Speculation behind the new developments in The Terminator series are all over the internet at the moment. There’s the announcement of Emilia Clarke winning the role of Sarah Conner in the next film garnering excitement and word that a television series will act as a tie-in to this new reboot of the classic science fiction franchise.
But will this keep the franchise afloat or are there calmer waters ahead. We’ve seen a semi-reboot work in the past, most recently with The Dark Knight and X-Men franchises. We’ve also seen just how bad things can go off the rails with Prometheus and the Alien franchise.
So I thought it would be helpful to look at some of the good and bad aspects of this new direction for the Terminator franchise. Is it possible to save it or should we leave it dead and buried?
1. A Clean Slate: It is worth it to start fresh and get the taste of Terminator 3 and Salvation out of our mouths. And I liked Salvation, it just didn’t feel like the next step in the franchise. And Terminator 3 was a big jump directly to the side. Genesis could be the chance to take what we know about the universe, tweak it and provide a place for the franchise to continue on in a positive manner.
I think a key thing is to build upon what the previous films did right and the story they presented, but add to that in a way that is progressive as opposed to just retreading the same tired chase themes from before.
2. A Fresh Creative Take: Keeping with that idea, a new creative team could help bring something new to the table. Now obviously it would’ve been better if the rights reverted back to James Cameron 2015, allowing him a bit of creative control on where the saga would go. That didn’t happen and the property juggled around a few times before settling in its current position with the Ellison siblings.
Director Alan Taylor takes the reins for Genesis, utilizing his television background and work on Thor: The Dark World to re-define the Terminator franchise. It’s an improvement over McG in my opinion and being a fan of Thor 2, I think Taylor might be able to succeed in the director’s chair.
3. Advancements In Technology: Our general advancement in technology from Terminator 3 to now is enough to warrant a retooling of the saga in my eyes. Looking back at how far we’ve come since the original or Judgment Day, it’s a wonder the actual terminator robot even resembles a person. Is this the most efficient killing machine possible or could Skynet focus on something else?
We got a taste of this in Terminator 2 with the T-1000 and I thought how Terminator 3 changed the definition of Skynet from centralized computer to network system was admirable. But just seeing how far we’ve come today with unmanned drones and computer that we wear, I think there is more of a need now to look at how our current world would effect that of the terminator.
4. Television Series Tie-In: Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles was a cool show that attempted to bridge the gap between Judgment Day and Rise of the Machines, but then took a wayward detour thanks to the WGA strike. It didn’t help that the attempt to build a connection to Terminator: Salvation fell apart as well, kind of throwing the show into a limbo.
Word has it that there will be another attempt at a series that will not only connect to the new movie, but maintain and separate storyline. I picture a shared universe sort of feel like we get with Agents of SHIELD and the Marvel films. Nothing is set in stone, but I think a second chance is the final goal for the entire franchise and a television series wasn’t a terrible idea the last time around. But there has to be a worry about audience exhaustion at some point, so it’s risky.
5. Casting: I think the casting is the only real fan boy factor I can point out because I really enjoy Emilia Clarke. It’s a lame reason, but I think she could play a young Sarah Conner with the fragility Linda Hamilton showed in the first movie and then grow into the strong matriarch for the future. Sort of mirroring her role on Game of Thrones, proving it isn’t much of a stretch.
Throw in Jason Clarke as a possible John Conner and it is shaping up to be a fairly modern cast that could build themselves a role in the franchise. It also tells a bit about possible storylines the new film could follow. I’m definitely sensing some sort of J.J. Abrams Star Trek activity, but I’m hoping for something a little different.
1. Remakes, Remakes, Remakes: I believe we are tiring of remakes as a society. The desire to continue going to the well of established franchises has taken them to the point of irrelevance, Terminator nearing the top of the list. It has been years since the series had any real relevance on pop culture and as great as it once was, the recent efforts have weakened it as a brand.
Not only that, but there is a habit to just retread what has already been done with a remake. We already got that with Rise of the Machines and the follow-up, Salvation, was a messy film that failed with critics. If we truly want a fresh creative take, it is probably better to let the series die and build on the present ideas within a new framework and series. Robots and a bleak future are nothing new and certainly could be used in another story, just like they were in something like The Matrix.
2. Advancements In Technology: As much as our advancement in technology could help the Terminator franchise grow, it is also a hindrance. The ideas presented in the original Terminator films are almost a reality today, with drones manning the skies, computer AI controlling entire networks and robotics reaching new heights of innovation. What we see on the screen almost seems silly because we can see how things will play out in front of our very eyes. In the 80s, the ideas of a computer network destroying humanity were the things of imagination and now they could actually happen in a way.
I think imagination is missing from a lot of film-making today and any reboot of the Terminator would encounter that very same problem. Look around at all the countless remakes and sequels we face now. There is no innovation and no imagination to be found and many are paint by numbers affairs. Familiarity prevails for the sake of the audience’s money. If a new Terminator film stuck with a realistic approach, I think it could lose the fantasy involved in the original concept. But hey, robots, right?
3. Confusion Possibilities: The biggest issue with bringing back the Terminator is the confusion that would come along with it. A lot of heavy baggage follows any time travel story and the Terminator series is no different. In fact I think it is a lot worse with these films because the time travel involved makes very little sense in the current form. Oh yes, it used to make sense back in the early 90s with ending of the original and the events of Judgement Day. One sort of leads into another and the storyline makes sense. Then the rest happened and the baggage started to weigh the series down.
Compounding issues is the inclusion of my next point, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose role has yet to be defined. What we do know is that his appearance at all is going to be confusing to a normal audience out to see a movie they think they’ve already seen and understand.
4. Ahhnuld: And the confusion that is aided by Schwarzenegger’s appearance is multiplied by the fact that he is well over 60 years old currently. I feel that his appearance at all is a nod back to the original films and an inclusion of unintentional poison into the well of ideas. I love a good Schwarzenegger movie and he’s one of my favorite characters throughout cinema history, but his time has passed. It was no sad fact that he appeared in Salvation in CGI form.
I could live with a cameo. I think anyone could live with a cameo. But the idea of Arnold rolling around in the leather jacket and sunglasses, fighting robots in his iconic role, and picking up above the title recognition is insane. It’s far more of a hindrance than a benefit, even with his celebrity status.
5. The Series Is Beyond Saving: No long winded reasoning here. Sometimes a series should just end. And maybe that’s true about The Terminator. I will personally save my full judgment until the movie begins to fill out and reveal details. Until then, maybe the franchise should look something like this.
(Lead image via Warner Bros/ Jade Horns)