If there’s one thing we can all count on as a society, it’s that Hollywood will always want to make a new Terminator movie and that Terminator movie will always be a critical and/or commercial failure. It happened with Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (despite that movie having one of the most perfect deleted scenes in cinema history), it happened with Terminator Salvation, it happened with Terminator Genisys, and it happened just this year with Terminator: Dark Fate, despite the fact that it was supposed to be the big shot at redemption for the series, with original creator James Cameron coming on board to produce and star Linda Hamilton returning to star. Now, Dark Fate director Tim Miller has sat down with KCRW to talk about what went wrong, offering an unusually candid glimpse into what it takes to make another disappointing Terminator sequel.
For starters, Miller says he could write a book about all of the things that went wrong with Dark Fate, and even though he’s still “processing” his feelings about its box office struggle, he maintains that he’s “proud of the movie.” Also, interestingly, he points out that some of the things people really disliked about his movie are things he has no control over, like, say, general “franchise fatigue” or lingering disappointment from the other Terminator movies. It’s a reasonable defense, but on the other hand, he knew people were tired of recycled sequels and he knew those other movies were bad when he signed on to make this one, so it’s only somewhat not-his-fault.
Miller also talks about some of the disagreements he and Cameron had during production, saying that even though Cameron got final say as a producer, he still felt the need to fight for certain “poetic and beautiful” moments that Cameron didn’t care about. Another disagreement involved the original Terminator director wanting the future timeline to involve the humans winning in the war against the machines, as had been the case in his movies (which is what made the machines so desperate to kill John Connor), while Miller thought it made more sense to have the humans on the ropes (because then it raised the stakes for the new machine threat).
All in all, the bad experience with Dark Fate actually soured Miller on any hypothetical future projects with Cameron, saying it has “nothing to do with whatever trauma” he got from the experience, he just doesn’t want to make another movie where someone else can stop him from doing what he thinks is right. (On that note, don’t look for Tim Miller to make a Star Wars movie any time soon. We’re willing to bet James Cameron is nothing compared to Kathleen Kennedy.)