My Role to Provide Grand Provocation: James Cameron on ‘Dark Fate’

James Cameron returns to the ‘Terminator’ franchise.

Published25 Oct 2019, 05:14 PM IST
3 min read

James Cameron revolutionised the sci-fi genre with the original Terminator and brought it crashing into the future with the stunning sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day. After multiple sequels and reboots of the franchise without his involvement, Cameron is back to make his mark on the decades-spanning tale of machine rebellion and those who rise against it.

The Terminator movies hinge on the theory that one man – or woman – can change history, and James Cameron certainly has. Titanic changed what was possible with visual effects and Avatar created a whole new captivating world. But it really goes back to his work on The Terminator – the gritty, intelligent action pic that announced him as a stunning director – and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a movie star – back in 1984. At least before he somehow topped it with the spectacle and astonishing stunt-work and CGI of Terminator 2: Judgment Day in 1991.

The first movie presented the T-800 (Arnold) as a killing machine, the second had a reprogrammed AI robot – Schwarzenegger again – as its hero, trying to save Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong). Terminator: Dark Fate follows on from T2, creating an alternate timeline that obliterates every other film in the series apart from the original two.

Cameron wanted to, in his words, “get back to basics”. He sat with director Tim Miller and a room of writers and asked provocative questions to resurrect the series. He saw himself as someone helping to ignite new ways of thinking.

“I figured my role was to provide the grand provocation: ‘What about this? What about that?’”
James Cameron

Terminator: Dark Fate refocuses the franchise back on the person who always made it unique: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) – the innocent waitress who is dragged into potential Armageddon in the first film because she is the future mother of humanity’s saviour.

“I don’t think you can be a fan of the first two films without being a fan of Linda and the character arc she went through,”
James Cameron

James had to call Hamilton before they started writing Dark Fate, to make sure she would agree to star. It took a bit of persuasion. “I don’t think I got her to say yes, I think I got her to not say no,” says Cameron, before crediting director Tim Miller with convincing her that it was worth reprising her iconic role.

When it came to Terminator: Dark Fate, when asked about his sources for inspiration he says, “It’s funny. I talked to a bunch of AI researchers about, ‘What will this type of intelligence be like? And what are your goals?’ And they said, ‘Basically, our goal is to create a person. Our goal is to create a machine that has personhood. That can think for itself, that has motivations and goals, that has a sense of identity.’ And I said, ‘Well, how are you going to keep it from turning into Skynet?’ And they said, ‘Oh, we’re not worried about that. We’ll just be very, very clear about our goals.’”

“‘Well, how are you going to keep it from turning into Skynet?’ And they said, ‘Oh, we’re not worried about that. We’ll just be very, very clear about our goals.’”

James continued, “I said, ‘So, it can’t really do whatever it wants. I think we call that slavery. How long do you think you’re going to be able to contain something smarter than you?’ They just laughed at me: ‘Oh, you’re the Terminator guy. Yeah, we expect that sort of thing from you!’ But they’re not going to be laughing someday…”

Terminator: Dark Fate releases on 1 November in 6 languages: English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.

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