Let’s not mince words, shall we? The ‘Terminator’ movies have seen better days. The first two films are undisputed classics, but ever since the release of the third entry in 2003, it’s felt as if the powers that be have been throwing ideas at the wall and hoping something sticks. And never was this more the case than with 2015’s ‘Terminator Genisys‘, which was meant to launch a new ‘Terminator’ trilogy before arriving all but stillborn at the box office.
With the rights to the franchise due to revert to original director and co-creator James Cameron in 2019, the task of course correcting the property has fallen to him. Though fairly little has been publically revealed about ‘Terminator 6‘ at this stage in its development, we do know that Cameron will be producing, with directing duties falling to ‘Deadpool’ auteur Tim Miller. We’ve also learned that the film’s cast will include original stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton.
Of course, Schwarzenegger’s involvement with any new ‘Terminator’ film means that sooner or later someone will have to address the elephant in the room. That elephant, of course, is the simple fact that despite playing a presumably ageless machine, the man himself is now significantly older than he was when the first film was made. Specifically, Schwarzenegger will be seventy-one by the time ‘Terminator 6’ films. This has not escaped the notice of the filmmakers, though, and they’ve factored this into the script. Per Cameron:
“You don’t have to get around it. The beauty of it is, he’s a cyborg. And so the “org” part is on the outside – meaning “organism” – and Reese says it in the first film. “They sweat, they have bad breath,” you know, because they were supposed to be infiltration units. So there’s the idea that there’s this flesh sort of sheath over a metal endoskeleton, and so that would age. And so that ages normally. So obviously he’s one that’s been in action and operation for a long time. And that’s all I want to say about the actual story part of it. But it’s actually quite intrinsic to the story, that he’s subject to the frailties of the flesh. And in fact, in the first film, the flesh is burned away completely but that endoskeleton – which is nicely covered in dialog in the second film – has a power cell that can last 100 years. So he’s still got thirty, twenty-nine years.”
If you saw the aforementioned ‘Terminator Genisys’, that probably sounds familiar, as that film used a similar logic to account for its star having aged. In that instance, Schwarzenegger played a Terminator that had been sent back to protect Sarah Connor in her childhood and had thus aged more or less normally from 1973 through to 2017. For all the problems that ‘Genisys’ had, this was not one of them, and frankly, it’s the most logical way of maintaining Schwarzenegger’s involvement with the franchise, which he clearly enjoys.
But it won’t just be the flesh sheath that’s changed over time. As Tim Miller explains, the Terminator’s personality will have evolved as well.
“Emotionally and intellectually he will have evolved. They’re learning machines. But I think that’s a way to make it different than it was. I think we should embrace his age. And that’s what’s going to make it interesting and fresh for the fans. And I can’t tell you, but man, some of the scenes that the writers wrote to embrace that idea are fucking classic.”
Like the idea of the Terminator’s flesh sheath aging normally, this too has some precedent in earlier ‘Terminator’ films. In this case, the idea was introduced by Cameron himself in ‘Terminator 2’. The idea of Terminators learning and becoming more human is a plot element that is more fully developed in the film’s extended cut, but it remains present in the theatrical version, as the film’s emotional climax hinges on the idea of a Terminator, of all things, developing a sense of humanity.
While ‘Terminator 6′ is still nearly two years away, it’s encouraging both that the film’s creative team has already put this degree of thought into it and that despite its intent to ignore the prior three sequels, it nonetheless remains rooted in the series’ history.