After a couple of middling-to-terrible sequels, Terminator fans were cautiously optimistic about 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate because it had something the three previous movies all lacked: The direct creative involvement of James Cameron, who created the series and directed the first two movies.

But even with Cameron as co-writer and producer, Dark Fate was a flop, grossing just $62 million in the United States and $250.3 million worldwide; on both counts, it was the lowest-grossing sequel in the entire franchise by far. And that was with Cameron, as well as appearances from the series’ original stars, Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So what went wrong? While Cameron says he is “reasonably happy with the film” — as he should be, it’s definitely underrated — he concedes that putting both Arnold and Hamilton in the movie may have been a mistake, at least from a box-office perspective.

As he put it to Deadline, he really wanted Schwarzenegger in the movie (in part because he didn’t want to hear Arnold say “Jim, I can’t believe you’re making a Terminator movie without me,”) while director Tim Miller did not. And meanwhile, Miller really wanted Linda Hamilton involved.

As a result, Cameron explained...

...what happened is I think the movie could have survived having Linda in it, I think it could have survived having Arnold in it, but when you put Linda and Arnold in it and then, you know, she’s 60-something, he’s 70-something, all of a sudden it wasn’t your Terminator movie, it wasn’t even your dad’s Terminator movie, it was your granddad’s Terminator movie. And we didn’t see that. We loved it, we thought it was cool, you know, that we were making this sort of direct sequel to a movie that came out in 1991. And young moviegoing audiences weren’t born. They wouldn’t even have been born for another 10 years.

Basically, they sold the movie on two actors who didn’t mean a lot to younger moviegoers, who then didn’t buy tickets to see the movie. Cameron claims the lesson he learned from the experience was they had “myopia” and “kind of got a little high on our own supply.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean Terminator: Dark Fate was bad, just that it didn’t make a lot of money. As a Terminator and Schwarzenegger fanatic, I would say it’s worth your time. If you missed it in theaters, give it a try some time on streaming. You might just be surprised.

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