'Terminator Genisys' Director Alan Taylor on Revitalizing the Franchise

The Terminator: Genisys trailers and promos have by now given fans of the franchise a better sense of what this reboot of James Cameron's Terminator films will be about. Ever since Genisys was first announced (with Arnold Schwarzenegger starring once again), people have been wondering how director Alan Taylor (Thor 2) and screenwriters Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) and Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) plan to course-correct the franchise, after the missteps of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation.

Back in the middle of the summer 2014 movie season, Screen Rant got to join a select group of journalists at NASA's New Orleans instillation, where the cast and crew of Terminator: Genisys were hard at work on a pivotal scene from the movie's time-hopping plotline.

Our group came loaded with questions about what director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones) has planned for this first chapter in an already-designed trilogy, which he describes as being very different in its angle of approach to the franchise. Beyond that, we discussed what it's been like jumping into such a scrutinized franchise, especially after Taylor's vocal displeasure of working on Thor: The Dark World for Marvel in 2013.

So will Terminator offer a better opportunity and experience for Alan Taylor? Read on and find out:


Terminator 5 Casting Rumo

The first Terminator movie is a love story. The second movie is a father/son story. What is this movie?

Alan Taylor:  Dysfunctional family story? I like the way you went straight to the core of what appeals to me and sort of why I feel like I can step into this a little bit, and I think what appeals to most people, about what Cameron created, is those intense relationships.

The first film was a love story. It was also a horror film. The second one was a father/son story, but it was also a beautifully built thriller. The fact that he’s taking a solid genre and putting powerful family stuff into it is the challenge we’re trying to rise to.

I think it’s a dysfunctional family, but the father theme plays really strongly in ours. We have sort of mirroring father figures in this that have to be dealt with, and they are very difficult relationships. Again, there is a love story at the core of it. Outside of that, there is the issue of family. I guess we’re trying to draw on things that were present in both the first two films.

The first film was very much like a slasher/horror film. The second was like a thriller. And then the franchise spun off into just sci-fi madness. So the question is: are you bringing that back [the horror/thriller angle]? 

Alan Taylor:  The first two are just our compass, our inspiration, and our guide. We can’t be what they are. The key element in the first two films I envy is the incredible simplicity. It was somebody you really cared about in peril every minute in both those movies. It was a very small, contained source of suspense.

We don’t have the same simplicity because we’re trying to do a lot. We’re trying to bridge the things that have existed in the mythology before and be true to it while we’re launching something new. So there’s a kind of complexity that comes with that that I think is part of the defining quality of this movie that I think makes it richer. [Laughs]

Sarah Connor, Pops and Kyle Reese in Terminator Genisys

But it’s not a slasher film. It’s not just a thriller. There’s a kind of denser mythology already in place that we have to service. And the fact that it’s more epic already, whether you want it to be or not, there’s a lot of history behind it that you’ve got to be aware of and serve, but trying to combat that by keeping it focused on the relationships that matter that have grown up out of this set of stories that people have invested in. Sarah and Kyle are very powerful star-crossed lovers to be able to tap into. And the relationship to the father that is also the son, and the questions of who you are and free will, all that stuff that was really loaded in the first two movies.

It is very strange that the third and fourth movies ran away from that stuff. As soon as you spend all the time in the future, I think you lose a huge element of what Terminator films are great at. For me, one of the main elements of the first two movies was it was always about the world that we all know that we can identify with…humans, we can identify with where something happens that’s completely awesome and unstoppable and absolutely comes into that world. By the time they got to the later one and it was all in the future, I felt like it sort of lost the main intentions of the Terminator mythology.

Terminator 5 Genisys - Alan Taylor

The first two movies are also about relativity, like there’s the message that the future is not written. I think the third and fourth are not that way. These days people like sort of more gritty, more realistic, darker themes. Would you say that you are on the hopeful side of things or are you more on the “things are never going to be good”?

Interesting. I think we are still asking the same question to say that nothing is written. There’s no future. What we’re maybe exploring that is darker is that that’s a two-edged sword. That freedom is with a high value in the first two films and it’s the quest of all humans. All humans value, above all, free will, freedom, getting away from the oppression of the machine and all it symbolizes. One of the things I’m so proud of in this movie is that freedom is fucking terrifying. There’s a natural human compulsion to chase after freedom and then to actually hand it over as fast as possible and get away from it.

So I think there are going to be some dark insights into some of the same themes. But no, I think it basically is not giving up. We’re still fighting for the future in this one and not accepting the idea that nothing is written. To me there’s a kind of mature realization that nothing being written is plenty terrifying. It’s understandable. Which one do we really want is not one of the questions in this movie, I think.

Time Travel in Terminator Genisys

Terminator films have also had a big commentary on technology and the future, AI…Is that something you guys are continuing to do? Is that even more important now? 

It’s even more pressing now. Science fiction sometimes is fun because it reaches so far in the future. Right now this stuff is all around us all the time. One of the challenges was that the kind of paranoia that infused, say, Terminator 1, it was tapping into a lot of fear about nuclear Armageddon and how about close we might be to that brink. In Judgment Day it was a looming threat. Now we have a different set of fears and a different set of technology that is scary to us in a different way. Most people aren’t lying awake at night worrying about a nuclear threat. But we are unnerved by a lot of how technology is coming into our lives and starting to infuse our lives. And we question whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Based on recent rumors about Terminator Genisys, Taylor and his crew may have indeed found some interesting ways to explore ideas about destiny and technology in this new film. The question remains, however, whether some of these bold new explorations will revitalize fan interest in the series, or will they (as some already predict) end up pushing the audience away before Terminator 6 gets off the ground?


Full Interview List

Terminator 5 Genisys Interview - Alan Taylor

Terminator: Genisys will be in theaters on July 1, 2015.

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