You might think that McG's lackluster Terminator Salvation, plus the cancellation of Fox's lamented Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, would've signaled the end of the franchise that James Cameron built. But Universal is getting ready to pounce on the rights—and here are some things to keep in mind if they do.
Just after the former California governor announced his return to acting, it seems like the dormant Terminator franchise is kicking back to life. After Terminator Salvation, the rights went up for auction and were picked up for $29.5 million by some California hedge fund. Now Universal wants to bring Terminator in house and set it up with Justin Lin—who directed the last few Fast and Furious films—at the helm. Before they go too far down the road, I wanted to offer up a few nuggets of wholly unsolicited advice from a fan.
1. Don't let Justin Lin direct a Terminator movie.
While I completely dug 2010's Fast and Furious, and have high hopes for April's Fast Five—they're flashy action confections with just the right blend of automotive pyrotechnics and unrequited male love—a Terminator film needs more than a whiz-bang stylist. McG proved that. It requires someone who understands story and character and emotion. Someone with a little grrr-arrgh in his blood.
2. Realize that John Connor isn't interesting.
At least, not in a movie-hero way. The TV series had time to develop him as a character, but a movie only gives you two hours. And it's really hard to humanize a messiah in 120 minutes. Terminator Salvation would've been much better if, as rumored, the Connor role was supposed to be an exaggerated cameo and the film followed a man's journey toward realizing that he is, in fact, a machine. (And, alas, if Sam Worthington could act.)
3. When Terminator is great, it's a love story. Find a new one.
Whether it's a man crossing the gulf of time for a woman he loves but never met, or a mother fiercely defending her child, personal devotion needs to be the pivot upon which a real Terminator story turns.
4. Use more time travel.
It's built into the premise, but it's a series that never uses it much. You've got to think the machines would, at some point, perfect the technology so that it can do more than send someone one way into the past. William Wisher, Cameron's writing collaborator on the first two Terminator films, wrote an unsolicited-but-detailed 24-page treatment for Terminator 5 and a four-page treatment for Terminator 6—in which time travel plays heavily, allowing Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese to share more than one heated night together. I say why focus on just this mother and son when there are untold generations of Connors to deal with?
5. If you're going to use Arnold Schwarzenegger, he can't play a Terminator.
Rather, he should play the human captive the machines modeled the T-800 after. Because, really, he's too old to be playing an unstoppable killing machine. He was pushing it in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, and that was eight years ago.
How would YOU keep a new Terminator film from going off the rails?