After decades away from the franchise Linda Hamilton and James Cameron are returning to the world of Terminator with Terminator: Dark Fate. Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool), produced by Cameron, and featuring the reunion of Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dark Fate arrives in theaters on [November 11] and in anticipation of the big release, Paramount Pictures dropped by San Diego Comic-Con to tease the film for a packed house of fans.
The panel kicked off with a live stream from Cameron, who said hello from the set of Avatar. The director said he wished he could be in Hall H but figured he should stay focused at work since “everyone’s always whinging about how long it’s taking Avatar to get done.” The filmmaker explained why he wanted to return to the franchise, citing a new take on the Schwarznegger’s iconic T-800 that’s “something nobody’s seen before.”
After Cameron’s intro, we watched a quick behind the scenes featurette that teased a “gritty, fast and intense” reboot for the franchise that “follows tonally in the footsteps of Terminator 1 and Terminator 2.” Then it was time for the proper panel to begin. Tim Miller, Linda Hamilton, Natalia Reyes, Diego Boneta. Mackenzie Davis, Gabriel Luna, and Arnold Schwarzenegger took the stage to discuss their approach to the film and show off some exclusive footage for the SDCC crowd.
Miller teed things up by discussing his take on time travel. Citing the recent mega-hit Avengers: Endgame, Miller explained that while he loves the comic book feel of that film, “time travel with multiple realities loses some stakes.” He continued, “In the Terminator universe, there is only one timeline,” which means his followup is all about the consequences of Sarah Conner’s decision to end Cyberdine at the end of Terminator 2. “She’s living with the consequences of that decision and we see how that rolls out 20 years later,” Miller explained.
That passage of time was the selling point for Hamilton, who was reluctant to return to the franchise after nailing the one-two knockout with Cameron’s original films. “I felt there was just a world of richness I could explore, and then rock it as a woman of a certain age.” On that note, Hamilton said she was hyper-focused on training and trying to get back into her old Sarah Conner shape when she realized the character wouldn’t and shouldn’t be the same. Hamilton explained that she had a moment where she understood, “I can no longer worry about trying to be what I was, because I am so much more than I was. That was the moment I really wanted to be on board with this. The richness of my life experience is only going to enrich the character.”
The rest of the panel (and it was a spicy one) was filled out with fond memories from set, especially from Luna who talked about bonding with Hamilton and Scwarzenneger on different locations of the shoot. Luna shared stories about training with Schwarzenneger on the Budapest set, prompting the iconic action actor to delight the crowd with some of his favorite quotes. Schwarzenneger also insisted there was never really a question whether he would return for the sequel. “I’m addicted to Terminator,” he said, describing how Cameron changed his whole career by giving him the role of the T-800.
Finally, it was time for the footage and one last iconic quote from Schwarzenneger. “Let’s not talk about it, let’s show the footage,” he said. “Do it. Do it now!”
The footage itself was largely comprised of sequences teased in the trailer, played out in an extended form. First, we catch up with Davis, Reyes and Boneta driving full-speed down a freeway with Luna’s terminator hot on their heels. Davis crawls out of the truck cab and jumps into the bed, the camera lingering on faint surgical scars lining her arms and chest. She launches a series of metal rods at Luna’s terminator, and they all land, but his body melts around them, separating into an endoskeleton that stays behind driving while his shape-shifting human form leaps out for the fight. Luna starts launching the poles back at our heroes, targeting the humans in the cab, but Davis reflects them with her forearm just in time.
Things start to get really dire for our heroes, Davis guards Reyes with nothing left but a metal bar, telling her “when they start to kill me, run!” Reyes barely has time to react when Sarah Conner shows up for a big hero moment, smashing her car into the approaching endoskeleton and blasting Luna right off the with a massive gun. Then she turns the rocket launcher on the endoskeleton, drops a grenade over the bridge, and gives that great “I’ll be back” line reading from the trailer. “Who the fuck is that?” Reyes asks, and the scene transitions to Conner explaining her back story. “My son and I stopped Judgement Day. We changed the future, saved three billion lives,” she says before adding “You’re welcome.” Now, she hunts terminators.
Next, we see the trio of ladies walking through a forest towards a cabin where they meet Schwarzenneger’s aged-up Terminator. “Sarah Conner,” he says when he opens the door and she tries to shoot him before Davis stops her. Turns out the ol’ T-800 is living the quiet life with a very good dog by his side, going under the name Carl. “I’m never going to fucking call you Carl,” Hamilton snaps. Schwarzenneger says he’ll help protect the girl, firing up a high-tech shooting range in his yard, and Conner promises “When this is all over, I am going to kill you.” He calmly replies, “I understand.”
The rest of the scenes cut together pretty quickly. We get a quick peek at an underwater sequence where Hamilton and Reyes are trapped in a sinking vehicle with Luna attacking through the outside, a plane crashing from the sky, and we hear Hamilton’s trailer line: “Never seen one like you before, almost human.” Davis tells her, “I am human, just enhanced,” and we catch a glimpse of her in soldier’s gear fighting in a massive battle against terminator tech.
Luna’s terminator asks why they don’t just hand over the girl. “Because we’re not machines, you metal motherfucker,” Hamilton says back. “Nobody else is going to die because of me!” Reyes shouts, and Davis tells her “If you don’t make it, everybody dies.” Sarah Conner redux, and Reyes knows how indebted she is to Hamilton, not just because of the legacy her character was born from, but because Hamilton ultimately picked her for the role.
Finally, we see Hamilton and Schwarzenneger in an airplane hangar, with Luna strutting towards them on full blast. Schwarzenegger blocks Hamilton, taking the barrage of bullets in his back. “Don’t touch me” is all the thanks he gets, before turning an automatic weapon right on Luna’s face, blasting away the skin to reveal the endoskeleton below.
After the title card rolled, the cast and crew said farewell and Paramount wrapped up the panel with a “surprise” appearance from Tom Cruise, who debuted the first trailer for Top Gun: Maverick. Fortunately, that landed online right after, so you can watch the new Top Gun trailer here, and for more on Dark Fate, check out the links below:
- ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Director Tim Miller Explains the Evolution of the Title Terrors
- New ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Images Reveal Gabriel Luna’s Two-Part Terminator
- ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ Director Tim Miller Teases “Machine Fighter” Character in Grounded Sequel