After flirting on the fringes of each new production, it appears James Cameron is ready to go back to Titanic, Terminator. George McGhee wonders if this is a good idea.
It’s a machine that can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with, it doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear, and it absolutely will not stop…EVER. Yes, I’m talking about the Terminator but not the actual character- I’m talking about the studio engine that will not let this once great franchise die, by letting it gracefully slip into the fiery furnace of time with a graceful thumbs up, so to speak.
Can James Cameron recapture T2’s magic?
Yet Hollywood keeps hitting the reset button on this franchise – why? Nothing is an easier sell than brand/name recognition – hence the continuing bombardment of remakes, sequels, and the term that makes me cringe – “shared universes”. The big surprise is that none other than the Miles Dyson of this franchise, self proclaimed “King Of The World” James Cameron, is actively involved in this new production.
Whilst Mr Cameron is far too busy prepping numerous Avatar sequels, it’s been revealed that he is taking on a “godfather” or a creative consultant role for a new Terminator film – as the film rights revert to him in 2019. One would hope that his involvement means proper production opposed to executive production – which is essentially funding a film but with little creative input.
On every sequel since Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) the Cameron Connection has always been crowbarred in some way, however tenuous. Both Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) had his best wishes – mainly support for his friends/collaborators Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sam Worthington.
He had a more direct involvement in Genysis, from the initial suggestion on how to bring back Arnie (“what if the T-800’s skin ages like a human?”) to a cringe worthy video endorsement where he praises it as a true sequel to the first two films…. The claim is almost as outrageous as the shirt he’s wearing for the video.
Following the poor critical and audience reception at remake/reboot/sequel, Terminator Genysis (the first of a new planned trilogy and potential TV series tie in) we all thought the franchise, like Salvation before it (another planned trilogy…) was a non starter.
As a huge fan, I can still find strengths in each sequel post Terminator 2, which happens to be one of my favourite films of all time – however disappointing they can be. Rise of the Machines was averagely entertaining in a familiar way but I was really impressed with it’s bleak ending. Salvation was the opposite – fans were eager to see the future war teased in Cameron’s films and it had an interesting twist with a human/cyborg hybrid (like Genysis, the key twist was spoiled in the trailer). However the film still couldn’t avoid giving us another smack down finale in familiar factory, followed by the world’s first desert based heart transplant…
As Cameron points out, Genysis is a “true” sequel of sorts, with it’s Back to The Future II approach, the opening half hour impressively recreates previous scenes almost shot for shot. Sadly as soon as they announce “we must travel to 2017! For reasons!” it quickly falls apart with all too familiar action scenes (another Golden Gate Bridge set-piece, really?!) and wooden exposition delivered by Arnie, a miscast Emilia Clarke and miscast in everything, Jai Courtney.
The press release promises this new take will be a reboot and conclusion of the story, which…makes little sense. With Cameron’s busy slate, rumour has it that Tim Miller, the other man (besides Ryan Reynolds) that we have to thank for the wonderful Deadpool (2016), is due to take on the directing duties. Apart from being one of the funniest films of last year, Miller displayed an inventive flair for stylish action and violence and most importantly with a limited budget – so again, another reason to be hopeful, if not outright excited.
Is Cameron the right man for the job? Or does it need some new blood? After all, Star Wars is doing a lot better without George Lucas, now it’s in the hands of talented filmmakers who grew up with the originals. Cameron has done little to tarnish his Terminator legacy, with his last two theatrical features are two of the biggest selling films of all time. You can moan about the mawkish romance of Titanic or Avatar being Pocahontas with blue cat people all you want, those numbers don’t lie. It’s fair to say that box-office numbers don’t always mean quality (e.g. Transformers/Fast & Furious films) but it’s unlikely many would accuse Cameron of approaching anything half-heartedly – in each of his films, he’s clearly looking to push boundaries in terms of using technology to tell a story, opposed for the sake of it.
My concern is where can the story go, that it hasn’t tried already. Whilst a groundbreaking idea in the early 1980’s, has today’s technology overtaken the concept of a killer robot disguised as a human? Cameron pointed out back in 2011 that the machines have already won, we’re already enslaved to technology. It seems that Genysis took this concept literally with Skynet turning into a killer app – a storyline that people found hard to take seriously.
Personally I feel the only sensible way to approach Terminator is to go back it’s roots, as a low budget, horror sci-fi, and controversially get rid of Arnie – alright, give him a walk on cameo if you must. For further proof, check out the excellent action film The Guest (2014), which lovingly homages Terminator and other 80’s action thrillers. It’s almost an unofficial remake, with Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens (yes, you read that right) as a seemingly unstoppable soldier.
To be, or not to be? Can Cameron save the franchise?
Time will tell if Cameron can right the course of this franchise and what exact role he will take. The last two features Cameron produced were Strange Days (1995) and Solaris (2002), both are strong sci-fi entries in my opinion. They offered intriguing concepts and strong visual aesthetics whilst still recognisably the work of their respective directors, Kathryn Bigelow and Steven Soderbergh. (On a side note, check out the Solaris DVD commentary with Cameron and Steven Soderbergh – it’s very informative and entertaining).
Many fans are saying the franchise has had it’s day, and whilst an unknown future rolls toward us. I face it for the first time with a sense of hope. Dun-dun-dan-dun-dun…….
Should Terminator be rebooted again?
Let us know in the comments below.