Terminator: Genesis (as it’s currently known) has been filming for more than a month – and already, we’ve gotten our first (unofficial) look at Arnold Schwarzenegger, playing a version of the iconic T-800 whose “bio-exoskeleton” is equivalent in age to that of the nearly 67-year old actor playing the character.
Rumor has it that the movie’s storyline – from screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) – is setting the table for a new, standalone trilogy of Terminator films, by re-imagining/rebooting events that transpired in the previously-released installments – a la J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie and Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past – and thus, Arnold’s aged cyborg character will be serving as the catalyst for those changes.
Terminator creator James Cameron was in attendance at the Los Angeles Times‘ 2014 Hero Complex Film Festival this past week, where (as you would expect) he fielded questions about his developing trilogy of new movies set in the Avatar universe. However, he also provided some insight on his involvement – minimal it may be – with the upcoming Terminator film releases.
Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day is still widely considered to be the property’s greatest artistic achievement; it also remains the series’ highest-grossing chapter at the box office, even after more than twenty years. There is a sense of completion (narratively and thematically), by the time the end credits start rolling on Judgement Day - something that explains why Cameron has since then neither been nor shown much interest in being the chief creative architect, on either the subsequent Terminator movies and/or the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series.
While many Terminator fans might prefer the Terminator franchise rights to revert back to Cameron sooner than later, that wouldn’t be for the best – assuming they want to see the property live another day, that is. Indeed, at the Hero Complex Film Festival (as reported by /Film), Cameron indicated that he’s done all the playing around that he wants to in the Terminator sandbox:
I pay attention to [the new Terminator films] but I’m not terribly concerned about it one way or the other. I’ve had to let it go. There was a point in time where I debated going after the rights. Carolco Pictures, the company that produced Terminator 2, was failing and in bankruptcy and the rights were in play. I talked briefly to 20th Century Fox about it. At a certain point, I think I was finishing Titanic at the time and I just felt as a filmmaker maybe I’ve gone beyond it. I really wasn’t that interested. I felt like I’d told the story I wanted to tell. I suppose I could have pursued it more aggressively and gone to the mat for it but I felt like I was laboring in someone else’s house in a sense because I had sold the rights very early on.
A fifth Terminator movie had, in essence, fallen by the wayside as far development goes, by the time that Annapurna Pictures head and Oscar-nominated producer, Megan Ellison (Zero Dark Thirty, American Hustle, etc.) acquired the property rights. The project is now being financed and distributed by Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions, the latter of which is headed by Megan’s brother, David Ellison.
Once Paramout and Skydance were onboard, the next Terminator flick added a franchise newcomer behind the camera in director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), then recast certain established roles in the series’ mythos – such as Sarah and Kyle Reese – with rising stars like Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) and Jai Courtney (Divergent). Cameron, as it were, explained that he feels he played a role (a minor, but not unsubstantial one at that) in making sure Arnold was included, as part of the rebooted Terminator ensemble:
… My goal in that was not to insinuate myself artistically but to try to make sure they stayed true to the Terminator character and the idea of Arnold being in it. Because he’s a friend of mine and we’ve been through all the wars together and everything. And I wanted them to see the possibilities I saw for what they could do with this character.
And then David Ellison took the project over from Megan and he and I met a couple times. And so Arnold is very much front and center in the new Terminator films. So I might have had some tiny effect on it — but obviously they had to make the right financial and creative decisions themselves so I’m not trying to take credit for the film that they’re making but that was my goal in being loosely attached to the film but I won’t have any credit on it.
The rights to the Terminator franchise are reportedly going to revert back to Cameron by 2019. If all goes according to plan, by then there will not only be a new trilogy of film installments (including Genesis), but also yet another television series spinoff of the sci-fi/horror franchise, to boot. (One that may have its narrative directly intertwined with the upcoming wave of films, a la Marvel Studios’ Shared Movie Universe and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show).
It doesn’t sound as though Cameron has any plans for doing more with the property thereafter – and since Schwarzenegger will probably be wrapping up his action movie acting career by the time this next wave of Terminator projects are done, that might be as good as time as any to retire this series, once and for all. Again, that’s assuming Terminator: Genesis does well enough at the box office to justify building an entire new sector in the Terminator universe. One step at a time, and all that…
Terminator: Genesis opens in U.S. theaters on July 2nd, 2015.