Terminator 6 is set to go into production soon, but does the franchise truly need another sequel? While James Cameron has disowned his 'first' feature Piranha II: The Spawning, the nightmarish experience he had working on it gave him a great gift. One night during production he dreamt of a chrome torso emerging from an explosion, dragging itself across the floor with a knife towards a victim. This image became the spark that led to The Terminator, the movie that made his career, in addition to turning Arnold Schwarzenegger into one of the biggest stars in the world.
While The Terminator involves time-travel and the nature of fate, it's really a slasher movie at its core. The synopsis "Relentless, unstoppable killer chases teenage girl" could apply just as easily to Friday The 13th: Part 3, but it's the simplicity of the premise that allows Cameron to make it a propulsive action movie that rarely pauses for breath. It took seven years before Terminator 2: Judgment Day arrived, with Cameron fleshing out the mythology further. The sequel was also groundbreaking in terms of effects, with the CGI used to create the T-1000 becoming an industry standard soon after.
These first two movies are considered genre classics, and rightly so. More than being exciting action movies, they feature iconic characters, rich themes and eerily accurate predictions about the future of technology. The movies also complement each other perfectly, with Judgment Day feeling like a natural progression of the original. Of course, audiences clamored for more, but legal wrangling saw Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines take twelve years to get made. It arrived minus James Cameron or Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor, and failed to live up to years of expectations – things only get worse from there.
Cut to 2018 and Cameron has reacquired the rights to his creation and is shepherding Tim Miller's Terminator 6 into production. Also returning are Arnie – he said he'd be back, after all – and Hamilton, and it promises to be the true third Terminator fans dreamt decades ago. While it's undoubtedly exciting to have Cameron and co. back to wash away years of disappointment, the question remains whether the series has any more story to tell.
This Page: Terminator 2 Was Already The Perfect Ending
Terminator 2 Was Already The Perfect Ending
Terminator 2 was a brilliant inversion of the original, with Arnie's unstoppable cyborg flipped to protector instead of hunter, and Sarah Connor becoming almost machine-like in her devotion to stopping Judgment Day. Yet behind all the explosions and set pieces was real heart, and the movie ended on a perfect note; the rise of Skynet had been averted, Sarah and John had been reunited and for the first time in years they could look forward to the future.
Over the course of two movies, Cameron had created a fascinating universe, so it was only natural fans wanted more. The issue is, Judgment Day ended the saga just right; it wrapped up loose ends, paid off character arcs and ended on a hopeful but bittersweet note. Furthermore, there was no obvious time travel conceit to expand the world with. One reason Cameron decided to step away from a third movie back in the day is that he lacked a compelling idea for it, and felt the story had been told with the first two.
His point was somewhat proven with Terminator 3, which essentially remade the second movie and added a dark ending to set up further installments. It didn't innovate or add anything to the mythology. Terminator: Salvation at least tried to break away from formula, removing time-travel or recycling the cyborg bodyguard idea. That said, Salvation was a muddled drag, the story bears the scars of the movie's messy development and it managed the rare feat of pulling a bad performance out of Christian Bale. Terminator: Genisys acts like a mixtape of the franchise's greatest hits – a badly corrupted mixtape.
Terminator 3-5 make for a bizarre trilogy of failed trilogy starters, proving that without Cameron the series was aimless. They also failed in convincing fans the saga had anything new worth saying, left as hollow variations on what fans liked.
There's Nowhere Left To Go After The Sequels
The sequels also soaked up any intriguing ideas for another movie. It was long assumed Cameron's third movie would take place during the Future War, which offered viewers a terrifying glimpse of a world where humans are hunted like animals. The ending of Terminator 3 saw Judgment Day finally become a reality, but it wasn't until Salvation the setting was used. Like most everything with that installment, it wasted the potential of the idea. Instead of the permanent night and laser battles shown in the originals, it took place in a dour, Mad Max-like desert setting. Salvation wastes an hour of the story on a red herring subplot just to give John Connor something to do, and it somehow never feels like a Terminator movie.
The movie was also supposed to end with a ballsy twist, where Connor dies and the resistance graft his skin on human/machine hybrid Marcus (Sam Worthington), meaning the savior of mankind is secretly a Terminator himself. The studio rewrote this ironic ending when the script leaked, but if it had been executed correctly it could have been a real shocker. Instead, Salvation ends with everything essentially the way it was when the story began, like some kind of sitcom.
Terminator: Genisys, at least, had a really cool idea, where it time travels back to the events of the original and plays with the iconography of the series. Sadly the movie jumps ahead to present day, and the incredibly convoluted story unravels. Genisys famously spoiled its best twist in the trailers, revealing John Connor had been turned into a Terminator. What should have been a dramatic, emotionally wrenching twist is undermined by Jason Clarke's hammy performance, and the fact John's own parents don't seem to care when he's destroyed in the finale.
Again and again, the sequels found semi-interesting takes on the Terminator formula, but could never find the balance of relentless action, commentary or heart that defined Cameron's tenure - undoing pretty much every avenue in the process.
- Terminator 6 (2019) release date: Nov 22, 2019