It's been 35 years since director James Cameron first introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger's kickass cyborg, the T-800, in The Terminator. And though Cameron also directed the 1991 sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day, since then he's left the franchise (which now consists of six movies, a TV show, and two web series) to the capable hands of other filmmakers. Cameron returns as a producer for Terminator: Dark Fate, which premieres on Nov. 1, and he's already plotting for the future of the series. There may be two sequels to follow Terminator: Dark Fate, depending on how the film fares in the box office.
“I feel like one of my major motivations on this film or coming back to the, hopefully, franchise, was to explore the human relationship with artificial intelligence. I don't feel we did that in Dark Fate,” Cameron recently told press via Skype, per IGN. “We set the table for that exploration, and that exploration would take place in a second film and a third film. And we know exactly where we're going to take that idea. What we wanted to get in the first movie was this idea that it's just going to keep happening. The names will change, but the basic conflict is going to continue to take place until it gets resolved one way or the other.”
Dark Fate takes place 20 years after Judgment Day and is a direct sequel to the most acclaimed Terminator movie. "We're pretending the other films were a bad dream. Or an alternate timeline, which is permissible in our multi-verse," Cameron told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2017. "This was really driven more by [Dark Fate director Tim Miller] than anybody, surprisingly, because I came in pretty agnostic about where we took it. The only thing I insisted on was that we somehow revamp it and reinvent it for the 21st century."
In the film, a deadly new Terminator model called the Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna) travels back through time to kill a young woman named Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) for reasons that are eventually explained. The only people who can save her are mother of the Resistance, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton, also returning to the franchise), and Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an augmented soldier from the future. They also get a little help from a now human-like T-800 (Schwarzenegger).
Though the filmmakers haven't shared the potential plot of the sequels with the public, Cameron said in the Skype interview that there's already a "grand scheme" in place. Cameron said that, in this sixth movie, Sarah Connor "has had to adjust to the fact that there's probably a kind of inevitability, like a great forcing factor that always tends to see the rise of an artificial superintelligence." He continued, "That it's just the direction that the universe is heading. This is a collision that the human race is on, essentially with its own progeny, in a sense. She's just going to have the same fight again, and have it again, and have it again, until there's a resolution. Kick the can as many times as you want, but there has to be a resolution. If we're lucky enough, we make some money with this film, and we get to do a second one, maybe a third one, we have a direction to resolve that innate conflict."
When Radio Times asked the actor about a possible sequel Hamilton echoed Cameron's financial comments, saying, "It’ll have to do really well, because it was really pricey." So far, the film has gotten mixed reviews, but some critics are calling it the best entry into the Terminator film franchise since Terminator 2. And according to Deadline, industry projections see the movie making $40 million domestically on opening weekend.
But even if the movie does make a splash in the box office, Hamilton may not be reprising her role again. “I’m really tired!” she told Radio Times. “Am I dying to go back there again? Not right now! But we’ll see." She added, "If it was a story worth telling again, if there were a new version…. I’ll always be reaching for that. But the characters could be left alone. We’ll just have to see.”
Whether or not Hamilton comes onboard for a potential Terminator 7 and 8, the new characters Dark Fate introduces could carry the stories to come. "A lot of [Dark Fate] is handing off the baton to a new generation of characters," Cameron told THR two years ago. As of this Friday, the baton is officially passed, which may lead to several more years of onscreen human vs. machine showdowns.