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Why Terminator: Dark Fate had to be rated R

Director Tim Miller breaks the news at SDCC

Linda Hamilton, left, and Natalia Reyes in battle mode in Dark Fate Kerry Brown/Paramount
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

“The DNA of Terminator is an R-rated, fucking movie.”

Deadpool director Tim Miller took the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con Hall H stage on Thursday morning with surprising confidence for a man sequelizing one of the greatest action movies of all time. Miller’s Terminator: Dark Fate, due out Nov. 1, recasts Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Sarah Connor and the T-800 robot in a continuation to the events of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. And according to the filmmaker, there was only one way to do it justice: Go R. Hard R. Violence. Swear words. R. R. R.

The style is natural for Miller, who admitted he made a bet with Schwarzenegger to see if he could keep his f-bombs to under five. A sizzle reel of behind-the-scenes footage reveals crowbar fights, massive street explosions, and plenty of bloodshed. There are also plenty of shots of Miller acting as giddy as a five-year-old (who’s allowed to scream profanity). After cutting on one underwater action sequence, Miller turned to camera to declare, “Holy fuck, I’m making a Terminator movie!”

Miller isn’t completely brazen. When it comes to Terminator’s time-travel logic, he’s particularly interested in course correcting, and exploring what happened to Sarah Connor after she blew up Cyberdyne, 27 years later.

“Look, I loved [Avengers:] Endgame,” he said at the panel, “however, I feel like time travel with multiple realities loses some stakes. If you can change anything … you lose a little bit of the dramatic stakes.”

During the behind-the-scenes reel, producer James Cameron describes Miller’s vision as a true throwback to his first two, R-rated films. According to Cameron, Dark Fate summons “that same adrenaline-rush feeling. That sense of terror.” That meant staging larger-than-life action, but also wringing every ounce of charisma from the stars. Miller says he made Linda Hamilton to do take after take of profanity-laden one-liners. He couldn’t help himself, and neither could Hamilton, who was happy to return to the raw and relentless franchise.

“The character is the same but time changes everything,” Hamilton said of her character. “[And now] I am so much more than I was [...] People will talk about the training and the body, but the work I did was the deep exploration of a woman who is an outsider, whose life hasn’t worked out well, and who has lost so much.”

But for all those looking for an off-the-leash Terminator epic, Miller wants to make one thing clear: Arnold wouldn’t say “fuck.”

“Robots don’t curse.”

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