Avatar: The Way of Water, Terminator, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day director James Cameron recently revealed that Terminator: Dark Fate director originally wanted to make the film without Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In a wide-ranging interview with Deadline in the lead-up to the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron was asked what he thought about the outcome of Terminator: Dark Fate.
Cameron, who was the producer on Dark Fate and had a “story by” credit, replied, “ I think, I’m actually reasonably happy with the film. Tim and I had our battles and we’ve both spoken about that, but the crazy thing is we’re still pals. Which is weird.”
“I liked him before the movie, didn’t like him very much during the movie, and I like him now, and I think he feels the same way. We’re both these crazy sci-fi geeks and we like a lot of the same things, and I love his show, Love, Death + Robots. But yeah, we butted heads,” he elaborated.
Cameron then revealed what he believes was one of the major problems with the film, “I think the problem, and I’m going to wear this one, is that I refused to do it without Arnold. Tim didn’t want Arnold, but I said, ‘Look, I don’t want that. Arnold and I have been friends for 40 years, and I could hear it, and it would go like this: ‘Jim, I can’t believe you’re making a Terminator movie without me.’ It just didn’t mean that much to me to do it, but I said, ‘If you guys could see your way clear to bringing Arnold back and then, you know, I’d be happy to be involved.’”
He continued, “And then Tim wanted Linda. I think what happened is I think the movie could have survived having Linda in it, I think it could have survived having Arnold in it, but when you put Linda and Arnold in it and then, you know, she’s 60-something, he’s 70-something, all of a sudden it wasn’t your Terminator movie, it wasn’t even your dad’s Terminator movie, it was your granddad’s Terminator movie. And we didn’t see that.”
Cameron then stated, “We loved it, we thought it was cool, you know, that we were making this sort of direct sequel to a movie that came out in 1991. And young moviegoing audiences weren’t born. They wouldn’t even have been born for another 10 years.”
“So, it was just our own myopia. We kind of got a little high on our own supply, and I think that’s the lesson there,” he asserted.
Back in 2020, the film’s director Tim Miller put the blame on “get woke and go broke” sentiment during an interview with Kim Masters on her podcast The Business with Kim Masters.
Miller said, “There was a lot of ‘get woke and go broke’ sentiment that didn’t help us, but…”
When asked to explain he stated, “There was a lot of issues about having three women in lead positions and all of that stuff. There is quite a toxic atmosphere around this film online, which I was really surprised at. I shouldn’t be, but I was.”
Ironically, while complaining about the toxic atmosphere surrounding the film, Miller previously called Terminator fans “closet misogynist[s]” during an interview with Variety while promoting the film back in 2019.
When asked about reaction to the first Dark Fate poster that showcased Mackenzie Davis’ character in the role of Michel Biehn’s Kyle Reese in Terminator and Schwarzenegger’s T-800 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Miller stated, “If you’re at all enlightened, she’ll play like gangbusters. If you’re a closet misogynist, she’ll scare the f*** out of you, because she’s tough and strong but very feminine.”
He added, “We did not trade certain gender traits for others; she’s just very strong, and that frightens some dudes. You can see online the responses to some of the early s**t that’s out there, trolls on the internet. I don’t give a f***.”
More recently in July of this year, Miller appeared to intimate that the film’s box office failure has significantly harmed his directing career.
During an appearance at Collider’s panel Directors on Directing at San Diego Comic-Con, Deadline reports Miller said, “Terminator’s an interesting movie to explore, but maybe we’ve explored it enough. I went in with the rock hard nerd belief that if I made a good movie that I wanted to see, it would do well. And I was wrong. It was one of those f***ing Eureka moments in a bad way because the movie tanked.”
When Collider’s Steve Weintraub countered that it didn’t tank, Miller replied, “Then why aren’t people returning my phone calls?”
As far as Cameron’s analysis on why the film failed, Top Gun: Maverick flies in the face of that narrative as the film returned not only Tom Cruise as Maverick, but Val Kilmer as Tom “Iceman” Kazansky.
The original Top Gun film hit theaters in 1986 while the first Terminator film debuted in 1984. Top Gun: Maverick is the highest grossing film of 2022 with a worldwide box office gross of $1.48 billion.
If having actors return to franchises that launched in the mid 80s is the reason for Dark Fate’s failure then Top Gun: Maverick surely should have failed as well.
No, what is more likely the reason for Terminator: Dark Fate’s failure at the box office is that Miller and Cameron didn’t actually respect their own source material.
One of the top user reviews on IMDb for the film explains, “A truly dark fate for the Terminator franchise. Too bad, because the film could have been good but the script is disastrous. The T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been turned into a ridiculous parody, and after all the whole film seems like a parody of previous films.”
Popular film reviewer The Critical Drinker also lampooned the film stating, “Terminator: Dark Fate was pretty much exactly what I expected from the hilariously desperate trailers: a dull, disrespectful, lackluster, creatively bankrupt, and visually unimpressive attempt to simultaneously milk the classic movies for cheap nostalgia bucks while also shitting all over them and using them as a springboard to launch a new, reinvigorated franchise with a cast of younger actors.”
What do you make of Cameron’s claim as to why Terminator: Dark Fate failed?