Movies

James Cameron Explains Why Terminator 2’s Trailers Spoiled Arnold Schwarzenegger Being A Hero In The Sequel

Movie trailers have become such an important part of the movie-making process that their release can be almost as big as the movie itself. But trailers have a fine line to walk because they need to tell people enough about a movie to get them excited, without giving away so much that the movie is spoiled. But sometimes movies intentionally give away their big twists which was apparently the plan with one of the best sci-fi movies of all-time, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

In the original Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays an unstoppable killing machine sent from the future to kill somebody. When the sequel opens, a similar dynamic seems to be created. Arnold is set up as the potential bad guy, and it’s only when the two Terminators from the future come face to face that we learn that the machine that was once the villain is now the hero. However, this was only a surprise if you never saw a trailer for the film. In an interview with James Cameron from Empire, the director admits that he was fully on board with giving away the twist as he felt that detail sold the film. Cameron explained…

All of us have had our battles with the Suits, but the case you mention was not a battle. The Carolco guys, Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna, were good partners with me on T2, and I led the charge on marketing, including showing Arnold as the good guy. It wasn’t a Sixth Sense kind of twist that’s revealed only at the end of the film. He’s revealed as the Protector at the end of Act One. And I always feel you lead with your strongest story element in selling a movie. I believed our potential audience would be more attracted to seeing how the most badass killing machine could become a hero than they would be to just another kill-fest in the same vein as the first film. Sequels have to strike a delicate balance between honoring the most loved elements from the first film, but also promising to really shake things up and turn them upside down. Our marketing campaign for T2 was exactly that promise, and it worked.

It was never hidden in the lead-up to the release of T2 that Arnold, who was largely unknown when the first Terminator was released but was a major action star by the time of the sequel, would be the good guy the second time around. But that made the fact that the movie treated it like a twist seems strange. And it almost certainly would have been a cool twist for an audience to experience in the theater if the detail had been left behind the curtain.

One could certainly imagine this being a situation where James Cameron as a filmmaker might have wanted the twist to remain hidden, but studio executives decided they needed that detail to better sell the film. Cameron has certainly had his share of battles with studios. But James Cameron is a director who also completely understands the commercial aspects of Hollywood. He makes art, but he understands that art needs to sell, and Cameron’s clearly pretty good at creating movies that sell

It’s hard to argue that James Cameron didn’t make the right call. Terminator 2 was a massive success at the box office that only looks small today because the director has made so many films that were even bigger. Perhaps the revealing of the twist in the trailers for Terminator 2, and the fact that it didn’t hurt the film’s success is part of why the decision was made to give away the twist in Terminator: Genisys, though that didn’t work out quite as well. 

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