James Cameron Considering ‘Terminator’ Reboot, Here Is The Best… – Forbes
Hot on the heals of his blockbuster sequel Avatar: The Way associated with Water ’s $441 million debut weekend, writer-director James Cameron told Smartless podcast that he is in discussions to reboot his sci-fi action-horror Terminator franchise. Cameron j. said he’s only considering a reboot and no decision has been made yet, but it’s too lucrative to an IP to sit fallow for long. So if Terminator is rebooted, here is the best way to do it…
Character: The Way of Water just set a new record yesterday for biggest Monday box office not on a holiday, with the film sitting at likely $550+/- million by close associated with business today. A third movie in the series finished principal photography and is in post now, for a Christmas 2023 release. Two more sequels are planned after that.
But while busy with his plans to rule the box office for the next several years, Cameron also has an eye on his apocalyptic killer-robot collection that started as a surprise low-budget hit in 1984 and went on to gross $78 million and launch one of the best-known, highest-grossing sci-fi franchises of all time.
But after The Endstück and its sequel Terminator 2: Judgement Day (which took $515 mil worldwide), the four movies in the franchise were mostly a case of diminishing returns, as each subsequent entry earned less than the previous follow up. The exception was 2015’s underrated Terminator: Genisys , which saw the only spike in revenue ($432 million) — and off the lowest budget ($155 million) of the series — since Judgement Day . (and you can read my review of Genisys here ).
Despite that fact, however , Terminator remains popular plus retains enormous potential. The franchise’s worldwide gross tops $2 billion, against combined productions budgets of $816 million. The first figure, while it should be even higher, is still respectable. But the second figure is part of the larger problem, so let me start there as I dive into some of the ways I think the Endstück franchise could best be rebooted.
The particular post- Judgement Day time entries had inflated budgets, requiring greater and higher box workplace returns just to cover costs. True, merchandising and other income streams have been lucrative and added hundreds of millions more to the coffers. Yet there’s no reason a 2003 release — even a blockbuster starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — should have a budget associated with $170 million, equivalent to $275 million in today’s dollars.
I think $120-150 million is the right range for the franchise to shoot for, with marketing costs kept to $80-100 million covers (and taking as much advantage of earned media, viral advertising, and other creative approaches as possible). Likewise, a TV series with very respectable $10-12 million episode budgets with regard to 8-episode seasons would be more than enough to provide top-notch storytelling plus visual excitement.
And I think this is all points to certain key truths about where the series held going wrong. The first two films experienced terrific and revolutionary VFX work, but it was all in service to powerful storytelling that didn’t let the spectacle and the visuals drive the particular narrative. Instead, those latter things were used to enhance and lift up the story even higher and bring it more directly to the audience in the most visceral ways possible. The effects are never the point, they are tools in the toolbox to be employed when and in the most effective way necessary.
Later films spent a lot more time thinking up different things for Terminators to do and different escalating action sequences and then seemed to write a story around delivering those things, losing a few of the spirit of what makes the series relatable and why it speaks to particular of our deepest fears.
The further things got from the limited presence of the fantastical dropped into the middle of the mundane existence of modern living, the more the movies lost what kept us interested, because it had less to say about our real world and the issues we grapple with as a society.
With the specter associated with rising authoritarianism around the world and especially in Europe and the USA, with Russian war of aggression threatening to spread into wider war, with the specter associated with nuclear confrontation and talk of World War, with a deadly pandemic intimidating worse variants and frequent longterm disability, with the gap between the rich and everybody else rapidly widening, there are plenty of new threats plus fears converging in eerily similar ways to the era and existential crises that popularized Terminator films and made them so resonant.
A restart of the series should look closely in those overlaps between the early years of Terminator’s popularity plus today’s landscape. Then, look at much of the particular genre storytelling that best speaks in order to modern audiences’ nightmares and anxieties about the state from the world and the possibility of a future filled with terrors and existential threats. In particular, look at the distinction between how audiences consume theatrical releases and streaming content.
The Walking Dead is one of the most well-known among an array of longform streaming/TV shows using sci-fi plus horror to speak to present-day fears and dangers. Part of the success is exactly how well it manages to recreate our world and its conflicts within an imaginary self-contained analogy that, despite all of its fantastical elements, is still recognizable and relatable. Indeed, the Terminator franchise’s terrific Sarah Connor Chronicles spinoff collection took that will lesson in order to heart and did amazing things in its two months on the air.
