Yesterday evening’s announcement that Paramount (alongside Skydance Productions and Annapurna Pictures) will be reigniting The Terminator series was largely met with derision from fans of the earlier films, and for good reason.
The franchise unceremoniously came to a grinding halt with 2009’s woefully underwhelming Terminator Salvation. Since then there has been various legal wrangling, until the news came in 2011 that Megan Ellison had outbid Lionsgate for the rights.
Ellison is the head of independent production company Annapurna Pictures and daughter of billionaire Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison. It would be a gross understatement to say she has mountains of money at her disposal, but it’s ostensibly a shrewd move on her behalf. The potential box office to be gained here would off-set the losses incurred by the edgier, non-commercial films she produces, such as P. T. Anderson’s The Master (budget – $35m, domestic box office – $16m). This will hopefully ensure that she can stick with her business model for the foreseeable future, but it also begs the question, couldn’t she has been a little more imaginative in dusting off an older property?
Unfortunately, however loud the fan grumblings will continue to grow (and justifiable so), the deal has been done. So where does this once respected franchise go from here? Presumably McG’s Salvation put to bed the post-Skynet John Connor world saviour arc, so do they turn back to the time travel device? Will The Terminator be procuring a Stetson, six-shooter and steed from some saloon in a tumbleweed town in the Wild West, home to John Connor’s great, great, grandfather? Perish the thought.
Perhaps the biggest bone of contention throughout all this is the reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back in the titular role. Hardly whipping up a blizzard of excitement since exiting his role of Governator and settling back into the big screen, he will be 67 at the projected release date of the new trilogy, and into his seventies when the series is tied up. Passable as the antiquated T-800 model when Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was released a decade back, is an audience supposed to now buy into the notion that a robot can apparently age?
Everyone’s favourite franchise hopper The Rock is rumoured to be involved, but won’t this serve to further highlight Arnie’s physical hurdles? When his once-rival turned collaborator Sylvester Stallone revisits his iconic characters as a pensioner, it works precisely because they are flesh and blood creations. We are intrigued to see how the ravages of time have affected them (which in Stallone’s case, is very little). There’s no such scope with the Terminator. Alternatively, Hollywood now has the means to effectively de-age its actors, but this presumably is a costly endeavour and seems rather defeatist.
Due for release in a year which is already clogged up with the new episode of Star Wars, and a multitude of further sequel and reboots, this new Terminator has a hell of a hard job in jockeying for prime box office position, while also breathing fresh life into a thoroughly worn-out series. I’m sure loyal fans of the 1984 original and its sequel are currently wishing a real-world time travel scenario was possible, where James Cameron could be intercepted whilst he was negotiating the rights to his character.
Now, that would be a fun meta slant to the mythology which could really drum up interest.