Here’s the Reason Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 Ages in ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

     October 22, 2019

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James Cameron seems to be genuinely excited about Terminator: Dark Fate. Returning to the franchise that launched his career after an absence of several films (all of which could be generously described as “mediocre”), Cameron wrote the story and served as an executive producer on the latest installment, directed by Deadpool’s Tim Miller and featuring the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a decidedly aged-and-bearded T-800. The movie, which opens November 1st, is intended to be the first in a new trilogy overseen by Cameron, and it’s clear he’s put a lot of thought into the details. So much so that when Collider’s Steven Weintraub participated in a group interview with Cameron, he was asked if there was an in-universe explanation for why Schwarzenegger’s cyborg character can age, he had a ready response.

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Image via Twentieth Century Fox

“Sure. Absolutely. Look, it’s all in the first film – sweat, bad breath, everything. He’s a cyborg. The “org” part is organic. There’s flesh over the outside. The bigger question is how something that’s got some kind of synthetic material that’s not flesh can come through the time field. But that’s another geek-out story for another time. Yeah, no. He’s organic on the outside. He’s got to eat to support the organic part of his body. It might only be 30% of him by weight, but he definitely has human flesh. The science behind that is complete bullshit, but it’s a cool idea, right? I think the very first, and it’s in the movie, in the first movie, he’s actually got sort of gangrene and his wounds are kind of rotting by the end of the film. When the guy pounds on the door and says, “Hey buddy, you got a dead cat in there?” It’s like, he’s rotting. His human flesh is dying before it all gets burned off. So all biological systems are subject to age unless you were to specifically genetically tinker that out, which obviously they didn’t do. So his outer form ages. His inner form, his nuclear-powered endoskeleton or his power cell powered endoskeleton, can run for… I think he says 120 years in movie two. So the flesh will die and fall off eventually and then he’ll just be the endoskeleton walking around. A little harder to blend in at that point.”

Even though he admits the science is “complete bullshit,” Cameron’s explanation makes a weird amount of sense, and it’s definitely supported by the examples he cites from the previous films. The largely-unseen 2015 disaster Terminator Genisys offered essentially the same justification for why the 72 year-old Schwarzenegger could be playing a theoretically ageless robot, but Cameron brought receipts from his own films to make this somewhat absurd line of reasoning relatively easy to digest.

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Image via Paramount Pictures

In addition to dishing on the Terminator’s skin care routine, there’s a few other noteable revelations in Cameron’s response. For one, Terminators apparently need to eat, which is something I’d never even considered before. And if Terminators need to eat, that means they eventually need to poop, which I hope is addressed at some point in this new trilogy.

Another highlight is the idea that the Terminator’s skin will eventually rot off of his body as he continues to age, turning him into a nuclear Crypt Keeper when he hits his 90s. And finally, Cameron points out what is easily one of the biggest plot holes in the entire franchise, which is that only living tissue can travel through the time field. If that’s the case (which is firmly stated in the first film as being the reason why neither Kyle Reese nor the Terminator were able to take any futuristic weaponry with them to 1984, and why they both arrived naked), how the hell did the T-1000 get through in T2? And does that mean Skynet could just cover a bunch of laser guns in human skin and send those back with the Terminator? Hopefully in the sequel to Dark Fate, we’ll see Terminators pooping and shooting flesh lasers at each other.

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