Who saw Terminator: Genisys? About five of you. Don’t be shy, we’re all friends here. Somebody had to. Almost all of us who did walked out of the cinema wishing James Cameron had refused to let anyone go near his beloved franchise after Judgment Day. They were dark days as a Terminator fan. Could this once great slice of iconic science-fiction sink any lower?
Happily, the planned trilogy off the back of Genisys was quietly forgotten about, the rights reverted to Cameron, and he planned to get back on the producing horse and re-set the series (already probably the *most* re-set franchise in history) to embrace what we loved about it in the first place. Woo hoo! Hasta la vista, bad filmmakers with your bad sequels! Now it seems said sequels may well be erased from canon, like a dodgy cinematic timeline.
Arnold Schwartzenegger, the other bastion of the Terminator franchise alongside Cameron, has suggested Tim Miller’s in-development movie could well ignore Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and Genisys. Say what you like about those sequels, and many have said awful things over the last twenty years, but how did we get here? How did we reach a point where franchises actively ignore their own history?
It’s not the first time this year a major franchise suggested it could well ignore or brush over its own continuity. The now seemingly aborted Alien 5 from Neill Blompkamp, before it was quietly torpedoed by Ridley Scott’s Prometheus Universe, intended to pick up the story of Ellen Ripley after Cameron’s Aliens, ignoring the canonical sequels Alien3 and Resurrection. Much as an Alien movie more in the vein of Aliens would have been fantastic, pretending even the questionable history of that franchise never happened doesn’t sit right with me.
I’m no fan of Alien3 (which has had some revisionist traction in recent years) or Resurrection but attempting to construct a brand new timeline and remove them from canon devalues the very concept of continuity and the work, however misjudged in some opinions, of the directors and crew involved. At least Terminator has a creative, narrative get out card it can play whereby ignoring its own continuity makes sense.
Let’s face it, the Terminator universe is already a mess. The first and second films didn’t even really need sequels, and much as I quite like Jonathan Mostow’s third instalment (it has that fantastic crane chase sequence and a brave ending), on TV Josh Friedman decided to entirely skip over it with The Sarah Connor Chronicles by using time travel to avoid Sarah’s death in T3 (a bizarre creative choice, even if Linda Hamilton didn’t want to know back then) and bring the series into the present day (or 2008).
Salvation sort of continues the T3 story but having new actors play John Connor & Kate Brewster, and being set entirely in the SkyNet future, almost makes it feel separated from canon. Genisys, much as it was a hatchet job, embraced as Friedman did on TV the elasticity of the time travel element to the franchise by playing with its own continuity to try and reset the game, allowing them to start again while trying to pull the same trick as Star Trek 2009; honouring it’s own continuity & allowing them to recast key, iconic characters from Cameron’s originals. Shame it was a convoluted, badly-written mess which rather than honour, shat on its own timeline from a great height.
Star Trek 2009 got this right. By creating a new timeline but including the same actor in Leonard Nimoy playing the same Spock we’ve spent fifty years following, JJ Abrams did manage to honour the franchise we’ve known and loved while spiralling off and taking it, tonally and thematically, in a new direction. Much as those films too are divisive, they don’t attempt to erase continuity and very distinctly the original movies exist within a separate timeline (one once again being played in on TV in the newly debuted Star Trek Discovery).
Alien 5 intended to pretend the next two films after Aliens never even happened, while Terminator 6 could well use time travel once again to skip over films which either weren’t as critically well loved as T1 and T2, or strayed from Cameron’s vision (though let’s be honest, unless it involves blue aliens or the Titanic, he’s not much interested anymore). It just feels light a slight, a cheat even. Continuity should matter and creatively it’s far more rewarding when writers make the effort to write and develop around both failures as well as successes in order to enhance and enrich these fictional universes.
This assumes, of course, Terminator 6 with Arnie ever gets made. Given how people reacted to Genisys, don’t be surprised if most audiences tell James Cameron to talk to the hand.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Should sequels be ignored by new movies? Let us know!