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The people responsible for all the Terminator sequels have never put a lot of effort into hiding the fact Schwarzenegger is no longer the 30-something he was when he made the first film. This is not that noticeable in T2, but I just saw the Genisys trailer and he really does look every day his 67 years. I find this jarring because the T800 we briefly see at the end of Salvation, fresh out of the Terminator factory, looks exactly as Schwarzenegger did back in 1984.

The only way I can think of reconciling these differences is by capitalizing on the fact that T800s are covered in living tissue, which does age. So, the Terminator in The Terminator looked young because he was sent to the past just as he walked out of the Terminator factory. The one in T2 had already been in service a few years in the future, so his tissue cover already looked aged by the time he was sent to the past, and similarly for the one in T3. The one in Genisys looks the oldest because he might have been in service for God knows how many years in the future, and then another few decades between Sarah Connor's infancy and the present. Plenty of time for the tissue cover to naturally develop the wrinkles that Schwarzenegger has!

Is there any in-universe explanation for the age differences?

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    I feel like you already answered your own question. – Jack B Nimble Jul 9 '15 at 21:42
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    ...T800s are covered in living tissue, which does age. What more could any of us tell you? You've answered it yourself. – Daft Jul 10 '15 at 9:19
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Yes, there is an in-universe explanation. In Terminator: Genisys, it is revealed that the timeline has been changed from each of the previous iterations.

In this new timeline, Skynet has sent a Terminator back in time to 1973 to kill Sarah as a child. Someone (apparently, the film doesn't make it clear who this is) sends a T-800 back to stop Skynet's Terminator.

From the Wikipedia page for the movie:

Upon its arrival in 1984, Skynet's T-800 is disabled by Sarah and the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a reprogrammed T-800 sent to protect her when she was nine years old.

It succeeds, but only after Sarah's parents are killed. The T-800, whom Sarah names "Pops", and who is also referred to as "the Guardian", then takes responsibility for Sarah's upbringing.

The timeline of the first film is further altered by the presence of "Pops", when Kyle Reese arrives in 1984, where he discovers that Sarah is still under the protection of "Pops", allowing the Terminator from the first movie to be dispatched rather easily.

By the time the movie moves on to the year 2017, therefore, "Pops" has been around for something like 44 years, and his organic tissue reflects his age. If we assume that the T-800 is designed to have the appearance of a 20-something year old man, this would mean that, in 2017, "Pops" looks to be in his mid-60's, more or less the actual age of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On a related note, I would assume that the decision to leave Arnie more or less as he is was based on the near impossibility of effectively hiding his true age, and the desire to use him to reinvigorate the franchise, which has not fared well in recent years. The relative failure at the box office of Terminator: Salvation was partially attributed to the fact that Arnie does not appear in the movie.

  • Beat me to it --- very thorough. +1 – Praxis Jul 10 '15 at 3:10
  • In T2, Arnie says his power core can last 10,000 years (or something like 10,000). If his skin ages at a normal rate, eventually it will just rot and fall off... I want to see that. – Daft Jul 10 '15 at 9:22
  • Actually I think it was more like 200 years – The Wandering Dev Manager Jul 10 '15 at 13:26
  • @Daft - Yeah, from what I can recall, he says it has an expected lifespan of 150 years. – Wad Cheber Jul 10 '15 at 19:31
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In Genisys, Sarah Connor explicitly states that the Terminator "Pops" looks like he does because he's encased in "real human tissue" that ages. This is further reinforced later in the movie: when Pops takes "the long way" from 1984 to 2017, he looks even older at the future date.

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