Despite underwhelming sequels Terminator 3 and Salvation, the Terminator movie series remains a buzz-worthy property - one that many viewers would love to see restored to its Judgement Day glory. The core man versus time-traveling machine premise still holds plenty of potential - if filmmakers can find the right story to tell within the larger canon.
To that end, it shouldn't be a complete surprise that Terminator: Genesis is set to soft-reboot the franchise - drawing from prior entries while also resetting key elements for development over the course of an all-new film trilogy (and spin-off Terminator TV series). Still, details remain extremely scarce on what fans of the series can actually expect - not to mention whether they should be hopeful that director Alan Taylor can bridge past installments with fresh story lines and a healthy foundation for the future.
Of course, finding that balance is the major challenge facing Genesis - since star Arnold Schwarzenegger is, for many viewers, synonymous with the series and at the same time thirty years older than he was in the original film. The actor's aging physique became a major question mark for fans - leading to an amusing explanation from Schwarzenegger that actually plays a major role in the Terminator: Genesis narrative. In the interview, Schwarzenegger indicated that he was set to play an "older" T-800 model whose human skin had aged during three decades of service.
Early rumors suggested this veteran Terminator would revisit moments from the first movie, and while Taylor has yet to verify with official comment, a new video post from HitFix seems to confirm that the Genesis script is directly tied to James Cameron's original:
"Kind of like Back to the Future, the Terminator: Genesis script folds into the first film in the series.... There's a scene in the script where literally, we see the scene in the first Terminator where Arnold steps out, the punks threaten him, he rips Bill Paxton's heart out and takes his clothes and wanders off. And as soon as that scene ends, another Arnold Schwarzenegger who's older, and bearded and a very different version of the Terminator, comes walking in from the other side and plays another scene, right at the scene of that first incident."
Prior rumors indicated Genesis would pick-up before Sarah Connor (played by Emilia Clarke) encounters the original Terminator and that Schwarzenegger's aged T-800 may have been guarding the future mother of John Connor for close to thirty years. Coupled with the HitFix report, it's increasingly likely that Genesis will allow audiences to revisit key Terminator scenes from a new perspective.
Still, if Taylor intends to Back to the Future the original Terminator movie, he wouldn't be able to rely entirely on archive footage - and would need to recreate select moments from different angles (meaning he'd still need a "younger" actor to stand-in for Schwarzenegger's toned mid-30s body). At first, fans assumed the actor could be aged down (made younger) in post-production or the studio might opt to superimpose a CGI Schwarzenegger head onto a stand-in actor's body through the magic of digital effects (as in Salvation).
We'll have to wait for official confirmation but a (now deleted) post from body-builder Aaron Williamson has resulted in speculation over what his role in the production might mean for Terminator: Genesis (and the new trilogy):
“Thanks to an amazing team of people who help me get better each week, both physically & creatively, I’ll be playing a T-800 (Terminator) in the upcoming production 'Terminator: Genesis’. I’m extremely grateful & motivated as this new chapter begins to take shape.”
Understandably, the post raised an intriguing question: Was Williamson cast as Schwarzenegger's younger body or an entirely different T-800? After Terminator Fans reported on the body-builder's post, Williamson reached out to the site with an official comment:
"I’m not really at liberty to discuss anything w/ regard to this part. My social media followers have been following my journey since I returned to the states from Iraq, which is why I shared that photo; my desire to overcome adversity has really moved people. Where I’m at in my life right now is destiny & it’s truly a blessing. I grew up as a skinny kid watching the original Terminator & was fascinated by Arnold which is the man who inspired my career in fitness. To be a part of this production is a dream come true & a very special moment for me.”
Unfortunately the actor does not specify whether he'll be standing-in for the original T-800 or playing a new variation on the model (with a different skin design). His "a T-800" phrasing seems to suggest that he's not "the T-800," implying there is more than one model in Genesis but Williamson could simply be attempting to conceal the film's time-bending twists from his followers. Still, while it would be easy to dismiss the actor as a simple stand-in, the news put a spotlight on one of the production's biggest uncertainties: assuming that Kyle Reese and Connor still take-out the original Terminator, who will Schwarzenegger's older T-800 fight?
Alternate T-800 series models, with different living tissue, have been depicted in other Terminator mediums, but the Schwarzenegger version is the only T-800 that has been significantly featured within the core live-action series. Still, SkyNet's reason for creating the Infiltrator Terminator line was to deceive humans, so the introduction of a previously unknown T-800 skin wouldn't be much of a reach for the Genesis storytellers - one that could easily be explained away with a line of dialogue and provide an exciting antagonist for Schwarzenegger to battle.
After all, whereas earlier installments upped the ante with the T-1000 and T-X, Genesis could go a different route and force Schwarzenegger's aging Terminator to utilize more brains than brawn in battle against a fresh T-800 that just came off the production line.
Terminator: Genesis will open in theaters on July 1st, 2015. The new Terminator TV series does not have a release date yet.
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