This week in The Callow Way, Neil Calloway looks at where Terminator Genisys went wrong, and suggests a new future for the franchise…
With the latest instalment of the Terminator franchise, Terminator Genisys opening to less than stellar reviews and not so great box office – it debuted at third in the box office chart in both the US and the UK, it’s worth looking at why it appears it won’t do as well as the studio may have hoped.
You could blame “franchise fatigue”; it’s the fifth film in the series, plus a TV series that ran for a couple of seasons, but plenty of films last longer; the Fast and Furious films are in their seventh outing and doing better than ever. Eon have produced 23 Bond films, with another one the way (that doesn’t include the spoof Casino Royale from 1967 or 1983’s Never Say Never Again). The Mission:Impossible series is about to release its fifth film in the series since 1996, with no sign of letting up, with two TV shows before that.
Genisys had an even worse opening weekend in the US than the last outing for the franchise, Terminator: Salvation, which had an opening weekend of $42 million back in 2009, albeit on a few more screens than Genisys was released on when it made $27 million last weekend.
The simple answer is that Genisys is not a good film, and therefore has had a bad time at the box office. Of course, plenty of bad films do well at the box office, and the material is familiar to people, the marketing campaign was a good one, why did it fail at the box office?
Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way. Maybe we should be asking why it did so well at the box office. The simple fact is that since his return to acting following his stint as Governor of California, all the movies Arnold Schwarzenegger has starred in have disappointed at the box office; with the exception of The Expendables films, not one has made more than $10 million on its opening weekend. It’s time to face facts; Arnie is past it, and he is the one holding back the Terminator movies.
Genisys ties itself in all sorts of plot hole knots so Schwarzenegger can play the T-800. They’re messing up the continuity of the films to keep the continuity of him being the Terminator. It’s time for him to step aside and someone new take over. John Connor has been played by several actors, as have Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor; the Terminator films need a new star. It’s 2015, we have black stormtroopers and female Ghostbusters. We can cope with someone else taking over a role; Mad Max is a perfect example of this; nobody complained that Max is no longer played by Mel Gibson, but a guy pushing seventy has to play a single-minded killer? It doesn’t make sense. Not that the T800 is a single-minded killer anymore. He hasn’t been since the first film. Terminator 2, released in a post Twins, post Kindergarten Cop world, featured him as a protector rather than assassin as his new star persona would not allow him to be a bad guy. It’s only got worse since; Genisys doesn’t credit him as playing The Terminator; he’s “Guardian”. He’s no longer a machine that can’t be reasoned with, that doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And will not stop, ever, until you are dead; he’s a liberal British newspaper read by university lecturers with beards. There’s a decent series of Terminator movies just waiting to be made. Salvation was a poor attempt at an interesting idea; a prequel set in the future, both before and after the films it followed. Genisys was a poor attempt to restart and reconnect the franchise with its origins.
I like Schwarzenegger; I saw Last Action Hero in the cinema; there can’t be many of us around. I’ve watched both Commando and The Running Man fairly recently. Nobody whose memoir begins with the lines “I was born into a year of famine. It was 1947, and Austria was occupied by the Allied armies that had defeated Hitler’s Third Reich.” can be bad, but he’s living on past glories and a decent movie franchise is suffering from him being in it. The writers don’t even need to change the continuity; all it would take is a line about Skynet creating a new line of Terminator because the old ones were so easily recognisable; they won’t have to keep sending Terminators even further back in time to compensate for Arnie getting older. A reboot, and a new lead is the only way to save the franchise, and it won’t require sending Michael Biehn back to 1984.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.