Similar to David Gordon Green’s Halloween last year, Tim Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate is a legacy-quel that totally rewrites the franchise timeline. Ignoring the last three films in the continuity, the new blockbuster was made as a direct sequel to James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and establishes a whole new apocalyptic future ruled by a new artificial intelligence called Legion.
What’s interesting, though, is that while it’s a key part of the new movie, it also isn’t something that is forced to be front and center. Almost all of the action in the narrative takes place during present day, and there aren’t massive exposition-laden conversations that explain exactly how Legion came to be. But just because those particulars don’t appear in the film doesn’t mean that they weren’t imagined by the filmmaking team, including Tim Miller.
This was a subject that I had the chance to discuss with the director recently during the Los Angeles press day for Terminator: Dark Fate. I expressly asked how deep he went as far as understanding the future world infested by Legion, and he explained that he felt it was his personal responsibility to the story to have a full grasp on the entirety of that time period:
[We went] pretty deep. I feel like you have to know, or at least me, maybe some other directors are different. I need to know everything in order to distill it down. It might only show up on screen as a moment of dialogue, but you have to know all of that stuff, right?
Continuing, one specific element Tim Miller highlighted is the story of Grace, the enhanced human time traveler played by Mackenzie Davis in the movie. Without giving too much away spoiler-wise, the audience actually does get to learn a good amount about her over the course of the film, most notably with the help of a series of flash-forwards, but Miller clearly went way further with his own notes – going as far as to develop the details of the technology used to make her a formidable weapon against various Terminator models. Said the director,
Like for Grace, I have an 11 page document that details how Grace was made, and the technology that went into it that I worked on with a science fiction writer. It's the same for Legion. I think Legion, they just brushed the tip of it in dialogue there. I actually think it's a much more complicated thing.
It’s always admirable to hear about a filmmaker going these lengths when developing a project. One could just rely on what’s in the script, and not bother going beyond the page, but getting into the nitty gritty details must certainly help the production on many levels. It must have been a huge help in working with the actors (it’s hard to imagine Mackenzie Davis having any questions about Grace that Tim Miller couldn’t answer), and it also must have been an asset in post-production as it provided particular rules and cohesiveness.
There is another interesting curveball that Tim Miller also threw into the mix, however – specifically concerning why it is that Terminator: Dark Fate isn’t totally overloaded with information about Legion. According to him, the production intentionally pulled back on that kind of exposition in order to leave the door open for other filmmakers to explore in sequels. Said Miller,
I was actually trying to steer away from getting too explicit there, because I feel like that is the province of other films if they're done, and I didn't want to back some other filmmaker into a corner.
You can watch Tim Miller discuss how he mapped out the new Legion-dominated apocalyptic future of Terminator: Dark Fate by clicking play on the video below.
Starring Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diego Boneta, and Edward Furlong in addition to Mackenzie Davis, Terminator: Dark Fate arrives in theaters in North America this Friday, November 1st – and you should stay tuned here on CinemaBlend, as we have a lot more content coming your way from my interviews with the movie’s cast and filmmakers.