It's no overstatement to say that Terminator is titan of several genres — the original 1980s movie redefined scifi while setting new standards for action thrillers. Its sequel, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, lived up to the original movie's legacy and then some, becoming one of the best-loved and most iconic films of the 20th Century. And a lot of this was thanks to the R rating, which allowed the action to reach satisfyingly violent heights, accompanied with a liberal helping of foul-mouthed and infinitely quotable catchphrases.
In recent years however, installments of the Terminator franchise have dropped the R rating, due to a shift in the moviemaking climate. Nowadays, many movies strive for that lucrative PG-13 rating, which hits the marketing sweet spot as it allows people of all ages to see the movie — while establishing that this film is not necessarily made for kids.
With Terminator however, limiting later installments to a PG-13 rating had the effect of disarming the franchise, removing one of the core appeals of the original movies and transforming films like Terminator Salvation and #TerminatorGenisys into family-friendly romps that didn't quite pack that cybernetic-enhanced punch. Thankfully, this may be about to change.
Come With Cameron If You Wanna Live
Deadline recently reported that James Cameron is in early talks to return to the Terminator franchise. This is thanks to the Terminator rights reverting to Cameron in 2019 — the current copyright holder, Skydance Media, seems to be getting ahead of this by teaming up with Cameron to make a new movie. According to Deadline, the latest iteration would be both a "reboot and conclusion" to the franchise, with Skydance shopping scifi writers to come up with the best story ideas. Cameron would not direct, however — this role falls to Tim Miller, of Deadpool fame.
Miller's name carries a lot of weight these days, thanks to his direction of the wildly successful #Deadpool, which is one of the highest grossing superhero movies of all time — an impressive accomplishment, considering that thanks to the R rating Deadpool's ticket sales were restricted, and the movie was banned in China.
If nothing else, Deadpool disproved the idea that an R rating was poison to the box office, an assumption which has lead so many movies to chase a PG-13 rating instead. Naturally, in this post-Deadpool world we're likely to see many more movies take the risk of an R rating — the next X-Men movie, Hugh Jackman's last stand Logan, has already established itself as an R-rated feature.
It seems highly likely that any Terminator movie created from the combined efforts of Cameron and Miller would be R-rated — and that's a good thing too, as at this point an R rating is the only thing that can save the franchise.
Hasta La Vista, PG
Terminator is not a kids' movie. Terminator 2: Judgement Day — featuring Sarah Connor's full transformation into a wiry, unhinged, brutal soldier as her son kicks around with a literal killing machine — is definitely not a kids' movie. The fact that as children, many of us adored these films, is beside the point.
Or maybe it is the point. The first two Terminator movies were my first introduction to R-rated movies, and they absolutely blew my mind. The action felt real, with the characters sustaining realistic wounds and bruises as they struggled to survive against the relentless pursuit of the T-800 and T-1000. There was a genuine sense of danger that was thrilling to watch, in a way that not many PG-13 action movies can replicate. And it was awesome to see kid John swear just as much as we kids did in real life.
In comparison, the most recent Terminator movies felt jarring. Salvation tried to do gritty and dark but didn't quite land the prequel approach. Genisys, as much as it was an homage to the original two movies, felt far too kid-friendly and mainstream action. The intensity of the violence, the realistic language (ie: swearing), the level of threat — all these aspects might be what earned the original movies an R rating, but they're also what defines Terminator.
This isn't just a problem of the Terminator sequels, either. Because mainstream action movies are chasing the PG-13 rating, they've become sanitized — and in sugar-coating the violence, they're even more dangerous to young minds. Watch any standard mainstream action movie, and really pay attention to what happens in the fight scenes. Lately, even normal characters seem to have the stamina of superheroes, with magically healing skin that barely breaks or bruises despite being pounded by fists or weapons.
Not only is this boring to watch, removing the thrill of the fight, it's also dangerous, as it desensitizes violence. One of the reasons Netflix's Daredevil was so well received was because Matt was really getting hurt during the fight scenes, and as the season progressed his health deteriorated. This was refreshingly realistic, but it shouldn't be.
So here's hoping that Cameron and Miller's new Terminator movie goes back to the R rating that made the franchise great. I want to see another character like Sarah Connor, who fights tooth and nail to protect her son and gets many, many scars in the process. If the Terminator is attacking someone, I want to see just what makes these killing machines so terrifying. And if the heroes are being pursued by a bloodthirsty cyborg that just cannot be stopped, I want them to be able to say "fuck" — because they'll certainly have a reason to.
Do you think the next 'Terminator' movie should be R-rated?