James Cameron’s Latest Terminator 7 Update Misses What Made the Movies Great

The new Terminator film might actually imitate real life. Here’s why that’s a bad idea.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton in Terminator: Dark Fate
Warner Bros. Pictures

James Cameron shook the world when he dropped The Terminator in 1984. The sci-fi fable was shockingly prescient, and now, 30-something years on, it’s effectively predicted a possible future. In just a few years, we may very well be engaged in a conflict with self-aware, weaponized artificial intelligence — at least, that’s what some experts are predicting.

That said, none of the Terminator films have really grappled with humanity’s relationship with AI in general. It’s always been a battle of man vs. machine (or machine vs. machine in Terminator 2). Notably, those machines always take a corporeal form — and with future Terminator sequels, Cameron might want to change that.

Rumors have been circling regarding Cameron’s plans for a yet-unofficial Terminator 7, especially after his recent appearance at Dell Technologies World 2023. At the event, Cameron confirmed he’s working on a new script, but given the current state of AI, he wants to wait and see how our relationship with the new tech progresses.

Terminator 7 confirmed?

Cameron has been toying with the idea of a Terminator 7 as far back as 2017 (though considering his commitment to the Avatar franchise, Skynet may have to take a backseat for the foreseeable future). The most recent Terminator film, Dark Fate, was meant to kick off a new trilogy, one that would have allowed Cameron to “explore the human relationship with artificial intelligence.” Despite its positive reception, Dark Fate failed to make a dent at the box office. Plans for a sequel were shelved shortly after.

Still, it doesn’t seem like Cameron’s given up just yet. In 2022, the director visited the SmartLess podcast, where he reiterated his plans for a potential sequel.

“If I were to do another Terminator film and maybe try to launch that franchise again — which is in discussion, but nothing has been decided — I would make it much more about the AI side of it than bad robots gone crazy,” Cameron said.

The problem with James Cameron’s Terminator plan

The Terminator saga has tried — and failed — to move fully into the future, but that’s exactly where these films should go.

Warner Bros. Pictures

To call the rise of AI a timely topic right now would be the gravest understatement imaginable. It’s an interesting idea, but is that really what the Terminator franchise needs? Cameron has always been decades ahead of the curve (The Terminator was partially inspired by a fever dream), but we get closer to the reality Cameron predicted by the day. To hear he may be taking inspiration from our current woes isn’t exactly comforting, nor does it align with the franchise’s major strengths.

The Terminator saga hasn’t had a lot of success with its future-set sequels, but it is at its best when it’s looking ahead. Terminator: Salvation, flawed as it was, brought us face-to-face with the dystopia that previous Terminator flicks had only alluded to, and that could be a fun way forward for Terminator 7. Dark Fate set the stage for a new John Connor to lead the war against the machines, and making that the focus of the next film feels like a no-brainer.

Cameron, however, seems more concerned with our present-day “virtual-social world.” In 2017, he told The Daily Beast that the dystopian themes posited in the first two films “are kind of a yawn now.” And in truth, the War in a Wasteland story has been done to death in recent years. Terminator 7 could be a prequel that depicts the rise of SkyNet — or Genisys, as it was called before its insidious rebrand — but do we really need to be reminded of our dire state of affairs? It may not be smart to take so much inspiration from the present, but given what Cameron has done in the past, it may not be a total bust.

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