The Terminator is arguably one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made, and profoundly influential. It made James Cameron’s career. It made for a pretty good TV show. And now apparently Paramount is going to try and make a fifth one. They really shouldn’t: Here’s why.
The Franchise Is Fairly Shopworn
The history of the franchise is essentially a long, slow slide into self-parody. The first movie is undeniably a bit dated, being made in the ’80s, but part of the reason it works so well, and part of the reason it launched so many careers, is that it turned problems into virtues. It didn’t have a huge effects budget but instead put a lot of thought into how something like this could actually happen in the real world, and why nobody would buy it.
From there, the franchise has steadily gotten more ridiculous, bombastic, and expensive, to diminishing artistic returns. Terminator 3 and Terminator: Salvation are not movies people discuss much, and for good reason. It’s hard to see Paramount doing anything beyond throwing even more money at the franchise.
Arguably It Is Also Cursed
This will mark not the first, not the second, but the third time that the rights to this franchise have been picked up by an independent producer to try and revive it. The first two times yielded the last two movies. One could argue that the third time is the charm, but consider that the most recent script involves Patrick Lussier, who you last saw as the director of Drive Angry.
A Reboot Would Be A Hard Sell
It’s easy to forget that pretty much everybody in the ’80s thought that we were all gonna die. This?
People actually thought that was going to happen. Now? We don’t have Cold War anxiety anymore. Terrorists are the new bad guy, now, and although the original idea was that the Terminator was an infiltrator, a seemingly normal person who suddenly pulls a gun and starts murdering people, it’s hard to see a studio making an idea that modest, or for that matter close to a sore spot, out of a franchise this expensive.
Arnold Is Getting Old, And There’s No Viable Replacement
Oh, it’s not like the franchise hasn’t tried to replace Arnold. Every movie since the first one has tried to, with varying degrees of success, but nobody’s come close. And truthfully it’s hard to see who could step into Arnold’s motorcycle boots. Vin Diesel and The Rock both have their own franchises to work with and don’t particularly want to draw any more contrasts to Arnold than they already do. Studios are unlikely to gamble on unknowns.
This isn’t to say it’s impossible to recast the role, but the shadow of the Governator would loom large over any movie without him in it.
Who’d Replace James Cameron?
There was a time (before 1997) that James Cameron was one of the most respected big-budget filmmakers out there. It’s hard to think of somebody who could equal Cameron in his creative prime, and that’d be necessary to make this work. In general, the number of directors who can effectively deliver high-quality science fiction films is a short list. One could see Neil Marshall, who has always come tantalizingly close to big-budget glory but never quite gotten his shot, making a superb Terminator. Duncan Jones is being put to the test with World of Warcraft as we speak.
But the modern filmmaker is a different beast, and the next Cameron isn’t somebody the studios are looking for: Consider that the first place the franchise went to was to Justin Lin. You know, because McG and Jonathan Mostow delivered such memorable and unique takes on the franchise.
So, Paramount, for your sake and ours, just let this franchise be lowered into the molten steel. We’ll all be happier for it.