James Cameron is apparently (supposedly) planning to reboot the Terminator franchise.
Except, in practice, it doesn’t exactly sounds like a reboot. It’s hard to reboot a movie franchise when you refer to the movie as Terminator 6 and include a pair of actors from earlier movies.
It’s long been public knowledge that for some inexplicable reason, aging former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will be returning for the new movie.
This has felt like a bad idea from the start. Arnie is not the spring chicken he once was, and his continued, ever more wrinkly appearance in these movies only serves to make the titular Terminator look less and less appealing.
There’s also the argument to be made that the whole premise of Arnie’s Terminator, an unstoppable macho killing machine who shows no emotion, feels no pain, and is far more huge and imposing than any person possibly could manage without steroids, is an archaic concept.
The Terminator was originally envisioned as a reflection, subconsciously or otherwise, of Eighties masculinity. That’s the point of the character – he’s a deadly force who represents male power fantasies.
As a culture, we’ve reimagined the traditional Hollywood tough guy. Looking at the Marvel movies, for example, we see shades of nuance woven into the tough guy veneer. Tony Stark’s impetus for becoming Iron Man is that he’s weak without protective body armor. Thor is muscular and strong, but his character development has always been centered around learning to be more than just a warrior meathead.
Then there’s Captain America, a punchy, superstrong, square-jawed all-American hero who actively seeks to see the best in people, is unafraid of showing emotion, and who only got mixed up in all this super-heroism because he doesn’t like bullies.
Credit where credit is due: this is why The Sarah Connor Chronicles attempted to make Summer Glau the new face of evil death robots. That was smart – Glau reflects a more up-to-date idea of superhuman strength; one in which flexibility and strategy is more important than emotionless brute force.
Modern moviegoers aren’t interesting in one-note burly macho men who refuse to blink in the face of human trauma. That might be part of the reason why the recent Terminator movies haven’t exactly taken the world by storm.
Or, perhaps the problem is more to do with the incredibly convoluted continuity that connects all these films together, even though they regularly contradict each other.
It was probably a mistake to ever take the Terminator canon seriously. These movies were never meant to be logical, and all the different writers and directors that have gotten involved have done nothing but muddle up anything that could be described as a clear timeline for the series.
The solution to that is not to make a movie all about explaining away the weird, wacky continuity. Yet Terminator: Genisys exists anyway.
The problem with Genisys (apart from the annoying bad spelling in the movie’s title) is that it’s trying to act as a soft reboot for the franchise, while similarly tying in plot threads from all the previous movies.
The film is meant to be a jumping-in point for new fans, but you have to have memorized every scene from every previous Terminator movie in order to know what’s going on – or, at least have a working knowledge of the “good” movies in the series.
This didn’t exactly work out – the result is a mess of a movie that’s so busy explaining itself that it doesn’t bother to actually tell a good, unique story.
So the news of a Terminator reboot spread, and fans of the series got excited. Finally, a fresh take on the simple yet now very convoluted premise of time-travelling robots wearing human skin! A new movie, unburdened by generations of continuity, and a seeming obligation to squeeze Arnie into each film for no reason!
But, no. Arnie’s back. Now, so is Linda Hamilton, who presumably will reprise her role as Sarah Connor from the first two movies. Apparently, James Cameron has decided that Linda Hamilton is as crucial to the Terminator franchise as Sigourney Weaver is to the Alien movies.
The problem is, with a new, older Sarah Connor, and a very saggy T-1000, this movie can’t possibly escape the pitfalls of Genisys.
Yet again, fans are going to need at least a passing knowledge of previous movies in order to know what’s going on.
Yet again, all the chips are being bet on aging actors who don’t fit into the modern movie mold.
Yet again, we’re denied a new, fresh movie in the series, as we’re instead forced to suffer through another nostalgia trip that tries to trick audiences into thinking we’re seeing something good by simply showing us what James Cameron thinks we already like.
It’s just all so tiring by this point. Eighties and Nineties movies don’t need reunion tours, as if they’re aging rock bands who are desperate to rekindle the magic of youth.
New actors, new ideas, new stories. These things are far too rare in modern Hollywood.
It’d be nice to see a Terminator movie for once that isn’t just the same thing we’ve seen five times before.
But hey, at least Ex Machina still exists.