No matter how many bad sequels get made, the Terminator franchise is one that will be remembered for its iconic moments. Among them, is a simple line that was never meant to be anything special. However, when Arnold Schwarzenegger said "I'll be back" in the original Terminator, he became a movie star in that moment, and that line has lived on, and returned in every sequel.
Fans of franchises often love to see those call back moments, but Terminator: Dark Fate director Tim Miller was hesitant to use them when making the newest entry in the franchise. Miller told our own ReelBlend podcast that, as a fan, he didn't want to be accused of adding in the iconic Terminator beats simply for "fan service" and thus he was planning not to use them at all. According to Miller...
I feel like because I love it and I can sit there and imagine someone on the internet or in movie theater watching this movie. And decide what is fan service, and what is honoring the franchise. I’m done with ‘Hasta la vista, baby.’ Honestly, I was kind of done with ‘I’ll be back.’
Not hearing Arnold Schwarzenegger say "I'll be back" in a Terminator movie would be pretty out of character to say the least. The delivery of that line became so iconic for Arnold that he would occasionally deliver the line in non-Terminator films as well.
At the same time, Tim Miller's apprehension is understandable. "Fan service" is a pretty loaded phrase and it rarely, if ever, means anything good. To be accused of fan service is an unforgivable sin, and Miller seems to have felt that the best way to avoid it was simply to remove anything that might be construed as fan service. This meant that "I'll be back" was probably going to go.
Of course, there are other voices on a movie set, and apparently they were telling Tim Miller that "I'll be back" needed to be there. The director says that his compromise was to include the line, but to do it in an unusual way, and not to draw attention to it.
I’ll be honest. I had to be forced to use ‘I’ll be back.’ Then I said, if we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it differently. We’re gonna give it to Linda, and we’re gonna throw it away.
The line has been seen in the trailers, so we have likely all seen how it's delivered. As Tim Miller tells ReelBlend, the line is thrown away, there's no attention drawn to it at all. Sarah Conner simply says it plainly and then moves on.
This is probably the right balance between honoring the franchise and fan service. The line is there, so the fans who want it will get it, but it's not done in a way to draw attention that might detract from the rest of the film.
Terminator: Dark Fate is in theaters now.