While both “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” are rightfully regarded as sci-fi classics, in the 28 years since the latter’s release, its three subsequent sequels have each failed to come close to making the same impact or receiving similar acclaim.
But, following the success of his directorial debut “Deadpool,” Tim Miller was certain he could return the franchise to its former glories. “I felt like there was an interesting story still to be told,” Miller tells Metro. “I just felt like the universe hadn’t been set right with the follow-ups. We knew we needed to wipe the slate clean.”
That meant Miller decided to ignore everything after “Judgment Day,” while James Cameron, who returns to the series as a producer on “Dark Fate,” set about convincing Linda Hamilton to return as Sarah Connor. After several weeks of deliberating, she finally agreed to do so, with Miller admitting that’s when “everything just funneled into this perfect kind of story.”
“It is Sarah’s story,” says Miller. “And the most interesting version of Sarah is someone who is suffering under the terrible burden of tragedy and the decisions she made. Because all she did really was kick the can down the road, and as a result more people actually died.”
This time around, rather than saving her son John, Sarah joins up with Grace (Mackenzie Davis) to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), who is being hunted by the new and improved Terminator Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna). This takes them from Mexico City into the United States, where they look to find a heavily accented accomplice that Sarah has an awful lot of history with.
Davis believes that there would be no “justification” to do this movie if Hamilton wasn’t involved, with her presence immediately making it feel much “more relevant.”
“People are genuinely interested in how Sarah Connor has lived her life,” remarks Davis. “What she has done with all of her ferocity and trauma and what she has been up to, whether she has settled and is in peace or if she is as angry as she was. That was such an interesting story to tell. So we wanted to take care of this big responsibility and do it justice for Linda.”
Reyes echoes these sentiments, insisting that having Hamilton back is “the true stamp that makes this a ‘Terminator’ movie,” especially as she is just as “strong, smart, and beautiful,” but also “wiser.”
While Hamilton’s comeback immediately added extra emotional heft to “Dark Fate,” it was still Miller’s responsibility, alongside its writers David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes and Billy Ray, to create a story that warranted her return, while entertaining the millions of fans of the franchise, too.
Luckily, Miller had a foolproof plan when it came to including ideas. “I literally would imagine myself reading it on the internet, and whether I would go, ‘Oh that’s bullsh**!’ Or, ‘Oh that’s cool.’”
At the same time the world’s reliance on technology has only increased the relevance and importance of the franchise.
“All of the Terminators are trying to be a warning call,” declares Davis. “It is escapist, but it should be confrontational. We are not dealing with the distant future. This is the present day, and it is horrifying. All of the abuses of technology are literally happening today. I think it is an enormous part of the fabric of these movies. But this feels more prescient because it is 2019.”
“We can’t stop technology. Or fight it,” adds Reyes. “But we need to think about how we relate to it and protect some privacy and humanity. We need to leave that behind and have more real human contacts.”
“Terminator” villains have always encapsulated everything we fear about the devastating impact of technology on the world. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Robert Patrick’s iconic portrayals set the bar incredibly high with the franchise’s antagonists, which meant that Gabriel Luna had a huge task following in their footsteps. As such he spent hours analyzing their performances as part of his preparation.
“With Arnold I took how he does mag changes, the way he rotates his neck … I also put on about 16 pounds to try and make myself bigger,” Luna explains. “From Robert, I just love his sharpness, his sharpness of focus and his very iconic sprint. I wanted people to believe that I would beat him in a race, though.”
On set, Luna recalls how Schwarzenegger had nothing but praise for his work as “Dark Fate” villain Rev-9, with the Austrian paying him the ultimate compliment (“You move your body very well”) while always taking the time to repeatedly empower his efforts. So much so that Luna insists, “He just wanted me to win.”
You’ll get to see if Luna does just that when “Terminator: Dark Fate” is released on November 1.