Film News

Genisys Probably Terminated the Terminator Franchise

It’s a head-scratcher. That’s how The Hollywood Reporter characterizes the dilemma currently facing Paramount Pictures and SkyDance Productions. They’ve already mapped out two more Terminator movies, 7/22/17 for Terminator 2 and 6/29/18 for Terminator 3, and they recently secured a release date for Terminator: Genisys in China (8/23). However, Genisys, which cost $155 million to produce, has been a box office flop in the US and Canada, sitting at a mere $83 million as it enters its fourth weekend of release.

Almost no one, except maybe J.K. Simmons, comes out of Genisys looking good. You have producers who are passionate about the material but maybe a little too close to it to be able to tell a good story. You have a director whose career goal is apparently to burn as many bridges in Hollywood as quickly as possible, badmouthing both his former (Marvel Studios) and current employer (Paramount) on the Genisys promotional tour. You have two screenwriters who took on an unwieldy time travel story and let it kick their asses. And you have a group of actors who were almost all horribly miscast. The film’s crowning achievement, the digital de-aging of Arnold Schwarzenegger to recreate the Griffith Observatory scene from the ’84 Terminator, has already been rendered irrelevant and sub-par by Ant-Man’s opening scene in which Michael Douglas appears to have walked straight off the set of Wall Street.

Yet Genisys has already made $196 million at the international box office and $279 million worldwide. If it plays big in China, which previously embraced the Schwarzenegger-Stallone team-up Escape Plan ($25m in the US/Canada – $40m in China), we could be looking at another Pacific Rim situation. Guillermo del Toro’s ode to robots vs. monsters made more in China than in the US, and now has a sequel due in 2017, although Legendary Pictures slashed the budget this time around from $190m to $140m.

pacific_rim_tv_spotThis is the brave new world of Hollywood franchise film-making. There are still unquestioned hits and regrettable bombs, but thanks to the booming international market there’s an ever-growing middle tier of squeakers, the not-quite hits, not-quite bombs that studios don’t know what to do with. Some of them get sequels (Pacific Rim, Godzilla, Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack Reacher), some don’t (Journey 2: The Mysterious Island and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) or least haven’t been given the green light yet (Prometheus).

Right now, Paramount has to decide where Terminator falls. Will it make enough in China to warrant a sequel, albeit one with a lower budget to minimize the risk? Even if it does, do they simply cut their losses and let the old franchise die, fearful of how much better a sequel would have to be to simply win back everyone who disliked Genisys let alone win over new audiences?

Batman-Begins-PosterThink of it this way: Do you want to be the person who looked at Batman Begins making $374m worldwide on a $150m budget in 2005 and decided that wasn’t quite enough to justify a sequel? Or do you want to trust your gut instinct that even though the numbers weren’t overwhelming the audience response was positive enough to indicate there’d be an even bigger audience for The Dark Knight?

Actually, scratch that. Think of this way: Do you want to be the person who decides the Fast & Furious and Mission Impossible movies had had their day right before they rebounded in a huge way with Fast Five and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol respectively? Of course not. Sometimes it takes a franchise a couple of tries to really hit jackpot or at least reclaim its former glory.

But Terminator has been here a couple of times now. Terminator 3 was supposed to have sequels, but the production company got fleeced by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s brilliantly negotiated contract and ended up losing money after he took his cut of the $433m worldwide gross. Terminator: Salvation was meant to kickstart a new trilogy, and months after its middling domestic run ($125m) McG sounded contrite but hopeful that he’d get to direct the sequel, telling IGN, “The film will end up doing about $400 million bucks [actually, it was $371m] and internationally it was very well received – better than it was here in the States. But we live in a domestic intensive, Hollywood film world and I take it very personally. I take it very seriously. And clearly I didn’t do a good enough job on that picture and I didn’t satisfy the fanbase to the degree that I would expect to satisfy them. And I take that very seriously and I just work that much more diligently to make sure I do that in the next one.”  Shortly thereafter, the production company went bankrupt.

Terminator CastParamount and Skydance are staying tight-lipped about whether or not this time a Terminator relaunch will again stall after just one installment, although a Paramount source told THR, “We will definitely need to see the holds globally to confirm that people like the film.”

That might be what ultimately differentiates Genisys from Pacific Rim. People actually liked Pacific Rim, as reinforced on this very site yesterday by the number of people who disagreed with my assertion that perhaps the fandom for Rim had died down thus decreasing the desire for a sequel. I’ve made my views of Genisys clear elsewhere (long story short: I’m not a fan). So, I might be letting a personal bias come into play, but I don’t get the sense that there is a great love for Genisys. At most, there’s maybe a slight pushback against the toxic reviews, a kind of kneejerk, “Hey, it’s not that bad.” It is a film which leaves many questions dangling, clearly meant to be answered in a sequel, yet I’ve noticed a more annoyed than intrigued response to mysteries like who the heck sent Pops back to save young Sarah Connor in the first place.

