While the human consciousness is undeniably an incredible and miraculous thing, it is hard not to acknowledge the fact that the cold, mechanical nature of the Terminator is sometimes enviable – not least with regard to our general inability to let things go. When something catches our imagination, we tend to cling to it for all we’re worth – desperately trying to squeeze every last drop of connection from it, and refusing to accept that, sometimes, things just come to an end. Ironically, the Terminator franchise has been at that point for some time now, and as it turns out, Terminator: Genisys did nothing to improve the situation.
When the fifth instalment in the 31 year old franchise was released over the summer, its production company – Skydance – had a grand plan for universe expansion, including a new feature film trilogy, and an associated television show. This scheme is now apparently being reworked, following the less-than-enthusiastic audience reception of Terminator: Genisys. Against an estimated production budget of $155 million, the film generated a lower-than-expected $90 million in domestic box office – something that, on its own, would surely deter the financing of any further Terminator projects. However, it is the fact that its international haul reached $350 million to which Skydance is clinging, in the hope that something more can be drained from the concept. Skydance Media Chief Creative Officer Dana Goldberg explained the corporate position at a recent event hosted by The Wrap.
“I wouldn’t say [the franchise is] on hold, so much as re-adjusting. Happily we live in a world where the domestic number had a level of importance 10 or 15 years ago – I’m not saying it’s not important, it is – but we have to play to the worldwide market. In terms of Terminator, the worldwide market paid attention, but we’re not taking the domestic number lightly.
“We will use data and research to do a worldwide study and really talk to audiences about what they loved, and maybe what didn’t work for them, so that the next [step] we take with the franchise is the right one.”
These comments perfectly encapsulate the problem with the Terminator franchise – and many franchises among Hollywood studio output. The emphasis has shifted toward a ‘film-by-committee’ approach – theorizing that simply taking a survey of what audiences think should be in a film might somehow produce a coherent piece of work, rather than focus on creating projects driven by an actual story that has been organically and passionately developed.
In reality, what Terminator fans want is James Cameron who, along with Gale Anne Hurd, created the concept and the first film, and went on to make 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day – which still stands as an example of gold-standard filmmaking. Unfortunately, however, the legendary filmmaker disembarked the Terminator franchise after that second instalment. Every series addition since has been criticized and considered a disappointment for all kinds of reasons but, the simple truth remains that, since 1991, the Terminator universe has been suffering from a devastating lack of James Cameron. The Terminator filmmaker let his creation go in 1991. It’s high time we simply cherished his initial contributions, and followed his example.