The Future Of Terminator Movies, According To Dark Fate Director Tim Miller [Comic-Con]

When "Terminator: Dark Fate" hit theaters in 2019, it was meant to jump-start a whole new trilogy of "Terminator" films. Franchise co-creator James Cameron said if he and his fellow producers made "a s*** ton of money" with the movie, then the door was still open for star Arnold Schwarzenegger to appear in future sequels. Things didn't go as planned, as "Dark Fate" underperformed at the box office and any immediate sequel plans were scrapped. However, with six movies, one TV series ("The Sarah Conner Chronicles"), and almost 40 years of history under its belt, there's always going to be talk of how "Terminator" might be reinvented so the franchise can continue plowing forward like the unstoppable machine for which it's named.

Director Tim Miller was coming off the success of "Deadpool" — then, the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time — when he made "Dark Fate," and the film earned significantly better reviews than its two immediate predecessors, "Terminator Genisys" and "Terminator Salvation." This was overshadowed, though, by its commercial disappointment, something Miller addressed at San Diego Comic-Con 2022, where he appeared in Collider's Directors on Directing Panel (attended by /Film's Jacob Hall). When asked to envision the future of the "Terminator" franchise, Miller told the Comic-Con crowd, "The Terminator is an interesting universe to explore. Maybe we've explored it enough?" 

He then joked about how "Dark Fate" had "tanked" (despite earning over a quarter of a billion dollars) and how people weren't returning his phone calls. Yet he soon circled back to the question of whether "Terminator" could be made on a Blumhouse budget, saying, "I definitely think you could make a lower-cost 'Terminator' movie, and it could be awesome, because a good director and talented movie stars can make anything great."

Terminator with sock puppets?

Tim Miller also joked about you could make a good "Terminator" sequel even with "sock puppets," but he questioned whether the hypothetical "Terminator 7" would be "a good use of talented people's time when there's so much 'Terminator' movie out there."

Looking back at the five previous sequels, the best one, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," has a very particular alchemy to it that can maybe never be re-created in a sequelitis lab. The film's greatest asset as far as thrills go may be its relentless, jawbone-clenching villain, played by Robert Patrick. The T-1000 evolved the franchise, making Terminators scarier, able to shape-shift and impersonate and reform their liquid-metal bodies around bullet holes.

Much of the tension in the first act of "Judgment Day" came from not knowing who was good and who was bad. It was only after Schwarzenegger's T-800 dropped the box of roses in the mall service corridor that everything came into focus. Part of what made his one-liner-spouting baddie from the first movie so imposing was his sheer size. Seeing Patrick, the smaller man, toss this big bodybuilder around only reinforced what a next-level threat the T-1000 was.

Since 1991, the franchise hasn't found a way to top that threat and make Terminators scary again — not with a blonde fashion model ("Rise of the Machines"), or by digitally pasting Schwarzenegger's face over another bodybuilder ("Terminator Salvation"), or by making human messiah John Conner the villain ("Terminator Genisys"). "Dark Fate" at least has the return of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner going for it, but unless they come up with a way to outdo the T-1000, which seems nearly impossible at this point, it may be time to let the "Terminator" franchise sink gracefully into a vat of molten steel.