Welcome to This Week in Nerd Rage, the weekly column where I’ll rant about whatever news pissed me off the most this week.
This week, self-professed King of the World and all-around chill guy James Cameron said that, as U.S. distribution rights for the franchise finally return to him in 2019, he’s tentatively planning a new trilogy of Terminator films. This new trilogy would somehow “reinvent” the franchise for the world of today, “a world of predator drones and surveillance and big data and emergent AI.”
Before we dive in on why this is a terrible idea, let’s run through a brief state of the union on the franchise:
The first Terminator is a very good movie.
Terminator 2 is the single greatest action movie Western civilization has ever produced.
The other three Terminator movies aren’t just not good, they’re nonsensical, paradoxical, asshole-sniffing garbage.
Which brings us to today, and this potential new trilogy. This is obviously part of the broader conversation about the sequel/remake culture that exists in Hollywood today, and I’m not really interested in rehashing it except to say that I fall somewhere in the middle; there are times where I’m cool with resurrecting a franchise and other times when I’m not. You wanna remake Ghostbusters with a female cast? Worth a shot. You wanna make a sequel to Blade Runner after a hundred years? If you’re gonna put a creative duo like Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins on it, go with God (although, Jared Leto? Remind me to do an entire article about him sometime).
But we live in a world where 60% of existing Terminator movies are terrible. The odds are now officially stacked in favor of any new film in the franchise being bad, and I’m just not interested in seeing someone play those odds. All we’re doing at this point is risking further damage to the legacy of two of the best sci-fi thrillers that have ever been made.
And then there’s the fact the Cameron wants to make a trilogy. This is obviously part of the broader conversation about the desire in Hollywood to chase Marvel’s success. People are more concerned than ever with not just greenlighting one movie when they could be greenlighting a universe of movies. Executives are so focused on making money on a fifth film six years from now that they’re not thinking enough about the first film right in front of them.
Everyone seems to forget that Marvel was so cautious about rolling out their cinematic universe that the first two films in the MCU were only connected by fifteen second post-credits scenes. They were, first and foremost, standalone movies. Studios these days are trying to run before they walk, and we’ve seen it backfire again and again. James Cameron himself is partially guilty of this already. Avatar was its own thing, but when it came time to make a sequel, rather than just focusing on making it the best individual film it could be, Cameron had to start working on an additional four sequels to justify the massive technological R&D costs that goes along with making those movies.
But maybe Cameron’s the reason you’re excited about the potential for more Terminator. Cameron, after all, is the man who made the only good Terminator movies, and he wasn’t involved in any of the bad ones. Maybe handing the reins of the franchise back to him is exactly what’s needed for us to finally get another good Terminator.
Maybe that’s true. Cameron is an objectively superior filmmaker. I’ve already shared my feelings about T1 and 2, and I’ll always watch True Lies when I find it on TV. The Abyss is also really good. I even don’t not like Avatar. But I’m also thoroughly exhausted by Terminator. These last three movies have been *so* bad that I just have no enthusiasm for any more, no matter who’s making them.
Listen. I’ve seen the movies. I know that killing a Terminator is reeeeeeaaaaaalllllllly difficult. But like the Connors, I think we owe it to the future to try as hard as we can to keep this franchise from ever coming back.