Thirty-four years ago, a young director named James Cameron released his first blockbuster, The Terminator, which introduced moviegoers to a dystopic future in which machines had conquered humankind. It’s safe to say that he’s gotten more optimistic with age. In subsequent movies like 1989’s The Abyss and 2009’s Avatar, Cameron depicts how humans — with the occasional assist from environmentally conscious aliens — can pull themselves back from the brink of disaster. That theme is also present in his latest project, Alita: Battle Angel, Robert Rodriguez’s far-future sci-fi spectacle, which Cameron co-wrote and executive produced and which opens in theaters on Feb. 14. (Check Fandango for showtimes and tickets.)
“I tend to be optimistic about people and our capacity to solve problems,” the director tells Yahoo Entertainment. “When I think of us as empathic beings, I think we’re going to get through this OK. When I see how people lose their empathy when they get into positions of power, then I lose that hope.”
Now, Cameron is headed back to Terminator’s less-than-hopeful future for the first time since 1991’s action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The writer-director is serving as executive producer on the Tim Miller-helmed sixth entry in the franchise, which will reset the continuity clock back to Judgment Day, erasing the subsequent sequels Rise of the Machines (2003), Salvation (2009) and Genisys (2015) from the timeline. And while Sarah Connor appeared to avert the machine uprising at the end of T2, the proposed title for the new Terminator — due in theaters on Nov. 1 — makes it clear that there’s plenty of darkness still ahead. “We’re calling it, Terminator: Dark Fate,” Cameron reveals. “That’s our working title right now.”
Even as he says “we,” Cameron is quick to note that this is Miller’s show all the way. “Tim’s a very willful and opinionated director, and he’s got his own ideas for the film. I’m kind of like the Pips — he’s Gladys.” Still, it’s no small thing to have Cameron back in the mix for the franchise he created alongside Gale Anne Hurd, and he had some ground rules for Terminator’s current minders, David Ellison’s Skydance Media.
“I said, ‘I can’t be involved in this film at all if Arnold [Schwarzenegger] is not in it,’” he remembers. He also strongly recommended that the filmmakers bring back Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor — a role she hadn’t reprised since Judgment Day. “Fans are going to want to see her again, and they’re going to want to see the real Sarah Connor and what time and dealing with these tragic futures has done to her.”
You can see evidence of Sarah’s current state of mind in the first official press photo for Dark Fate, which made the rounds online last August. The image shows an older, heavily armed Hamilton walking alongside cast members Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis. “It’s hardened her even more, but in a way that made her much stronger,” Cameron says. “Maybe less likable, but stronger. And ultimately, she becomes a really important character in passing the baton to the new characters that come in. It’s a very female-centric film, which I’m glad Tim embraced those themes.”
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