EDITORIAL: Terminator: The Dark Fate of the Universe?
Although the media tends to tell you otherwise, Star Trek is perhaps the most successful TV series in history. Think about it: Gene Roddenberry's brainchild - which was not very loved at its time due to its genre (science fiction) and showtime - has spawned half a dozen sequel series (and counting) and more than a dozen feature films, not to mention the countless books, comic books, video games, even movie-based slot machines that you stumble upon when you wander into the lobby of a Las Vegas resorts. Its popularity was unbroken even after the place of William Shatner was taken by Chris Pine in 2009.
Well, it was up to a point. After two high-budget feature films that successfully rebooted the Star Trek cinematic universe, the story ventured where no other has gone before - into a realm of massive, cinematic battles and explosions. While Star Trek Beyond tried to mimic the original series, it failed to capture its spirit - and the attention of fans. It was a failure at the box office, and the final film in the new Star Trek series (until the next reboot, that is), showing that this is not the way one should reboot a movie universe.
Tim Miller’s upcoming feature film Terminator: Dark Fate is in a similar situation. The first Terminator movie, co-written and directed by the Hollywood rookie James Cameron, was an unexpected success, spawning a series of copycats. For its sequel, the famous Terminator 2: Judgment Day that was the apogee of the franchise so far, the producers spared no expense to turn it into the eye-popping thing it is - with a budget of over $100 million, it was the most expensive movie at the time and one of the most successful ones ever made. It was a major influence on popular culture, a benchmark not only for its sequels but the entire genre as well.
The direct sequel to T2 - neither of which involved Cameron - felt like a desperate attempt to recreate at least part of its success. Desperate but failed: while its revenues were decent (it was a Terminator movie, after all) it felt forced and dumb or, as one critic called it, a "B movie". The next entry, Terminator Salvation, finally took us to the future where Skynet has already terminated most of the human population. Instead of going with the lore, this movie introduced a brand new element - Sam Worthington's Marcus, part man, part machine, wrapped in mystery. The movie was beautifully crafted and action-packed but lacked the "heart" of the first two.
Finally, the time came for Terminator Genisys to try and reboot the entire universe. This entry felt a lot like the original at times (especially the scenes that were recreated from it) and a mess at others, mixing up the entire lore while trying to build on the star power of the original Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and a new Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), plus a new character, the face of Skynet, played by Matt Smith, fresh off his eponymous role as the popular BBC series Doctor Who. While there were some who appreciated this new take on the Terminator story, even more - including the critics and the moviegoers - hated it.
Now it's time for Cameron to return to the helm of the Terminator franchise - sort of. He wrote the story for the new movie which was turned into a screenplay by David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, and Billy Ray. The movie will be directed by Tim Miller of Deadpool fame. As expected, it will ignore everything that happened after T2 - sort of. The new Terminator, played by Gabriel Luna, is similar to the T-X played by Kristanna Loken in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and judging by the trailers, Mackenzie Davis' character looks and feels a lot like the one played by Sam Worthington in Terminator: Salvation. While the movie is presented as a sequel, the many new elements make it feel like another reboot that Cameron hopes will start a trilogy.
Let's hope he is better at rebooting a universe than all the others before him.