The Terminator Franchise is one of Paramount's most lucrative properties, earning millions upon millions of dollars since The Terminator shot to cult scifi fame in 1984. Needless to say, a movie series with such a long history is bound to repeat itself a few times, but thanks to the time-resetting plot, Terminator is notorious for going over the same tale again and again. After Terminator Salvation attempted a whole movie set in the future, following a few known characters and a few newbies, Terminator Genisys took the idea of repetition and ran with it. Terminator 5 was part homage to Terminator 1, part set up for more sequels that would finally continue forwards in a new timeline.
There were some great advantages to this idea, most notably returning the franchise to its Sarah Connor-helmed routes, and tempting fans with the idea that this is a whole new future with plenty of weird unforeseen tech to plague our heroes after Genisys ends. But that's also one of the problems: Terminator 5 took so long setting all this up, it feels like the opening episodes to a TV show... and we may not even get to see the rest of the story in Terminator 6 (and 7 & 8).
Future Hopes Dashed
Terminator Genisys' US box office response was surprising to say the least. A hot property like Terminator, with fans dating back decades, should be a dead cert for a $100 million domestic take at least. But Genisys made just over $80 million in the United States, shocking Paramount and throwing the planned sequels into doubt.
Already confident for Terminator 5's success, before the film was even released Paramount had planned to shoot Terminator 6 and Terminator 7 back to back, for 2016 and 2017 release dates. These two sequels have apparently been planned out in their entirety, and will feature the return of an unnamed character from Terminator 2, according to Skydance CEO David Ellison.
"We’re wanting to hopefully plan for the success and plan for the future. My favorite trilogies of all time were all written prior to shooting a frame of the first movie. We wanted to know where we were heading. We spent a lot of time breaking that down, and we do know what the last line of the third movie is, should we be lucky enough to get to make it."
This obviously affected the storytelling in Terminator 5, as Genisys had a big job to link the story back to the original films, as well as push forwards into what was supposed to be a new trilogy. The creative team were even planning a spinoff TV show that would connect with the films, while establishing its own story. They haven't confirmed exactly what that would be, but Chief Creative Officer Dana Goldberg has hinted that it would probably follow young Sarah as she is trained by Arnold Scharzenegger's T-100 to be the badass we all know and love.
"At a point in time, there was a more expansive scene that really went into what Sarah Connor’s life was like with Guardian. That is something we hope we get to explore either through television or comics."
With plenty of unanswered questions from Genisys, and a more modern day setting, Terminator 6 (and 7) have lots of plot to play with. That's if they get the chance. For after a very rocky reception and backlash from many fans, hopes may have been dashed for the completion of this new trilogy.
So what went wrong?
Obviously, the plot's biggest twist being revealed prematurely was a bit hurdle for Terminator Genisys to clear, and it never quite recovered. We've already talked about how risky a move it was to turn John Connor into the villain of the piece, and why Genisys didn't really justify that massive character change. The fact is that fans responded badly to the trailer spoiler: with a twist that might annoy audiences, the last thing you want to do is to show that before they've even bought their tickets to the film.
What's more, an early release overseas meant that negative reviews reached American fans' ears before the movie was released domestically, again hurting the box office response. Paramount vice chair Rob Moore was quick to comment on this.
"There is no question that the market was affected by reviews, which nicked early word of mouth."
Terminator Genisys went on to open in the same week as huge franchise rival Jurassic World and surprise Pixar hit Inside Out, that grabbed the family market. Can you really bet that people will want two doses of movie nostalgia so close together? It turns out that no, you can't, and while Jurassic World was a huge hit, making $200 million in its first weekend and grossing a domestic total of over $600 million, Terminator 5 floundered and failed to take off Stateside.
All in all, Terminator Genisys was just very unlucky - it's a decent film and an enjoyable addition to the franchise, but with the trailer hiccup and a rocky opening weekend, Terminator 5 had a lot to recover from.
It finally found moderate success in the international market, and thanks to over $100 million in Chinese ticket sales, the total is just over $400 million. This may be enough to tempt Paramount to make a sequel, but they'd be banking a lot on the international success, while the domestic response was so poor. There are a few options right now - Paramount could gamble on Terminator 6, but hold fire on Terminator 7 until they have a better idea of whether this new trilogy has traction. They also could move the whole franchise to another TV show, but Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles already attempted that without much success (though it was a fun show). As far as the story goes, the writers are really faced with a Catch 22: they have to keep the franchise fresh and shake up the story, but also tap into that nostalgia appeal and use characters from the first two films.
For now, it's a case of wait and see. Genisys' release run is coming to a close, so news about sequels and TV spinoffs should roll out in the next few months. Until then, at least we can rewatch T1 and T2, basking in the glory days while we wait to find out if the franchise has finally been terminated.
What kind of pet does Sarah keep in T1?
Bonus points if you remember her pet's name...