How Hollywood Can Salvage the ‘Terminator’ Franchise

It’s been a rough road for the Terminator saga over the last decade-plus. The first two installments in the saga number themselves among some of the greatest sci-fi films of all time. The subsequent three chapters though, failed to measure up, putting the future of the once-great franchise in peril. Thankfully, that doesn’t mean it’s beyond saving. Original Terminator director James Cameron recently commented on the saga in an interview with The Daily Beast, and his thoughts ring all too true.

1. The Terminator saga we see today has “lost relevance”

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys | Paramount

The first two Terminator movies weren’t great simply because they were fun sci-fi stories. They resonated with audiences because they were relevant. Back in the late-’80s/early-’90s, people were genuinely worried about a technological apocalypse where our machines turn on us. That fear doesn’t play the same way for an audience in our own time, and because of that, the franchise has struggled to translate for modern viewers.

2. “We live in a digital age, and Terminator ultimately is about our relationship with our own technology”

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys | Paramount

The biggest problem modern Terminator movies have encountered plays heavily off of that idea that the franchise has lost relevance. It goes far beyond even that though, as the stories the saga tells continue to apply an early-’90s relationship with technology to a 00’s audience. It’s your classic square peg/round hole problem, and it’s made the most recent Terminator films feel empty as a result.

3. Audiences want a commentary about how their own technology reflects back on them

Terminator - Arnold Schwarzenegger

Terminator | Paramount

So where exactly does that square peg/round hole problem put the Terminator franchise today? What it means is that any new installment should focus on how someone in 2017 interacts with their technology. We live in an era where smart-devices and computers aren’t simply accessories; they’re absolute necessities to our way of life. And yeah, it’s not exactly groundbreaking to address that fact, but it’s certainly a good place to start.

4. “If Terminator was about the war between the humans and the machines, look around any restaurant or airport lounge and tell me the machines haven’t won”

Four friend hands texting in their smart phones

The war is already over | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

The original Terminator films envisioned a future where machines ruled over mankind. The world we live in today may not be that same apocalyptic hell-scape, but there’s no doubting that technology has become a societal necessity. It keeps our hospitals running, our lines of communication open, and our lights on. If it were to turn on us, we’d be completely at the mercy of the machines without a single shot being fired. That’s the story that a modern Terminator has neglected to tell us, and it’s one that rings all too true.

5. There’s massive untapped potential here

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys | Paramount

The evolution of technology gives any future Terminator movie a whole mess of new material to work with. The field of robotics continues to advance, computers are getting smarter every day, and the technology that’s being researched and created is absolutely groundbreaking. Simply going back to the well of “Humanoid robots fighting mankind” isn’t just lazy — it’s squandering a unique opportunity to utilize 2017’s technological advances as thematic ammunition.

6. A reboot doesn’t have to be a retread

Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys | Paramount

Look, we get it. The original Terminator movies are awesome, and constantly trying to drag them into the 21st century is a tempting proposition. But just because it has the word “Terminator” in the title doesn’t mean you need to make a carbon copy and hope for the best. Audiences are smart enough to know a lazy reboot effort when they see one, and if you don’t try to infuse something new into your dated story, you’re going to have some massive problems at the box office. Just ask Terminator Genisys and its $89 million domestic box office.

7. The Terminator franchise needs an experienced sci-fi director back at the helm

James Cameron

James Cameron | YouTube

After James Cameron left the Terminator franchise following Terminator 2: Judgment Day, surely the studio would have made sure to honor his legacy by hiring only the most skilled sci-fi directors to pick up the mantle, right? That absolutely did not happen, with the next three films directed by Jonathan Mostow, McG, and Alan Taylor, respectively. Sure, none of them are necessarily Hollywood hacks, but a truly iconic franchise deserves a director equal to that legacy. That being said …

8. Help is on the way

deadpool

Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool | 20th Century Fox

Come 2019, James Cameron will regain the rights to the Terminator franchise, and he already has big plans for when that actually happens. According to Deadline, Cameron will be “godfathering a new iteration of the film,” and is “in early talks with Deadpool director and VFX wiz Tim Miller to direct a reboot.” If that ends up coming to fruition, we could very well end up with the best Terminator movie in almost 30 years.

9. The timing has never been better

Black Mirror - Season 3

Black Mirror | Netflix

The sci-fi genre has exploded into the mainstream over the last couple years, and meta-commentaries on technology are everywhere. The SyFy network has a lineup of shows that rival that of any major distributor, Black Mirror found a second life on Netflix, and Star Wars is thriving. The bar for quality science-fiction may be high, but that’s only because there’s so damn much to choose from right now. That being so, any new Terminator movie would enter into a market clamoring for more from the genre.

10. Justifying its own existence

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Terminator 2: Judgment Day | Warner Bros.

Given Hollywood’s propensity for shameless reboots, audience’s have become understandably skeptical. Did we really need another Ghostbusters movie? Is there really a new story to be told for the Power Rangers? If we do end up getting a sixth Terminator film, it’ll need to be because there’s a reason for it to exist past “because it’s a famous franchise.”

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