The Future Remade: A Terminator Reboot is Scheduled for 2015

I consider myself to be a huge fan of the Terminator franchise; thus, I have been closely monitoring what is going on with the franchise and what it might do next. Way back when this blog first started in February 2010, I did a post about how the rights to the franchise were up for grabs to the highest bidder. Now, over three years later, Paramount has announced that the Terminator saga will be rebooted into a new, stand-alone trilogy of movies, with the first film scheduled for June 2015.

As with most reboots, the new Terminator trilogy could be just what the franchise needs to stir interest in a new generation of fans, or it could be the final nail in its coffin. Read on for some thoughts about the reboot--what could go wrong and why, as well as what needs to be done to get the Terminator series back on its cyborg feet.

The current owners of the Terminator franchise are Megan Ellison, who runs Annapurna Pictures, and her brother David Ellison, who runs Skydance Productions. (Paramount will be handling the distribution of the Ellisons’ Terminator movies, but I don’t know how much creative input Paramount will have--if any--into the films’ scripts.) From what I’ve read since the Ellisons purchased the rights to the franchise, they planned to make more Terminator movies before the rights revert back to the franchise’s creator, James Cameron, in 2019. To me, this situation with the Ellisons is a bad news/good news type of situation:

The Bad News: The obvious reason why the Ellisons purchased the rights to the Terminator franchise is to make more Terminator content, which will in turn make money and contribute to the reputation of Annapurna Pictures and Skydance Productions. However, the problem with such a plan is that both C2 Pictures and the Halcyon Company both had similar plans and now both companies are defunct due to their poorly executed attempts at continuing the franchise. In particular, Halcyon produced Terminator Salvation with the intent of making a new trilogy of movies--just like what the Ellisons plan to do with their reboot.

It’s possible that the Ellisons could avoid the mistakes made by C2 and Halcyon. On the other hand, news surrounding the next Terminator movie under the Ellisons has so far included the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the possible involvement of director Justin Lin (Fast and Furious), the possible return of Terminator alumni Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn, and a script set during the 1950s with a Terminator hunting down Sarah Connor's parents (!). With so many conflicting and inconclusive news stories surrounding the next Terminator film, I’m wondering if the Ellisons’ really have any plan at all for the franchise other than making money from it.

The Good News: Computer technology has come a long, long way since The Terminator appeared in 1984, so a reboot would allow the franchise to explore a completely new set of techno-fears. With recent news about military drone strikes and computer-based surveillance of civilian populations, the rebooted version of Skynet (Skynet 2.0?) could assert its dominance over humanity through deception, surveillance, sabotage, and surgical military strikes instead of through a global nuclear assault. New Skynet methods of attack could include nanotech-based weapons and Hunter-Killer units designed to imitate insect flight, heirarchy and locomotion. Given the heavy involvement of computers in genetic research, the rebooted Skynet could create Terminator units with a wider selection of biological capabilities (e.g., faster skin regeneration, the ability to host and transmit pathogens that are fatal to humans, etc.). The possibilities for a new Skynet are endless, and I hope that the Ellisons understand that and take full advantage of it.

Of course, the rebooted Terminator series would allow the Ellisons to avoid the franchise’s most egregious errors. I’m hoping that they’ll keep a focus on the human side of the story, and that we won’t get a different actor playing John Connor in each of the new films. I also hope that whoever plays the time-traveling Terminator in the first movie of the reboot trilogy doesn’t become the center of attention in the remaining two films. I've already argued why making Schwarzenegger such a prominent part of the franchise ultimately led to its downfall, so it would be painful to see the Ellisons make the same mistake again. When a franchise’s villain becomes more important than the franchise’s hero, you've got a serious problem on your hands.

If the Terminator reboot doesn’t work out, we’ll still have the original movies, novels, comic books and TV show. Furthermore, there’s also Continuum--another saga about a war for the future waged by technology-enhanced time travelers--and that TV series was just renewed for a third season.


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