When EW visited the Genisys set for a cover story, Schwarzenegger told them, “When I look at the history, anytime a movie was well-done, it was huge. If a movie is made well, if it’s a great character, if it’s well acted out, then people are going to come to see it. It’s so simple.” Genisys is not made well, it does not have good characters, it has poor acting (other than Simmons and Schwarzenegger), yet just barely enough people may go see it to warrant a sequel. That’s going to be a difficult decision to make for Paramount and SkyDance.

Perhaps, like Arnold, I can simplify it for them: please don’t make a sequel. Just stop. Genisys has ripped up and destroyed Terminator franchise continuity in ways Days of Future Past merely dreamed of for the X-Men.  The screenwriters have indicated the sequels will delve into alternate universes and will be even better.  We’ve been here before, though.  They are not the first non-James Cameron Terminator film-makers to promise us a superior sequel.  Those superior sequels never came.  Maybe it’s simply time to let this franchise die. James Cameron can do whatever he wants with it when the rights revert back to him in 2019.

Source: THR

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10 comments

  1. I am still firmly living in the believe that Terminator is a trilogy. And it will keep to be one in my mind until a studio comes along, says “we ignore what came after Terminator 3 and instead tell you the true story of John Connor and Reese” and makes it good. That’s the only story I want out of this franchise, and if the studios are not ready to tackle it, they can go to hell for all I care.

    1. It’s funny that you would say that considering how Genisys has its own selective memory and only thinks of the Terminator movies as having two installments, no part 3 or salvation. Either way, before Genisys it was always kind of easy to simply think of the series as a trilogy and ignore Salvation because Arnold’s not really in that one. However, he’s in Genisys which lends it this extra air of credibility, but it is just so bad that I’m ultimately with you – there were 3 Terminator movies. Two movies came later that bore the name Terminator, but we choose not to talk about those anymore.

      1. Yeah, it is an alternative timeline meaning that it can be more easily ignored if need be. If Genisys does get a sequel it is going to get even more confusing because their idea is to explore multiple universes. For example, BIG spoiler alerts Matt Smith’s character is the personification of Skynet. When he first infects John Connor he says that he came a long way to get him. The writers have explained in interviews that Smith is actually from an alternate universe thus why he had to travel so far. Also, Jason Clarke is signed up to return as John Connor even though John dies at the end. The writer’s have said a version of John from another alternate universe, where he was never infected and is still fully human, will be the one we meet in sequels. I think that all sounds far too complicated, not that I can’t understand it, more that it’s more trouble than it is worth. Knowing all of that is another big reason why I hope they never make the sequels they have planned.

  2. I haven’t seen much of a push back. The only positive review I saw was from Angry Joe from his show on YouTube.

    It probably is the death of the tranchise. I keep typing this and will continue to keep typing it: bring bak the Sarah Connor Chronicles. They had interesting ideas. Television as a medium has changed such that these days, it is the preferred form to express drama and ideas. I know it won’t come back.

    Hey, did you know there is now a Terminator: Genisys miniatures game? (http://www.warlordgames.com/terminator-genisys/) I want to like it but it seems really disappointing. Do you remember that awesome future warbattle at the start of Terminator 2? Well, you can’t do that yet. The rule book apparently has rules for many types of figures but so far, there’s just a small squad of TechCom soldiers, a bunch of endoskeletons and a bunch of crippled endoskeletons and characters from the film. So disappointing?

    I’d be seriously annoyed if I purchased the license to the franchise and this happened.

    1. The pushback I referred to is based upon firsthand experience (i.e., a couple of people have let me they disagreed with my negative view of the movie) as well as how the IMDB rating has actually gone up a full point since its first weekend.

      Genisys is most likely the death of Terminator as a film franchise, and the sad thing is that the more interesting direction to go would have been a TV series ala Sarah Connor Chronicles. However, since that also was somewhat of a failure, lasting 2 seasons, it feels like Terminator is simply tapped out right now, both on film and on TV.

      I did not know about the miniatures game. That sounds like a big mess.

      1. The failure of the movies are more nails in the coffin of SCC. I think Salvation flopped around the time when they were considering renewing SCC. There was definitely hope on that film’s shoulders for it to boost the TV series.

        I keep reading that the rules of the miniatures game are well written… and are summed up in one double-sided page. However, the rule book is 134 pages long and presumably have a lot of pictures/examples. However, reports are the components seem flimsy and cheap.
        My biggest problem with is that it’s basically an overly expensive starter set. There are licensed miniatures games that are already successful such as Star Wars: X-Wings Miniatures and Star Trek:Attack Wing that I have played. They have small starter sets and for the price of Terminator, you can get two sets of starter sets. Best of all, I was frugal and people bulk sell their lots on eBay at half price. Star Wars Imperial Assault has a lot more components too.

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