Is it Time to Terminate the Terminator Franchise?
There is an ill wind blowing in this summer's movie season. It's filled to the brim with sequels and reboots and remakes and re-sequels of boot-makes, just like every other summer, but one upcoming film appears to have the potential to become one of the biggest blockbuster disasters in years. If the trailers, TV spots, and ad campaigns are any indication, Terminator Genisys could end up being a huge dumpster fire of overcompensation and revisionist history. What's more, it could even spell the end for the Terminator franchise. But such a prospect doesn't worry me; in fact, I would go as far to say that I would actively welcome it. It may well be time to terminate the Terminator.
It may not be fair to judge a film before it opens, and I never like to go into any screening expecting it to be poor, but everything I have seen of Terminator Genisys is making it almost impossible to feel any kind of optimism. The first trailer hinted that Genisys would serve as a reboot AND a fifth entry in the franchise, as we travel back to 1984 with a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, more on him later). Only this time, Reese does not stumble upon a sweet, innocent Sarah Connor. Now, Sarah is some version of her badass military self from T2 or The Sarah Connor Chronicles, telling Reese, "everything has changed."
Genisys looks set to be a who's who of Terminator robots. There's a new T-1000, played by Byung-hun Lee. There are young Schwarzeneggers fighting old Schwarzeneggers. Heck, if the plot rumors and second trailer are to be believed, even John Connor is going to be a robot! I didn't see a robotic kitchen sink in the second trailer, but I'm almost certain its there somewhere. If these Genisys trailers are any indication, the Terminator franchise has reached a depressing point of desperation whereby overstuffing is seen as a solution to a lack of ideas.
But, my issue is less with Genisys by itself and more about the fact that the Terminator franchise should have ended 24 years ago. James Cameron's seminal Terminator 2: Judgement Day closed the door that was left open at the end of his 1984 original. The world had been saved, Skynet stopped, everyone was happy. Everyone, that is, except the studio who wanted to make more money....
Then came Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines. This 2003 sequel explained away the fact that there was no need for it to exist by saying "yeah, the robot apocalypse was going to happen no matter what.". There was little reasoning for making another Terminator movie, and the result was Rise of The Machines, which struck a very different tone to the Cameron films, much to its detriment. Director Jonathan Mostow handled some solid action scenes, but the tongue-in-cheek nature of the dialogue and the weak attempt at fell flat. The result was a product that felt somewhat weak, even for Schwarzenegger, and especially for a franchise that had achieved such lofty heights some in the past.
With Schwarzenegger turning to politics in California, the franchise opted to move away from the original story with Terminator Salvation. Salvation, directed by McG, was known more for Christian Bale's on-set rant than anything that happened in the film itself, which is fairly reflective of the movie's quality. Salvation was a bleak, drab, and forgettable experience. On a budget of $200 million, the domestic box-office stalled at less that $130 million. Salvation's failure should have been the end of the Terminator franchise. Alas, the studio wanted to milk this faltering series at least one more time, which brings us to Genisys…
Voices on social media have not been kind to the surprisingly spoiler-filled trailers and TV spots for Terminator Genisys. Revealing the movies twists and turns in promotional material may well be an indication in the studio's lack of faith in the project. This was in stark contrast to the promotional material for Mad Max: Fury Road, which succeeded in piquing interest and generating excitement, while giving little away about the movie's plot. The end result of Terminator Gensisys's promo campaign has been to turn off the average moviegoer and cause concern among the franchise's core fanatics. You can't help but feel that if the studio knew they had something good on their hands, a lot more about the movie would have been left to our imaginations instead of having key plot details offered up as bait.
The only thing that appears to be more grim than Genisys's plot is the movie's commercial prospects. As already mentioned, Salvation fell short of its budget by almost $70 million at the domestic box office. Terminator 3, also with a budget of $200 million, brought in $150 million. The box office clout of the franchise has gradually decreased with each new entry, and with Genisys opening with a $170 million budget hanging around its neck, it's hard to see that trend being bucked.
Terminator is still a franchise that is beloved by many, many people, a fact that makes its decline all the more upsetting. There may be a faithful few who maintain that there is hope for Genisys, but they are significantly in the minority. As painful as it will be to see it happen, perhaps a Genisys failure is the final nail the Terminator's coffin needs in order to allow the franchise to be laid to rest once and for all.