool, a film that spoofed these kinds of action films. Here he has made one worthy of being spoofed. The CGI effects in the film are fine but there isn't a wow factor to them like what Cameron did in Judgement Day. When the wow factor is missing, it gives you time to start asking why and the film can't hold up to that. Too often my mind had time to wonder about why the new terminator wouldn't just do this or that to kill Dani. Still, the film isn't a failure and has enough for fans of the series to make it worth seeing.