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Through the course of 35 years and six films, the Terminator franchise has been on again and off again at the multiplex. With last year’s Terminator: Dark Fate attempting to start a new path for the trilogy, but note seeing the highest numbers at the box office, it looks like the series is about to go into hibernation again. Franchise legend, and Sarah Connor herself, Linda Hamilton happens to subscribe to that particular theory herself.
While speaking with her during the press rounds for Terminator: Dark Fate’s home video release, I had to ask if the film’s rather open-ended finale meant that we’d potentially see Sarah Connor fighting the good fight against the machines in another film. Hamilton not only confirmed once again that she isn’t looking to return to her landmark role, but thanks to the response to the last film, the series itself probably won’t be back:
I really think that box office is gonna be the thing that killed Terminator. Of course it’s the studios that put hundreds of millions of dollars into a film, but it’s just a fickle world in terms of fandom and maybe they were just worn out by the Terminators that preceded. I don’t have any desire to continue. I never did.
While that comment might feel blunt, considering that Terminator Genisys’ worldwide grosses of $440.6 million were seen as a disappointing result for the franchise, the $261.1 million haul that Terminator: Dark Fate made on the open market does indeed feel like a blow to James Cameron’s legendary sci-fi property. Even though the new movie spent time hyping up the return of Linda Hamilton, an actor who hadn’t appeared in the franchise flesh since 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it didn't translate to bodies in the seats.
On paper, James Cameron being able to convince Hamilton to revive Sarah Connor in Terminator: Dark Fate felt like the sort of decision that’d win even the most die-hard fans of the classic films back to the table. Even in the face of good critical reviews, director Tim Miller’s film couldn’t convert that professional goodwill into enough buzz to likely excite the studio for another movie, although only time will tell whether or not Terminator: Dark Fate will ultimately hit with the fanbase.
On the subject of fandom, it’s interesting to note that the film did score a Rotten Tomatoes’ verified audience score of 82%, with almost 13,000 votes in the count. Of course, that’s a very limited sample when it comes to moviegoers overall, so the total picture of Terminator: Dark Fate’s fan reaction is definitely complicated. People like the dang movie, but that's probably not enough to justify more.
With hopes seemingly dashed for another Terminator sequel, and even with Linda Hamilton’s insistence that she doesn’t want to bring Sarah Connor back again, hope still springs eternal. As the fandom hasn’t really latched onto a sequel as warmly as they did with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it’s still sort of a miracle that there have been four follow-ups after that particular point.
Not to mention, if it wasn’t for Terminator: Salvation’s impact on the franchise, we would have seen the first complete trilogy in series history. Even in the face of such decision making and the varied response to whatever new twists and turns the films have taken, Terminator movies have happened at fairly reliable intervals. And it’s all because the brand itself still maintains its classic appeal.
So while Terminator: Dark Fate’s embodiment of its title feels like it’s closed the book on any future installments, be they direct continuations or more tangents in the already fractured timeline, this is a batch of movies that feel as tenacious as the villains that occupy them. Surprisingly enough that tenacity could potentially win Linda Hamilton back into another potential performance as Sarah Connor, though by her own admission it would be under the following strict guidelines:
Only if there’s something really viable in the script and story and characters, would I ever consider doing it again. Otherwise it’s just diminishing returns, isn’t it?
As a professional, and a Terminator fan, I couldn’t agree more with Linda Hamilton’s specifications for a potential return to the fold. Seeing Sarah back in the game for Terminator: Dark Fate was something extremely special, and bringing her back for the potential seventh film in the Terminator series would really need to be an event worthy of happening.
That same approach is something any creative team looking to take a spin in the Terminator universe should also keep in mind. It feels like it’d be easy to create a serviceable sequel or reboot to this series of events, but unless there’s a particularly good idea that can kick the can of Armageddon down the road rather effectively, there’s always a risk of those diminishing returns.
Warning: Mild spoilers for Terminator: Dark Fate are now in play.
In all fairness, Terminator: Dark Fate did have a pretty good idea for how to pursue such an enterprise, with the death of John Connor altering the landscape of the Terminator story, and Sarah’s character, significantly. But ideas like those don’t always grow on trees, so unless the rest of that potential trilogy James Cameron was teasing has a cracker of an idea at its heart, we’re probably not going to see Sarah Connor onscreen ever again.
The upside to that particular scenario is that for fans longing to see a proper conclusion to Sarah’s story, Terminator: Dark Fate actually delivered in that regard. Her character’s arc sees her becoming a mentor for Natalia Reyes’ Dani, and the future of humanity is on the course to being saved. Even her rivalry with Carl, the T-800 that killed her son is resolved, as Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characters bonded together to save the new savior of humanity from the threat she faced.
If the Terminator series is now dead and buried, it could go out under worse circumstances. With critical praise and the fandom’s positive reaction carrying Terminator: Dark Fate into the history books, the rest of Sarah Connor’s mysterious fate is nothing but what the fans will make it out to be. The box office may have tanked, but Linda Hamilton’s gift of returning for the fans is something that’ll always be treasured, as it should be.
Terminator: Dark Fate is now available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD; ready to be added to your collection of preferred entries in the Terminator franchise.