Way back in 1984's original Terminator, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) described the ultimate killing machine from the future to Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) as something that "absolutely will not stop!" Little did Reese nor anyone suspect that over thirty years later, he would be describing the state of the Terminator franchise. In July, the creator of the Terminator and writer-director of the first two blockbuster films, James Cameron, confirmed that he has returned to the franchise he created. Cameron will produce the currently untitled Terminator 6, with Tim Miller (Deadpool) now set to assume the director's chair.
For weary fans who have endured two decades of sequels and reboots of questionable quality, Cameron coming back to oversee Terminator is hoped to be exactly the creative boost the ailing franchise needs. The pinnacle of the franchise was Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cameron's 1991 sequel that saw Arnold Schwarzenegger return as a 'good' Terminator to help Sarah and her young son John Connor (Edward Furlong) destroy the shapeshifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick) and save the human race from being annihilated by the artificial intelligence Skynet. Since then, three different directors and creative teams have attempted to match Cameron's vision and success, but collectively turned the saga into a convoluted mess.
2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was directed by Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown) and starred Nick Stahl as an adult John Connor and Claire Danes as his future wife Kate Brewster. Schwarzenegger returned as the Terminator, sent from the future again to protect John from a new female Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken). Set entirely during the post-apocalyptic Future War, Terminator: Salvation, directed by McG (Charlie's Angels) followed in 2009, this time without Arnold (except for a digitally rendered cameo of his face over the body of actor Roland Kickinger), but with Christian Bale as John Connor and Avatar's Sam Worthington as Marcus Wright, a soldier who discovers he's actually a Terminator. Then in 2015, Terminator: Genisys, directed by Alan Parker (Thor: The Dark World), ignored both of those sequels before completely rewriting Terminator history: now Arnold's Terminator was sent back in the past to save Sarah Connor as a child, and ended up raising her himself. The adult Sarah (Emilia Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) then travel from 1984 to 2017 to stop Skynet and their new weapon, a cybernatically altered John Connor (Jason Clarke) himself.
Genisys was intended to launch a new Terminator trilogy, but by the time it was over, fans had thrown up their hands from trying to understand the twisted time travel pretzel the saga had become, and Genisys limped into being the second-lowest-grossing Terminator film. Now that the franchise is back under the control of its original creator and visionary, despite the effusive praise Cameron famously heaped upon Genisys, should he ignore the events of that film? Absolutely. Not only should Cameron dustbin Genisys, he should ignore Terminator 3 and Salvation as well.
WIPE THE SLATE CLEAN
According to a new interview with Schwarzenegger, Cameron's plan for Terminator 6 is to ignore Terminator: Genisys and create a direct sequel to Terminator 2. To wit, Linda Hamilton is currently training and getting back into her lean, mean fighting form to reprise her role as Sarah Connor. Though only Genisys has been named explicitly, everything not written by James Cameron since T2 will likely be considered apocryphal. This would ultimately be the right move. None of the post-Cameron Terminator movies ever felt right. At best, they approximated, and in the case of Genisys, outright replicated Cameron's visual style and story beats, but each of those three movies came off like expensive fan films that ultimately missed the point of Terminator while making the greater story more and more confusing to follow.
Cameron is probably creative enough to find a way to honor the events, if not of Genisys, than of T3 and Salvation, and work them into his new story, but why should he even bother? There's no upside to trying to make the events of those movies fit whatever he has planned, and it's not like T3, Salvation, or Genisys have legions of fans loyal to those films who would demand due reverence to them. Distancing Terminator 6 from the three films Cameron had nothing to do with is the right move creatively. Better to not even attempt to explain them as offshoots of alternate timelines or to have them synch up in some way to Terminator 6; Cameron should just proceed as if those films never happened.