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Warning: SPOILERS for Terminator: Dark Fate are ahead!
After nearly three decades away from the Terminator franchise, James Cameron returned for Terminator: Dark Fate, where he executive produced and hashed out the story that served as a direct sequel to the two Terminator movies he helmed. But sitting in the Dark Fate director’s chair was Deadpool’s Tim Miller, and we’ve recently learned that he and Cameron had numerous disagreements on the creative direction of the latest Terminator movie.
For example, Tim Miller and James Cameron felt differently about how Legion, the malevolent A.I. that rose to power in Terminator: Dark Fate’s future in place of Skynet, should be depicted, with Miller wanting humans to be losing against Legion and Cameron wanting them to be winning. Miller recalled:
[I suggested] Legion is so powerful, the only way to beat it is going back in time and strangle it in the crib. Jim said, 'What's dramatic about the humans losing?' And I say, 'Well, What's dramatic about the humans winning and they just need to keep on winning?' I like a last stand. It's not his thing.
Perhaps James Cameron wanted humanity to be winning against Legion because he’d already carried out a similar approach with The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, because although John Connor and the Resistance had struggled in their conflict with Skynet, they were on the verge of taking out the A.I. This approach was also taken in Genisys by having John Connor’s forces launch a final assault on Skynet at the beginning of that movie.
However, as anyone who’s seen Terminator: Dark Fate knows, Miller won this particular argument, with Grace’s Resistance being on the outs against Legion’s army before she was sent back in time to protect Dani Ramos, her future mother figure and leader of this incarnation of the Resistance, from the Rev-9. Grace died to carry out her mission, and now Dani and Sarah Connor are preparing for the eventual rise of Legion and to ensure Grace will live in the new timeline they hope to create.
The conflicting views on how Legion should be handled is just one of the ways Tim Miller and James Cameron disagreed about Terminator: Dark Fate, with Miller noting to The Hollywood Reporter how many others revolved around lines of dialogue that he thought were “poetic and beautiful,” but Cameron didn’t like. In Miller’s words:
I would fight for that line, because it was important to me. But does the audience really care? Probably not. As far as donnybrooks go, it's not that big of a deal.
Tim Miller also acknowledged that while James Cameron and producer David Ellison technically had “final cut and ultimate power,” it was his duty as a director to fight for what he thought was right for the movie. When the time came for Miller to show Cameron his director’s cut of Terminator: Dark Fate, he wasn’t sure how the producer would feel given that Miller had cut “a lot of stuff” that Cameron thought was important, but once the screening was finished, Cameron answered “We’ve got a movie.”
While it earned a better critical reception than its immediate Terminator predecessors, Terminator: Dark Fate ultimately landed with a thud at the box office, having only made a little over $249 million worldwide so far off a budget in the $185-$196 million range. This experience has resulted in Miller feeling it’s unlikely he’ll work with Cameron on a professional level again since he would not have ultimate control, although the two of them still have a good relationship with one another.