'Terminator 5': Can this franchise (and Arnold Schwarzenegger) be good again?
Here's something you might not remember about Terminator 2: It was practically the last good movie Arnold Schwarzenegger made before exploring a career in politics. Consider: In the five years before Judgment Day, Schwarzenegger made Predator, The Running Man, Twins, Total Recall, and Kindergarten Cop; post-T2, he had one legit film (True Lies), but there was a lot more of Junior, Eraser, Jingle All the Way, the historically awful Batman & Robin, and the arguably-more-awful Last Action Hero. Meanwhile, the Terminator franchise also struggled to repeat the historic highs of the first two films. The James Cameron-free Terminator 3 descended into fluffy self-parody, and not even the presence of a Schwarzenegger digital-puppet could rescue the laughably gritty Terminator
Purely from an economic perspective, it makes sense for the star to revisit one of his most iconic hits. Fellow Planet Hollywood investors Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis scored their biggest hits in years when they refurbished their Rocky and Die Hard franchises. (Heck, Stallone basically turned himself into a walking monument for retro-action, with another Rambo movie and the '80s-gasm known as The Expendables.) Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull might have made Temple of Doom look like Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that didn't stop it from grossing almost $800 million worldwide. Heck, you could argue that Schwarzenegger, always a canny businessman, practically invented the whole notion of revisiting a sainted action franchise with Terminator 3, which grossed over $400 million globally. I'm a huge Arnold fan, and I know that I'd go see Terminator 5 even if it were directed by Uwe Boll.
But let's put aside financial considerations, and really ponder here: How could you make Terminator 5 an actual good movie? I think the series needs to go back to basics. The best part about the first two movies is the apocalyptic mood — you feel as if the fate of the world rests on every decision the characters make. The second two movies didn't get the joke — they actually decided to show the apocalypse, at which point Terminator basically became Mad Max with lamer cars. The films also fell victim to excessive continuity, a natural outgrowth of a narrative filled with time-traveling plot holes. (This was especially obvious when the franchise transformed into a TV show that might as well have been called Terminator: Ow, My Space-Time Continuum Hurts!) I say: Reboot the whole damn thing into the present day. Cut down on the digital effects. And above all, make Schwarzenegger the villain again. As silly as Terminator Salvation was, there was something undeniably fascinating about seeing a villainous Schwarzenegger again, even in digi-pet form.
Fivequels tend to have a horrible, horrible history in Hollywood, so there are reasons to be skeptical. But with Fast Five director Justin Lin reportedly attached to the new Terminator, there are also reasons to be hopeful. PopWatchers, how would you make the new Terminator better? Want to see Schwarzenegger play a villain again, or do you prefer the heroic Terminator? And is this new film further evidence that Skynet has already begun its takeover of the world?
Follow Darren on Twitter @EWDarrenFranich