The Terminator franchise launched another attempt at at total reboot this past weekend, but the box office story is bad news all around. Terminator: Dark Fate was crafted as a new start to the franchise with the intimate involvement of James Cameron, who not only produced the film but also ran a writers room to come up with the right story to tell. They crafted a direct sequel to Terminator 2 that ignored the other sequels/reboots and also saw the return of Linda Hamilton to the franchise for the first time since that iconic follow-up, while also simultaneously handing the series off to a new young hero.
Indeed, as a franchise reboot Terminator: Dark Fate basically wipes the slate clean. Skynet doesn’t exist because Sarah and John Connor changed the future, but that didn’t stop humanity from finding another way to create killer A.I. A fancy new murderous Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent back in time to kill a young Mexican woman named Dani (Natalia Reyes) who is key to the future of humanity, while a future soldier named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back in time to protect her—alongside Sarah Connor, who’s been hunting terminators all these years.
It’s actually a pretty solid story, but most folks wouldn’t know that because the film absolutely bombed at the box office this weekend. Dark Fate opened to a mere $29 million domestic, well behind expectations and only slightly above the $27 million that Terminator: Genisys—the other recent Terminator reboot—opened to in 2015. But whereas Genisys made up its shortcomings overseas, eventually soaring to a not-terrible $440 million worldwide, Dark Fate—despite scoring much more positive reviews—is coming up short everywhere.
THR reports that Dark Fate could lose up to $130 million for producing partners Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, and 20th Century Fox, which each put up 30% of the film’s $185 million budget. On the low end the losses could be closer to $110 million if it performs better overseas, but the lackluster $28 million launch in China and $94.6 million international total doesn’t bode extremely well.
Sources tell THR there are no plans for another Terminator movie at this point, but not for lack of ideas. When Cameron assembled the writers room for Dark Fate, they hashed out a three-movie arc and previously teased where the franchise would go:
“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. And so I believe we’ve set that table and if, like I said, if we get the opportunity, we know where to take the story so that it doesn’t become… I think you start simple and then you elaborate, and you can elaborate over a series of films. If they’re made by the same people with the same intentions and the same philosophy, then there can be a kind of a story arc across multiple films. But that said, I think Dark Fate stands alone as a pretty good one-time story.”
Indeed, the way Dark Fate ends it’s easy to see where this franchise might go, and I’d honestly like to see it continue. While the film is bloated with too many action sequences and slows down quite a bit when Arnold Schwarzenegger enters the picture, the new characters and the return of Linda Hamilton make for a meaty and largely compelling sci-fi story. Alas, it appears it’s not meant to be.
This won’t the first time Skydance has had to scrap sequel plans. Terminator: Genisys was intended to be the first of a new trilogy, but after a terrible critical reception, Skydance’s David Ellison tossed those ideas and reached out to Cameron about helping reboot the series once more. They enlisted Tim Miller (Deadpool) to take the helm, and Terminator: Dark Fate was born.
With three attempted reboots now crashing and burning, this does seem to be the end of the road for Terminator. At least for now. One imagines someone might attempt to reignite the franchise again someday, but these films are expensive and, historically, every attempt at a reboot ends in a loss of money. That makes it hard to convince anyone to pony up the cash necessary to return to this well once more.
So take a good look at Terminator: Dark Fate, folks. It may be the last you see of the franchise for a long, long time.