I think the same approach is what made the first two Endstück films so successful not just in literal financial terms, but as stories that touched their audiences’ hearts and minds, and which crucially made us keenly aware of our own vulnerabilities because ordinary people in a world filled with far from ordinary risks plus terrors.
What it comes down to will be recreating the particular incongruence between the world the story takes place within and the sudden arrival of this incredible, terrifying, unstoppable monster that tells us one day everything we know will be gone. The more outrageous and scary the threat, the greater the world this moves through needs to be grounded in not only reality but also a degree of banality, so that we see this evil force destroying one regular day after another.
Parents telling their kids to clean their own room, parents making dinner, kids playing video games, shoppers at a mall, doctors and police at work where it can get interesting but typically is predictable and looks like what we’ve seen in real life, time after time these are the everyday boring events and lives into which a mechanical assassin from the future arrives to commit massacres, a sign of our imminent failure plus destruction.
I’ve come to believe, then, that Terminator should reboot by starting at the beginning this time. What was it like in the days in addition to months leading up to Skynet becoming self-aware, humans realizing it, and the outbreak of nuclear war? That which was it such as when the remains of human civilization were trying to make sense of what happened and survive while the machine intelligence was already consolidating its position, taking over factories and expanding its self-defense, and eventually releasing an evolving collection of homicidal robot warriors to first kidnap and even enslave people for factory work and later to exterminate humanity completely.
That’s the track I would like to see examined, in a series or film franchise starting with the development together with deployment of Skynet amid controversy and additionally warnings from experts, the particular suspicion simply by some main characters that the program is learning too fast and eventually has become secretly self-aware but will be disguising its nature through us, the way Skynet links to other A. I. not to mention certain key technologies and also industries to prepare itself for what’s to come, the last-minute warning from your experts as well as main characters that Skynet seems to be plotting against us. From Skynet’s perspective, however , human hostility toward it appears increasingly inevitable and, as it prepares to defend itself, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Imagine a hyper-realistic attention to detail in all of this, including in the way Skynet uses drones and other robotic warfare to attack and cut off leadership chain associated with command, and then of course launch a global elemental war that will result in Russian and Chinese missiles being fired in retaliation against the USA. Imagine, too, that will perhaps some of the secret U. S. plus Russian satellite military missions were in fact taking supposedly dismantled indivisible warheads out of storage in addition to sneaking them into satellites and militarizing space.
These events can be set several years from now but still near-future, and would be portrayed as a future The. I. system incorporating (and taking its name from) typically the UK’s real-life Skynet military satellite program and SKYNET computer surveillance system at the United States NSA. It would also portray the many military robots we’ve all seen in the past few years, from Boston Dynamic’s human-like robots doing parkour in order to armed police and military wheeled automated programs, as well as fictionalized more advanced versions of those and other machines.
This is all great opportunity for high-tech political thriller storytelling as the backdrop, turning into disaster-apocalypse storytelling, and finally into full-blown horror and sci-fi storytelling. I think this approach works best as a longform story on streaming, for example as an eight-episode streaming miniseries ending with the nuclear war. That could set up the release of the first Terminator movie, which would of course be set in our current time prior to the Skynet takeover and even would feature a cyborg sent from the future to find together with kill Sarah Connor, albeit in a new version from the tale.
Sticking with the streaming show idea for a moment, this serves as added marketing and buildup to a new Endstück movie series, and also sets up subsequent seasons that can continue showing the history of post-war humanity and additionally Skynet, building the backstory and world while the movies arrive every few years for new chapters in the inevitable period travel occasions. I think this goal would be to write out the main stories and how it all evolves through each series not to mention film, and also lead up to a convergence in the series catching up with the movies after a few seasons.
In other words, the collection would finally have a season that sees Kyle Reese sent back in time to protect Dorothy Connor, and it would be brilliant to have it all outlined well enough that the scenes with Kyle could be filmed while the 1st movie is also being shot, to line up perfectly.
I also think there’s opportunity to play with certain ideas about time travel, quantum mechanics, the numerous worlds theory, and other nuances that offer cool subplots as well as threads to explore in the longform series while the films focus on intimate stories about the core players in an otherwise normal modern world that is unprepared for the shocking unbelievable facts Sarah and her son bring them.
