Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Terminator: Dark Fate

James Cameron explains why he thinks 'Terminator: Dark Fate' didn't work

The Terminator creator opens up about the failed attempt to revitalize the franchise.

By Matthew Jackson
Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger in TERMINATOR: DARK FATE (2019)

Though Avatar is at the forefront of everyone's mind right now, it's not the only major franchise James Cameron has launched in his storied filmmaking career. He's also the mind behind The Terminator, and while he spent many years away from that creation, he was involved in the latest attempt to revitalize it, 2019's Dark Fate

Of course, Dark Fate did not perform as well as many hoped, despite the return of franchise mainstays like Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film failed to break even at the box office, and while it has its defenders, it didn't draw in passionate audiences, effectively putting Terminator on pause once again. So, what went wrong?

Speaking to Deadline about Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron reflected back on Dark Fate's rough reception, and on creative clashes with the film's director, Tim Miller. As Cameron sees it, he perhaps went too far in his role as a producer on the project, particularly when it came to insisting that Schwarzenegger return for the film alongside Miller's legacy character choice, Hamilton. 

"I think the problem, and I’m going to wear this one, is that I refused to do it without Arnold," Cameron said. "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.'"

So Schwarzenegger returned yet again to the franchise, standing alongside Hamilton for the first time since T2 decades earlier. In hindsight, for Cameron, that meant too many older elements were butting heads with the new elements of the story, creating a throwback feel that clashed with the film's purpose as a franchise uplift.

"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," Cameron said. "And we didn’t see that. 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."

Three years after Dark Fate, the Terminator franchise remains in cold storage, and who knows how long it might be before someone attempts to revive things yet again. Despite the creative clashes, though, Cameron now looks back fondly on the final product, and has even re-established his friendship with Miller.

"I’m actually reasonably happy with the film," Cameron said. "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."

Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters Friday.

Looking for more epic adventures? Check out The Day After Tomorrow, Green Lantern, True Lies and more, streaming now on Peacock.