The saga of James Cameron’s Terminator franchise has been an odd one. Back when the first installment came out in 1984, no one had quite seen anything like it. Sure, sci-fi has been a presence in cinema since 1927’s Metropolis, and Star Wars marked the proliferation of special effects. But a release about a time-traveling cyborg starring an Austrian bodybuilder that wasn’t a low budget B-movie was far from the norm of the mid-80s. This was followed in 1991 by the heralded sequel, T2: Judgement Day, regarded by many as superior to even its predecessor.
With the wide success of T2, the expectation was that a full-on franchise was in the works. The reception of Star Wars had already proven that audiences were ready for a sci-fi series in theaters, and things seemed to be trending upward for Cameron. But then silence followed. Cameron put the franchise in his rear-view and moved on to other projects, leaving it in the hands of Warner Bros. The result was a 12-year wait before a third movie hit theaters, beginning a long string of misguided attempts at continuing a story that had wrapped up neatly in the early ’90s.
2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was followed by Terminator Salvation in 2009, marking two sub-par follow-up efforts to Judgment Day. Of course, when the bar for success is set against one of the greatest modern sci-fi movies ever made, failure is almost an inevitability. But what was staggering was the magnitude of Warner’s failure. Each attempt at reviving the franchise has been met by offerings not up to the high standards set by Cameron early on.
Despite all this, we have another sequel coming down the pipeline in Terminator: Genisys, and it appears to be attempting to pull out all the stops. The early trailers tell us that it will throw out the original timelines, sending Reese back in time once again, but to a past dramatically different than the one we saw in the first installment. Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones, Thor 2: The Dark World) sits at the helm of the project, making for the first capable sci-fi director the franchise has seen since Cameron parted ways.
What it Taylor may end up facing is a situation similar to the one X-Men found itself in leading in to Days of Future Past. Following the Brett Ratner disaster of the third X-Men movie, 20th Century Fox found itself in need of a massive reset. It had made a pair of stellar films, followed by a series of disappointing sequels and spinoffs, much in the same way Warner Bros. has done for Terminator. That being so, the blueprint for success is certainly in place for Taylor. If he wants to resurrect a movie franchise that saw its peak in the early ’90s, he need only look as far as X-Men.
It’s been far too long since we’ve been given a halfway decent Terminator sequel, and with the way things are shaking out, Genisys may be the last chance to accomplish this before this franchise gets put to bed once and for all. Alan Taylor certainly has his work cut out for him, but it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If it does end up flopping on all fronts though, maybe pulling the plug on Skynet for good wouldn’t be the worst fate.
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