Another day, another franchise Hollywood won’t let die. This weekend the fifth Terminator film, Terminator Genisys, will open in theaters, with a 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role as the iconic cyborg 31 years after the first Terminator movie that made him famous. Terminator Genisys is picking up some predictably terrible reviews, making for another case of Hollywood pumping out sequels to an old franchise it should just let die all because some studio executives have dollar signs in their eyes. But is Ah-nold really the box office draw he used to be? Will it even be worth it to spin Genisys into the dreaded trilogy that Paramount has planned?
Schwarzenegger starred in the first three Terminator films, the first two of which were directed by James Cameron. The 1984 original is considered an action-sci-fi classic of sorts, a story about a fleet of AI-powered robots that come to Earth to kill off all humans. Because they outwardly resemble people, they’re able to accomplish this task more easily by infiltrating society. As it tends to happen with franchises, the sequels got worse and worse reviews. The first two films helmed by Cameron are considered to be sci-fi greats, but by the time we got to Rise of the Machines in 2003, things took a turn for the worse.
The most recent Terminator, 2009’s Terminator Salvation, starred Christian Bale instead of Arnold, which seems on the surface should be a promising prospect. After all Schwarzenegger is just too old now to be doing all the stunt work and showing off the body-building muscles that made him famous in the first place, except in a comedic sense in the geri-action films he makes his money on as of late. After all, why would the robot be designed with a 60-plus-year-old’s body?
Unfortunately Salvation didn’t get the storytelling right and even with a great actor like Bale the film fell flat. It got a 33% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the review aggregating site saying it has “storytelling as robotic as the film’s iconic villains.” It wasn’t exactly a hit at the box office either, only making $371 million worldwide on a budget of $200 million according to figures from Box Office Mojo. Salvation was planned to be a new trilogy from director McG, but after that reception, the plans were apparently scrapped.
Six years later and they’re trying another Terminator trilogy, hoping that putting Arnold’s name on the marquee will help get audiences interested again. That Genisys is getting similarly atrocious reviews as Salvation might not necessarily matter to box office performance. Genisys currently has a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes amongst the reviews currently culled, with critics saying things like “Schwarzenegger’s swagger can’t save this redundant tentpole,” TheWrap, and “This terminator is past its expiration date,” The Hollywood Reporter. More hopefully, it doesn’t have too much competition in terms of opening films for the weekend. Magic Mike XXL is targeting an obviously female audience, while Genisys is packed with action-y testosterone as Hollywood continues to think that men and women are incapable of liking the same movie.
What’s more likely to kill Genisys and Paramount’s plans to spin it into another trilogy is the fact that people would probably rather go and see Jurassic World for a third time. TheWrap pointed out that the two films do have something in common, though “Jurassic World did a much better job of putting a sharp, cynical edge on the familiar parts of an older franchise.”
Schwarzenegger has still shown some popularity in movies like The Expendables franchise, which have been called “geri-action” films, but Genisys doesn’t have the air of ridiculous comedy that those movies do. His robot character says “I’m old, not obsolete,” but maybe despite his functionality he’s just plain boring and unbelievable at this point in his lifespan.
The whole Terminator franchise stands a much higher chance of succeeding with the planned TV show that was recently announced. There was once a time that a TV spin-off of a movie was a premise to be laughed at, but shows like Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have shown that with TV’s current landscape this concept can work well and be popular. That fact that the first show version of Terminator, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, was actually thought to be fairly good and cancelled too soon is also a promising sign, as well as the absence of unbelievable, old robot Arnold.
Whether Paramount continues with its plans for two more films following Genisys will depend on how the movie ends up performing at the box office, though it wouldn’t be surprising if it ends up going the way of Salvation. The answer to this question seems to be a resounding no. Fans of Terminator should keep their eyes on that as-yet-untitled TV show.
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