The ‘Terminator’ Series Is No Longer an Elite Franchise. Do Audiences Care?

This new 'Terminator' film could very well right the wrongs of movies past, but is the franchise still relevant in the greater pop culture conversation?

Terminator Sequel Details
Natalia Reyes (L), Mackenzie Davis (M) and Linda Hamilton (R) lead the new ‘Termiantor’ sequel. Paramount Pictures

On Wednesday, the Terminator Twitter account released the first official photo from the new upcoming film with stars Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis and Natalia Reyes front and center. The sixth installment in the franchise will see the return of Hamilton as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular machine.

Admittedly, there’s a lot to like about this sequel as it reframes the franchise’s argument for relevancy nearly three decades after the series ran short on quality.

For starters, franchise creator James Cameron had a hand in shaping the script and is signed on as producer (though who knows how involved he’s been after tinkering with the story given his work on the four planned Avatar sequels). Deadpool‘s Tim Miller is directing, and the cast features a number of talented individuals. Most importantly, this new film will serve as a direct sequel to Terminator 2: Judgement Day (arguably the greatest action movie of all time), while essentially ignoring the events of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (70 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, $150 million domestic) Terminator Salvation (33 percent, $125 million) and Terminator: Genisys (26 percent, $89 million).

In a vacuum, that all sounds promising.

I want this movie to be good as I’m a massive fan of the original two films, but I’m not excited for a new Terminator in the same way I’m excited for Avengers 4 or Star Wars: Episode IX. It’s sad to say, but the prestige of the Terminator franchise that arose with Cameron’s ground-breaking first two features has been so overwrought and undercut by the flawed ensuing efforts that the series is no longer in the pantheon of elite blockbuster franchises.

It’s been 27 years since the glorious T2, and fans have been treated to progressively worse installments that cluttered the confusing continuity and diminished the goodwill of the originals. That’s not to say that this new version can’t reinvigorate the franchise in the same way that Star Wars: The Force Awakens did, but audience cache is pretty low at the moment. In the greater pop culture conversation, the Terminator franchise as a whole feels like a prize fighter who has stayed in the ring long past his prime.

No one can ever take away the contributions to the genre and the impact it had on blockbuster filmmaking, but Hollywood tentpoles have evolved beyond the latter Terminator movies. The cerebral Planet of the Apes movies, the death-defying practical action stunt work of the Mission: Impossible series and certain ambitious superhero efforts have perfected the formula, elevating the genre in new ways much like The Terminator and Judgement Day did before.

Paramount (PARA) is on pace for a bounce-back year after a disastrous 2017, but the studio is still largely bereft of valuable IP. Relaunching Terminator makes sense from a business perspective, but is it possible that the studio is overestimating the level of widespread interest?

We live in an era of never-say-die content cycles where any and all titles can be revived and rebooted. But eventually, a franchise is going to just straight up die.

Nothing about this new Terminator indicates such a gloomy prognosis, but I wonder how many times the series can declare “I’ll be back” and still have fans waiting on the other side.

The ‘Terminator’ Series Is No Longer an Elite Franchise. Do Audiences Care?