Paramount have been hyping up their intention to reboot the Terminator franchise with not just Terminator: Genisys, but two additional movies. Even giving out actual release dates for the new movies. This talk is arrogant and premature. The reason for that is because The Terminator property as a whole is in perpetual decline and the first movie of this new trilogy is by no means a guaranteed financial success. And no, this is not some PG-13 sermon either, although that is a significant development too.
Taking a look at the trajectory of this series, I think Terminator: Genisys could well be the last Terminator movie we see until the rights to the series revert back to Jim Cameron in 2019, who may very well simply bury the whole thing to prevent further degradation to his baby.
The franchise peaked 23 years ago with Terminator 2: Judgement Day, when that movie grossed about $520 million, or five times its budget. From there, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines not only went downhill to a gross of $433 million, but only returned twice its budget. Following that, the franchise moved to television with Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. A shaky start diminished to categorical failure when Fox cancelled the show after its second season hemorrhaged a more than significant ratings decline of 51% of its viewership.
Heading back to the cinema, Terminator: Salvation was supposed to be the real reinvigoration of the series. The idea that the movie would be set entirely in the future (something which was needed at the latest from Terminator 3 onwards), and also feature Christian Bale, coming hot off of the monstrous ‘The Dark Knight’… suggested that new life would come to an old franchise, even if Schwarzenegger wasn’t involved. However on a $200 million budget, it returned only $371 million, the worst performance for a Terminator movie yet.
If the series is to continue, you’d expect that Terminator: Genisys has to probably outperform its predecessor. It’s difficult to see that happening.
Comparing the movie to the fourth outing, its cast is certainly weaker. As stated Christian Bale was possibly the hottest property in Hollywood back then and his ‘realist’ take on things as opposed to the Village People Terminators seen in the third movie should’ve raised stock in the movie. Don’t forget that Sam Worthington was also in the movie and around the time had featured in a little movie called Avatar. For Paramount, Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke are probably best described as comparative ‘hopefuls’. Or to put it another way, many might know their faces, but not their names.
Arnold Schwarzenegger has long since passed an apex in his career where he is now back into ‘hopeful’ territory too. His recent movies have flopped, and he’s playing a grey-haired Terminator. So while they are hoping that Emilia Clarke has what it takes to become a huge star, they are also hoping that Schwarzenegger has what it takes to remain one. This is risky territory. The PG-13 rating also does not correlate with the best known name in the franchise being little known to that age bracket in particular.
I have my doubts about all of this. I don’t expect Terminator: Genisys to set the box office on fire. Fatigue has long since set in for viewers and their current pitch for us is that they’re going to ‘stay true to the originals’. That’s not bold at all. I predict a moderate success, even if the budget is downsized from the previous, strong enough to be able to spin, but too weak to shoot not just one, but two more movies back to back. The goal here is to invest money in an entertainment production that will accrue profits beyond a certain and acceptable threshold. If Terminator: Genisys can’t perform beyond that target, they won’t run the risk again, very simple. After that I’d expect them to hype the coming of another movie regardless, with things drifting back towards Jim Cameron. James Cameron can legally retain the rights to the franchise again in 2019. The gap between 2015-2019 is the same as the game between now and the last Terminator movie.
I wouldn’t expect him to do much with it though, maybe just prevent people from further pissing in his soup. Cameron wants to try new things, can you blame him for not trying to do something with The Terminator after decades of being dragged through shit? He has at least two more Avatar movies and Battle Angel: Alita on the horizon. Those will pass beyond 2020, so even if he decides to resurrect Terminator, we could be looking at a ten year gap before seeing another.