Features Film

Can Terminator Genisys Reboot a Dying Franchise?

Written by Jason Wittmer

Let’s face it, the hype behind Terminator Genisys hasn’t been as much as one would expect for a franchise that has been considered so influential on the sci-fi and action genres. Whether it’s due to star Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s old age, or even something as trivial as the odd spelling in the title, the fifth film in the Terminator franchise has faced an uphill battle ever since its announcement.

Fans hear the term “reboot” and immediately label it as a money-hungry attempt for studios to cash in on an intellectual property (Just ask Josh Trank, Marc Webb, or Zack Snyder). Though their have been reprehensible reboots in recent years (Ninja Turtles, for starters) – and the Terminator franchise itself has seen a couple of bad sequels in the past decade or so – Terminator 2: Judgment Day remains one of the most technologically innovative and entertaining action films of all time, complete with both incredible sequences and captivating, emotional characters. So, hasn’t Genisys at least earned the benefit of the doubt?

You know how action sequels are always expected to be both “bigger” and “better” than the original? Well, we have James Cameron to thank for that. After delivering a fantastic sequel with Aliens, in 1992 Cameron finally revisited the classic horror film that gave him the Aliens job in the first place – The Terminator. Some fans sometimes forget that Schwarzenegger’s T-800 played the villain in the original film. In T2, Cameron pushes the theme of Man vs. Machine even further. Through the character dynamic of the T-800 and the 12 year-old John Connor, Cameron is able to explore concepts of morality, destiny, humanity, and more. What made the T-800 so chilling in the first film, is now used to great comedic effect, e.g., “Hasta la Vista Baby.” The film delivers on all fronts: the action is exhilarating, the characters are developed, and Linda Hamilton delivers one of the most badass performances in action-film history. The next two films in the franchise, however, didn’t exactly live up to the high standards set by T2.

Terminator2

Similar to how diehard comic fans have berated seemingly every facet of information released ahead of the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot, each new trailer released for Genisys has been met with harsh criticism. The term “reboot” in and of itself has attracted a ton of backlash in regards to a number of franchises in recent years: but is it really such a bad thing? Though fans may initially have been skeptical of films like GodzillaMan of Steel, or Star Trek, they were welcomed by fans as worthy installments in their respective franchises, each more popular than the next. And although some reboots have suffered from distancing themselves too far from the source material, other attempts have succeeded by adopting what worked in past installments, while also adding to it, developing new twists on the expected formula, and ultimately creating something new and fresh in the process.

Last year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past is perhaps the best example of this pseudo-sequel/pseudo-reboot model, which is particularly apropos to the discussion of Genisys – because the machinations of the reboot were achieved through Time Travel. In fact, director Bryan Singer revealed in 2013 he “had a two-hour conversation with James Cameron about time travel, string theory, multiverses and all that.” What’s more, Cameron – who was mostly uninvolved in the upcoming film – has given Genisys his stamp of approval after recently seeing it for the first time. In an interview, he recalled “It’s being very respectful of the first two films. Then all of the sudden, it just swerves. And now I’m going on a journey. I feel like the franchise has been reinvigorated, like this is a renaissance.”

Fans have preemptively taken issue with apparent changes to the Terminator mythology glimpsed in the trailers for Genisys. But, little attention has been directed to the fact that there are also many aspects of past films that have been kept in tact. Everyone knows the story: John Connor sent Kyle Reese back in time to save his mother, Sarah, so that he himself could eventually be born (and conceived, of course). The story of Genisys, in fact, will show this pivotal event happen once again. Those who suffer from “origin-itis” (a disease – not currently recognized by the medical community – in which comic fans are abhorrently and unconsciously repulsed by having to endure another “origin” that has already been seen onscreen), however, can rest easy.

Kyle Reese arrives in 1984 to find Sarah – here played by the adorably fierce Khaleesi, Emilia Clarke) – was saved years earlier by the T-800, as evidenced by the aged, greyed Schwarzenegger. It is this specific twist that, I believe, can fuel Genisys to become a truly worthy entry into the franchise. With just the right mix of fan service and creative alterations to the formula,  Terminator Genisys has the potential to be the surprise hit of the summer.

Sarah Connor

What do you think about Terminator Genisys? Will it be any good? Will Schwarzenegger “be back” again? Or will we have to suffer through another forgettable reboot? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Jason Wittmer