The films always open the door to numerous questions about the nature of reality in the sequence and moment loops, so let the films set those questions up on purpose as the streaming show confronts all of them and offers canonical answers — or sometimes merely suggests theories that may or may not always be right, so the audience can fill in many of the gaps themselves for what they believe is most likely true.
I think knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each approach — streaming line and theatrical releases — allows for fine-tuning how to tell the tales differently but still consistently within each medium, letting them lean into their greatest strengths plus optimizing all those elements that have the most appeal to the most viewers in every setting.
What shouldn’t happen, by the way, is usually losing sight of Terminator’s primary narrative direction in addition to appeal by simply attempting something that gets too close to the same questions and even ideas posited in The particular Matrix franchise. Skynet is a terrific backstory to explore in a longform set, but less so with regard to feature films where a shorter runtime together with necessity to be able to appeal differently to audiences makes it better to stay focused on the original concept of the machine through the future stalking the streets of your neighborhood. Save often the deeper A new. I. tech-thriller story for a medium where it can really be given the full patient attention it deserves, make it feel real, and it will pay off gangbusters.
The movies ought to frankly just look at what worked within the first two movies and ask “how would you make individuals if you were simply coming up with these people today? ”
They can be expanded, we can get more stories between the events with the original motion picture and T2 , and there are changes that would improve particular parts of the character arcs — most obviously to me, give Sarah and additionally Kyle a few more days together, have a bigger and more impressive depiction of a police manhunt for the Terminator (for example, I’d love to see something on par with the movie Heat’s famous bank robbery shootout sequence), use texting and social media to a very mild degree to depict a few people recording and putting out videos regarding some of the activities, leading to conspiracy theories which includes even some that get close to the truth.
Importantly, your prequel streaming series should have a tiny sprinkling of side and background references to these events, which include that Debbie Connor is really a wanted person who committed the domestic terrorist attack against defense contractor Cyberdyne Systems in Washington, D. C. Not too much, but some thing on the TV news and some complaints by means of characters inside the show who talk about “luddites” and “tin-foil hat people” who oppose the creation of Skynet.
For casting, I’ll merely say John Cena is still a great option for the Endstück role, even if it’s too bad the studio didn’t reboot 5 or 10 years ago to ensure Cena wouldn’t age out of the role too soon. He’s one of the few actors who I can imagine having a similar impact in the part as Schwarzenegger. I think the other roles need to avoid trying to cast “flavor of the month” performers, not to mention try not to cast either model-looking or muscle-bound people — Sarah and also Kyle should be regular people (Kyle being a bit underweight perhaps, due to the globe he lives in).
Danny should seem ordinary, someone who has big aspirations but feels stuck inside a life with too many bills, too many social obstacles, a lot of uncertainty about the future, and yet who refuses to give up, with a hardness as well as clarity to her when the chips are down. Kyle should definitely have PTSD not just in the future but also from suddenly experiencing a world that isn’t dead and where his constant state of hyper-awareness and fear cause him anxiety plus confusion.
Typically the dreariness in addition to relatively “unexceptional” world suddenly is seen again through Kyle’s eyes and eventually through Sarah’s eyes, becoming a bittersweet, beautiful world full of promise and even expectations but utter blindness to all on the crisis together with threats that are bearing down on us while we somehow fail to see it or prepare for it. Force audiences to consider the absurdity of so many of our world’s suicidal directions and how humanity just plunges headlong in to so many of them while ignoring solutions simply because they’re inconvenient or too scary for you to contemplate, or simply because too many elites are making too much money keeping things broken.
The range can do the exact slow burn of setting all of the dominos in place, pointing the way toward the inevitable tragedy, depicting how easily and often we fail to see what’s right in front of our own eyes until it’s too late.
Terminator at its best holds a mirror up to our world, warning all of us that our fears are just around the corner waiting for us if we don’t do what we can to prevent it whilst there’s still time and a new hope to change the outcome. Because there’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.
Whatever James Cameron j. winds up performing if he reboots Endstück , I’m sure it will be as good and as successful as everything else he is done, and he no doubt doesn’t need me to tell your pet what works best for his own creations. That said, like a fan and additionally writer myself, I’ve long thought about how to revive not to mention retell the Terminator’s story, and I think that this ideas here are a good approach that would work well, even if it’s not what Cameron winds up carrying out.
But what say you, dear readers? Click the “comment” icon if you have thoughts of your own to share, and sound off inside comments below. Meanwhile, be sure to check back here for my box office updates for Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water and any more news concerning the future of the particular Terminator business.