Although they got him in trouble at the time, Terminator: Salvation star Christian Bale’s comments on Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 proved prescient.
Although his comments earned the ire of some Terminator franchise fans at the time, Terminator: Salvation star Christian Bale was eventually proven right about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s time in the series coming to an end. Bale didn’t have an easy time joining the long-running sci-fi franchise. Between the actor’s infamous on-set rant being caught on a hot microphone and leaked to the press, the movie itself being cut to shreds by meddling studio executives, and its eventual reviews being lukewarm at best, it is fair to say that the actor was not given the warmest welcome.
Bale didn’t make life easier for himself when he infamously ignited a feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger by saying that the franchise had evolved past the need to include the older actor’s iconic T-800. Since Arnie’s T-800 is one of few elements seen in every Terminator movie, this comment was seen as sacrilege by a vocal portion of the franchise’s fanbase. However, while it may be hard for some viewers to admit even now, many years after Terminator: Salvation‘s release, time and a plethora of flawed reboots have proven Bale right in his controversial assertion.
Back in 2009, Bale was quoted in an interview with TotalFilm as saying that the Terminator franchise needed to drop Arnie’s T-800, since the original movie’s villain was no longer central to its success. Although the context of these comments proved that they weren’t as belligerent as many fans assumed, the underlying point that Bale was making has since been proven right, as numerous Terminator movies relied on nostalgia for Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and the actor himself. Much like fellow thespian Brian Cox’s comments on Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow, Bale’s statements had less to do with the actor in question and more to do with how the franchise had grown to rely on their star power, phoning in installments with the guarantee that audiences would line up to see the series’ most popular character.
Christian Bale’s Comments On Schwarzenegger’s Terminator
Bale’s actual comments on the matter, taken from 2009’s TotalFilm interview, are not outright critical of Schwarzenegger’s performance despite what some fans claimed. Bale said “[Arnie’s T-800 isn’t currently necessary] because you can’t just keep rehashing the same plot. Yes, ‘Terminator’ is known for having this one singular figure of villainy that is constantly pursuing, but how many times can you keep on doing it?” While Arnie’s original T-800 was instrumental in the success of the first two movies in the franchise, the failure of later sequels proves that Bale had a point about this problem. Ironically, despite the actor himself not appearing in Terminator: Salvation, thanks to CGI, Schwarzenegger’s T-800 did make a brief cameo in the finished movie.
Why Christian Bale Was Right About Arnold’s T-800
According to Bale, the creators realized “Look, the mythology is dead unless we reinvent something, put it in a different world, recreate completely.” That proved to be true for the series since both 2015’s Terminator: Genisys and 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate tried and failed to recreate the same old Terminator setup to diminishing returns. Although the movie failed to impress critics, Terminator: Salvation (particularly its darker director’s cut) was an authentically new vision for the franchise. The 2009 movie turned the contemporary chase movie structure of the first three Terminator movies on its head and offered a post-apocalyptic war movie narrative instead, changing the genre of the franchise and its tone in the process. This represented the Terminator franchise’s first and last attempt to completely diverge from the original movie’s setup, with both Genisys and Dark Fate revisiting the predictable chase formula and failing to impress reviewers as a result.
Where Terminator: Salvation Fell Short
Unfortunately for Bale, although he was right about the Terminator movies needing to take more and bigger risks, his version of Terminator franchise hero John Connor ended up being a major part of the problem. Bale took on the role at the height of his stardom and this led the creators to beef up the originally insubstantial part, meaning the movie’s focus was no longer devoted to Marcus. A conflicted soldier who discovers he is a Terminator in a shocking twist, Marcus was a compelling new protagonist for the franchise and could have potentially revived interest in the series if the creators took a big risk and didn’t bring back John Connor as the main character.
Ironically, by bringing back John Connor (via Bale), Terminator: Salvation has too much of a canon connection to the rest of the franchise and failed to branch out by offering something totally original. Much like Terminator: Dark Fate killing off John Connor lacked impact because the idea had been done to death by that stage, Terminator: Salvation casting a major actor in the role of John Connor simply signaled to audiences that although Arnold Schwarzenegger would not be back this time, the series was still focused on the same characters and wouldn’t diverge too much from its pre-established plotline. This meant that Terminator: Salvation ended up not taking the advice of its star precisely because of Bale’s role, and instead offered a half-measure approach rather than a fully-fledged reboot for the series.
Can The Series Still Drop Schwarzenegger’s Terminator?
Every time the T-800 is brought back, he becomes more and more pivotal to the series. Recasting and rebooting The Terminator would allow the creators to start over, but even this approach would still keep the T-800 central to the franchise, even if the character were no longer played by Schwarzenegger specifically. As for a project that abandons Schwarzenegger’s iconic T-800 entirely, it is possible that a small-screen reinvention of the Terminator series would work without Arnie’s involvement. However, after so many movies featuring him, it’s unlikely a big-budget Terminator movie will ever risk dropping the T-800 for good. Despite Bale’s warnings, the Terminator series still relies on its original star as its most recognizable character and shows no sign of dropping this trend even after the failures of Terminator: Genisys and Terminator: Dark Fate. Only time will tell whether Terminator: Salvation star Christian Bale’s advice is ever taken by the Terminator creators but, for now at least, the series is still banking on viewers remaining nostalgic for Schwarzenegger’s T-800.
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