Movies and TV
Franchise Terminated - What Went Wrong with the Terminator Series

Shant Istamboulian | 22 Jul 2015 13:00
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WRITING THAT SACRIFICED GOOD STORYTELLING

After T2, written by Cameron and William Wisher, the franchise went from a singular vision to a more by committee approach that eschewed challenging ideas for a lower common denominator approach emphasizing action and spectacle.

This was most apparent with the aptly titled Salvation. Early posters and advertising material gave writing credits to the team of John Brancato and Michael Ferris (who got credit for T3 after rewriting a much-maligned draft by Tank Girl's Ted Sarafian), as well as Oscar-winner Paul Haggis and a pair of television showrunners: The Shield's Shawn Ryan and CSI's Anthony E. Zuiker. Jonathan Nolan (Interstellar) also contributed parts of the script but was never credited.

For Genisys, Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander, Pathfinder) and Patrick Lussier (who worked as Wes Craven's editor before segueing into directing and writing), taking a page from J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, scripted a reboot that pretty much does nothing right. From the silly spelling of its title to the eye-rolling, "jump the shark" moment involving the T-800 in the climax, Genisys often plays like really bad fan fiction. The Terminator franchise has never been about time travel per se - it was always a plot device to get the good and bad guys to the past - but here they double down on it with jumbled, confusing results. This approach is similar to what sunk Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, Prometheus, which basically based an entire movie on the origins of the mysterious space jockey from that 1979 classic.

The film's first act that finds new ways to present the action of the earlier films (much like in the climax of Back to the Future Part II), including a fight at Griffith Observatory between the Guardian T-800 (whom Sarah annoyingly calls "Pops") and the newly arrived one from The Terminator that's neat... for about three seconds. There's the problem: Kalogridis and Lussier want us to feel connected to those films but instead of forwarding the mythological aspects, the Genisys storytellers find themselves stuck in the past.

Perhaps the one person who could've done justice to a Terminator reboot would be Alex Garland, who wrote the script to Danny Boyle's Sunshine and gave the Judge Dredd property a nice shot of adrenaline with his script to Dredd. Garland is also responsible for one of this year's best films, Ex Machina, which deals with - wait for it - the relationship between humans and A.I.

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