Despite Schwarzenegger leaving acting to go into politics, plans for a fourth Terminator movie moved forward and both Nick Stahl and Claire Daines signed on to reprise their roles. Sadly, more legal disputes meant that a new movie would falter, until it landed in the laps of The Halcyon Company (with distribution from both Warner Bros. and Sony) who planned to launch a new trilogy of Terminator movies as soon as possible. Only this time they would be set during the war between man and machine.
Terminator Salvation was written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris initially, before being re-written by Paul Haggis and then Shawn Ryan three weeks before production started. While on set, the script was being re-written again by Jonathan “brother of Christopher” Nolan, who is credited for much of the characterisation. The film is set in 2018 in a new timeline due to the actions of Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and sees John Connor attempt to lead the human resistance. During an attack on Skynet, the discover plans for a new Terminator that incorporates living human tissue and after the melee, seemingly human Marcus emerges and heads towards Los Angeles. What follows is a battle of trust as Connor discovers that Marcus is – shock – a Terminator, which eventually leads to Marcus sacrificing his heart so that John may live when he is badly beaten in a battle with a T-800 model.
Moving the action from present day to a future setting was the smartest move the Terminator franchise could have made. The box office fatigue of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines showed that the audience craved something new (if they craved anything at all) and this was the best foot forward. What was not the best move however was hiring Charlie’s Angels director McG to helm the movie, and casting Christian Bale as John Connor alongside IKEA furniture Sam Worthington as Marcus. Bale, a very skilled actor, was clearly not a happy camper on the set of Terminator Salvation which shows in his half-arsed performance. In fact the most remembered part of Terminator Salvation was his widely publicised on-set outburst at director of photography Shane Hulburt, a moment that anyone could see was pent up frustration from starring in a Terminator movie directed a man named McG. McG, a music video director before he schemed his way up the corporate ladder, is not a very good director and his lack of focus is on display in Terminator Salvation, even though he quite sensibly cut a topless scene of Moon Bloodgood, fearing it might be seen as “gratuitous”. This from the director of Charlie’s Angles.
But Terminator Salvation‘s problems stretch further than just an unhappy and wooden cast being led by a man who managed to make Charlie’s Angles less credible than it already was. Terminator Salvation is dull, meandering and pointless at best. It presents one half-decent moment where John Connor comes face-to-face with the T-800 that would be sent back in time to kill his mother, complete with iconic Terminator music. With that said, the effect of adding Schwarzenegger’s face over a stunt double does not hold up – despite being only five years old. Worse still, the effect has aged worse than Cameron’s T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Hell, it looks less convincing than the stop-motion Terminator in the first movie. Everything else is for the birds. It’s full of half-baked ideas that are never fully realised, culminating in a climax (that thankfully never made it to screen) in which John Connor would be revealed as a Terminator.
Opening to $42 million, Terminator Salvation grossed $371 million worldwide, the lowest of the Terminator sequels. Despite their “best” efforts, it seemed as though interest in the franchise just wasn’t there after the booming success of Terminator 2: Judgment Day 18 years previous. Its mixed reviews didn’t help matters, but the new Terminator trilogy was over before it even had a chance to begin when The Halcyon Company filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Ironically, the arcade game based on the movie was brilliant.
The rights to the franchise once again bounced around in legal limbo, with no one really wanting to take ownership. In the interim there was a TV series titled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was supposed to tie to Terminator Salvation (though McG claims they’re not linked) that had its fans, but was never anything other than “okay”. While this was going on, companies like Hanover House lobbied to make an animated reboot to the franchise entitled Terminator 3000 that never came close to fruition. Universal showed the most potential when Schwarzenegger (having left politics due to allegations of sexual misconduct and a dismal 23% approval rating) was now looking to resurge his acting career by returning to the Terminator franchise. Fast 5 director Justin Lin was set to helm, but a script was never written. Finally, Annapurna Pictures pictures secured the rights (for just $20 million) and began plans to relaunch the franchise with a new trilogy.
Which leads us to Terminator: Genisys.
Rather than rebooting the franchise, like so many other studios have opted to do with 80s franchises they don’t know what to do with, Terminator: Genisys looks to “reset the timeline”. According to the trailer released recently, Terminator: Genisys sees a T-800 model sent back to raise Sarah Connor as a child. This alters the timeline that John Connor thinks he is sending Kyle Reese back to so when he turns up expecting her to be weak, she’s driving trucks through shopping malls and acting like a bad ass with a aging Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator.
Skynet sends back a Terminator, the resistance sends back someone to help, they fight, the good guys win.
Reception to the trailer has been mostly negative (although a few of our writers rather liked it) with Flickering Myth staff writer Rohan Morbey calling it “one of the worst trailers” he’d even seen on an episode of the Flickering Myth Podcast. While giving her thoughts on Terminator Salvation, Linda Hamilton said that “there will always be those who will try to milk the cow” and Terminator: Genisys appears to be living proof of that.
It seems as though Kyle Reese’s soliloquise about the Terminator in the original movie can now be acquainted to the franchise itself, “it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead”.
Listen to the Flickering Myth Podcast review of the Terminator: Genisys trailer using the player below:
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Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.