Terminator is a franchise that I would describe as a “zombie franchise, no matter how many wounds it suffers, it always comes back and slowly stumbles back to you ready to eat your brain.” Almost every time I hear about any new Terminator movie, my reaction to towards is: “Oh good, another Terminator movie, didn’t the last one tarnished its reputation enough”? This franchise is such a misfire, what should have ended with the second or third movie, always finds a way back just to annoy me, from a bad TV show to a movie that goes back in time to erase the two best Terminator movies (Terminator 1 and Terminator 2: Judgment Day). This year the sixth Terminator will be released and with the new trailer I think that the Terminator franchise deserves a discussion over what is wrong with it.
Sequels, sequels everywhere
One of the major problems with the Terminator franchise are the sequels to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The problem is that this movie ended in a very conclusive way (Skynet is gone and the future is saved), this finality and feeling that it’s done is very important and if you decide to make a sequel to it, it might look like that the previous movie was pointless and the struggles of our heroes were for nothing. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is that type of movie and while I personally like it, for its grim ending and fun action, I have to admit that in comparison to its predecessors it is quite lacking and from that real trouble comes.
This is confusion, am I confusing you?
The timeline of these movies is so confusing and convoluted. The only other franchise so nonsensical I can come up with is the X-Men franchise. Sequels are ignoring previous movies; TV shows are ignoring movies. The new movie is following a movie that the TV show ignored. The fifth movie is ignoring all movies and tries to erase all movies and the newest one is ignoring all movies except for the first two. Try to find some clarity to these movies is nearly impossible, Terminator: Genisys introduced an “alternative timeline” and “parallel universes” and this makes these movies even harder to understand. I know that Terminator movies are about time traveling robots, still this is not excuse. This problematic timeline is in my opinion the fault of the studio, every time when they decided to bring Terminator back, it’s always: “so where are we going to start from”? And there are sequels the studio does not know what to do with.
T-1000 played by Robert Patrick is one the reasons why Terminator 2: Judgment Day worked so well, he was a very different character than the T-800 in the first movie, it would be so easy to make a villain in this movie another T-800 just get another muscle-up actor and do the same thing as Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first movie. Instead of that James Cameron decided to go a different rout. T-1000 is not just a different character, he is also a vastly different type of Terminator, built entirely from nanobots, immune to gunfire and that he impersonates a police officer (for obvious reasons). But in every new Terminator (except for the fourth one) they rehash this same concept of the liquid Terminator, which is virtually the same as the T-1000. T-X from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is basically T-800 + T-1000 = T-X, like fine that was the third movie and was reuniting first and second Terminator concept. In Terminator: Genisys you got T-3000/John Connor and his special ability? Nanobots and he can shape-shift. And finally, in Terminator: Dark Fate the main villain is another liquid-like Terminator, they even used the same shot when he reconstructs his face after taking a blow. Is the studio so creatively bankrupt that the only thing they come up with is another liquid Terminator? Does anyone remember the first movie about normal Terminator, T-800, just one guy who is tough to kill? What’s wrong with that? Horror movies used this concept of antagonist for a long-time character like Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and even Leatherface, they are quite terrifying and are just that hard to kill. First Terminator used this premise effectively. I lost all hope for Terminator: Dark Fate just because of that, another liquid Terminator, wow, you guys really thought hard about that.
Missing the tone
Another long-running problem with Terminator movies is the inconsistent tone. The first two Terminator movies are tonally similar to each other, that’s because of the director James Cameron. Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) are regarded as best, because of the tone, the feeling of inevitability of nuclear holocaust, unstoppable machines and depressing world of post-apocalypse. Finally, one of the most important elements of early Terminator movies is the horror-like tone, the first movie is very much a horror movie (“unstoppable killer is tracking a female heroine to kill”) and the second movie also has some elements of horror. The problem however lies within the second Terminator instead of that the greater focus is on action. If you aren’t familiar with the Terminator franchise, you might be under impression that it’s an action franchise. Sequels to Terminator 2: Judgment Day discarded this horror tone and that’s the issue. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines made the mistake with an almost parody approach, the fourth Terminator wanted to be Mad Max and Terminator: Genisys made the mistake by trying to establish a new franchise. After the horror tone and R-rating disappearance, only action remained, worst of these is Terminator: Genisys, where the Terminators feel more like the robots in Avengers: Age of Ultron, easy to destroy and posing no treat to protagonist. T-1000 and T-800 are quickly and almost effortlessly destroyed. Getting to Terminator: Dark Fate, first of this trailer feels like Logan and also like a young adult sci-fi, I watched the newest video about Terminator: Dark Fate and the only impression I got from is that they focus too much on action and R-rating, also I wouldn’t trust James Cameron, he approved Terminator: Genisys.
Magic is gone
I guess the largest problem with these movies is that Terminators do not feel new or intimidating; in Terminator: Dark Fate is established that Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is killing all Terminators sent from the future. How desperate you must be to weaken the main antagonists of the franchise to establish how badass your main character is? Terminators aren’t scary or intimidating anymore and recycling the same liquid Terminator, is getting old. It is worse than the Predator franchise, where every new Predator must be larger with more equipment. If all Terminator movies only can offer a recycled antagonist from a movie that was released 28 years ago, I think that the future of Terminator franchise is set.
P.S. Edward Furlong is returning to reprise his role as John Connor (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and by the words certain great actor all I can say: “Oh, good for you!”