The Terminator franchise has had a series of false starts and disappointments over the years, but with creator James Cameron back in the fold for November’s Terminator: Dark Fate, the future looks brighter than it has since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Speaking of that future, James Cameron says that Terminator: Dark Fate could start a trilogy, as he explained:
We spent several weeks breaking story and figuring out what type of story we wanted to tell so we would have something to pitch Linda [Hamilton]. We rolled up our sleeves and started to break out the story and when we got a handle on something we looked at it as a three-film arc, so there is a greater there to be told. If we get fortunate enough to make some money with Dark Fate we know exactly where we can go with the subsequent films.
When James Cameron was brought back into the franchise he started, he worked with Skydance Media CEO David Ellison and director Tim Miller on coming up with what exactly this new film would be so they could pitch it to Linda Hamilton, who they all wanted to return as Sarah Connor. As they were breaking story on what would become Terminator: Dark Fate, they realized there was potential for this to stretch from one movie to a trilogy.
As James Cameron, who wrote a story treatment and is a producer on Dark Fate, told Deadline, there is a bigger narrative arc at play than just what is included in the upcoming film. If all goes according to plan, that greater story could play out over three films, making Terminator: Dark Fate the potential start of a trilogy. And considering that this was part of the pitch to Linda Hamilton, I’m inclined to think Sarah Connor’s story will go on beyond Tim Miller’s film.
What that means for the film itself remains to be seen. We know that Dark Fate will basically pull a Halloween (2018) and retcon its continuity, using its twisty time travel narrative to jettison everything but the first two films. So if we get the trilogy, the Terminator franchise will essentially be a five-film story, just as Cameron’s Avatar is intended to be.
It doesn’t sound like Dark Fate is being made with the assumption that it will get a sequel though, merely the hope. So while it’s possible there could be a massive cliffhanger, I’m interpreting this to mean that Terminator: Dark Fate could stand on its own, but there will definitely be some overarching elements that fans might like to see explored in subsequent films.
While some might disagree, I think Alita: Battle Angel, another James Cameron project, worked in much the same way. Of course, like that franchise, whose future is in doubt, a Terminator: Dark Fate trilogy will only happen if this first film is successful, as James Cameron noted. This film has to make money for those best laid trilogy plans to play out.
For fans of this franchise, hearing that Terminator: Dark Fate could be the start of a trilogy is likely both encouraging and concerning. On the one hand, there is no guarantee that that trilogy will materialize and we don’t want a movie that is all set up for a payoff that never arrives.
On the other hand, it is nice to know that there is a real plan in place and James Cameron helped come up with it. He created this franchise and is responsible for its only two great entries, unless you want to count Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which you should.