The clothes. Those boots. That motorcycle. It’s a recognisable ensemble even for those that have never actually seen Arnold Schwarzenegger as the eponymous cyborg in action. His chiseled mug hosting a deadly red-eyed glare has become a staple of modern cinema and hasn’t blinked for the past 30 years. But during his reign as villain turned hardwired hero we've had five Dark Knights, four James Bonds, three Kryptonians and by this time next year, two Mad Max's. With all these franchise revivals and revamps, Arnie has proven that when it came to his metal-faced alter-ego Kyle Reese was right - he absolutely will not stop - and maybe that's the problem. After a week of the Terminator 5: Genisys teaser being released and the glimpse into Paramounts plan of the war against the machines, the question we might need to ask is; isn't it time he did?
This isn't setting up to be an argument against the ex-Governator and a wish for him to depart the franchise, let me make that perfectly clear. I, like many other fans of the Terminator no doubt got chills when Schwarzenegger pulled his hood back and his shotgun up (couldn't spin it this time, no?) and reluctantly smirked over hearing him say he'd be back right before he headbutted a choppah. Nevertheless, the movie history books have made it clear that whilst actors returning to the characters that defined them will get attention, it won't necessarily be the best kind. Harrison Ford learned that the hard way with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (an outcome we should pray won't be repeated when [Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens](movie:711158) comes around). The same could be said for Bruce Willis when he got his vest dirty again in Live Free Or Die Hard and then stained it forever in A Good Day To Die Hard.
The only times when stars have reprised their roles for the better is when they've walked along a fine line between showing respect to the original and its fan base, as well as catapulting the new story and its characters forward as well. Leonard Nimoy received a warm welcome in J.J. Abrams' Star Trek (as did the film itself), and the world had a flat-out communal comic-gasm when all the original X-Men made a comeback in [X-Men: Days Of Future Past](movie:203942). Perhaps, Terminator 5 may have taken a few notes from these success stories in the hope of using Schwarzenegger in the same capacity. A gateway of sorts to keep hold of the old audience and drawing in a new one as well. Should they use this tactic, it certainly won’t be a brief greeting from the Austrian Oak, after he revealed in a recent Facebook Q&A that he has 'a starring role' and we'd see him 'throughout the entire movie'. Past experiences of familiar faces or not, this sounds like an understandable knee-jerk reaction from Paramount to haul in one of the franchise's founding fathers, considering the outcome of its previous Terminator outing that looked to the future but became a historical flop doing so.
Even with a Dark Knight and an Avatar headlining Terminator: Salvation, McGs shoddy chapter to the film series wasn't up to snuff, which even one of its stars recently admitted to. Speaking to MTV whilst promoting Exodus: Gods and Kings this week, Christian Bale wished them better luck than he had. "It didn't work for us, it was a shame but just everything was against us," the actor said. "I know we gave it a shot. It didn't work. I know the reasons for that. Wisdom sometimes is knowing when you just need to walk away." Unfortunately, the man who would be Moses didn't go into specifics over those aforementioned 'reasons', but the film being one Scharzenegger short wasn't it. Before we all came to realise that there'd be no Salvation with McG's effort, fans flocked to cinemas regardless and it wasn't to see that familiar T-800 in action (CGI or not), it was to see the war that had always been teased but never fully explored. It failed without a doubt, but it seemed a clear sign that fans didn't necessarily need the Terminator to see a Terminator film, making a strong case that Arnie might not be needed for the franchise and the teaser suggests Paramount are keen to prove it, considering the talent involved.
After giving the latest preview numerous viewings following last weeks reveal, it seems that the studios plan is to re-establish the future whilst respecting the past of Cameron's classics. The promising details besides Arnie making a comeback at 67 years old are the two fresh-faced leads Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney (both 28, two years younger than the franchise itself) treading over hollowed ground and leading us into this uncertain future. The question is how much they'll play a part in it, and how little Arnie will be required as a result. Emilia Clarke for example, is an established TV actress who already has a khalasar of fans at her back thanks to her ongoing appearance in [Game of Thrones](movie:817617), and seems highly unlikely that her presence as Sarah Connor is going to fizzle out after Terminator 5: Genisys. Having made only a few brief appearances on the big screen, this could be a major turn and one she could stick with for the entire trilogy. The same could be said for Jai Courtney, who even after appearing in that dreadful Die Hard film, showed a strong screen presence in the likes of Jack Reacher and Divergent. Add ex-Time Lord, Matt Smith and hugely underused Jason Isaac as supporting talents and this Terminator instalment looks to be establishing strong cast members at both sides of the timeline allowing Aaahnald to pass on the torch to new heroes before it dies out completely.
Admittedly since his comeback, Schwarzenegger's name has become one that doesn't attract audiences like it used to, mainly because the standard action hero has changed since his time on the throne. We live in a world of Bourne’s and Bryan Mills, heroes that raise their fists rather than an overly sized bit of firepower, or wear nice shiny costumes and wield superpowers. With these aforementioned antagonists, it may seem like Arnie’s cyborg assassin might just be an analogue hero in a digital age. Or maybe not. Maybe, there’s something in this approaching remake/reboot/repeat of a beloved film that could surprise us, that will certify that Schwarzenegger never lost it and all that charisma is waiting for one last outing. If there’s any time for it to make an appearance, it’s in the role that made his career.
Last time or not - he’ll be back in [Terminator Genisys](movie:34872) and I can’t wait to see him.