The New Terminator Movie Must Be A Sci-Fi Thriller And Not An Action Blockbuster

By Robert Scucci | Published

The next Terminator movie must be sci-fi

With all the rumors circulating about James Cameron coming back to helm a new Terminator film, you’re likely wondering if the franchise can be saved. It goes without saying that the ongoing battle between humanity and the robot uprising make for inherently compelling cinema, but die-hard fans of the first two James Cameron-directed films have been underwhelmed with every subsequent installment, to say the least. What started out as lightning in a bottle back in 1984 fizzled out unceremoniously with 2019’s Dark Fate, which is nothing more than a shell of the franchise’s former glory.

Now that James Cameron is reportedly working out a story for the upcoming Terminator film, we may very well witness the return to form that we’ve been waiting for. Though attempts have been made to capture the true essence of the original two Terminator films, they didn’t embody the same spirit. To make matters worse, every subsequent Terminator movie turned out to be nothing more than your typical by-the-numbers big-budget blockbusters that relied too heavily on style rather than substance.

A variety of sources suggest that the upcoming Terminator film will take a critical look at AI technology as it currently fits within our cultural lexicon. And if this is the direction that James Cameron ultimately decides to take with his storytelling, then a meaningful narrative can be established that resonates with audiences in a way that the more recent sequels failed to deliver. What made The Terminator and Judgment Day such powerhouse films back in the day was their collective ability to build out the franchise’s lore without coming off as too heavy-handed.

Through the lens of speculative science-fiction, we were awestruck by the idea that a nefarious organization such as Skynet could bite off more than it could chew, inadvertently causing Earth to be overrun by advanced killing machines that gained sentience.

Scenes from James Cameron's The Terminator (1984)

But despite the advanced technology that’s portrayed within the foundation of the Terminator franchise, the storytelling was as simple as it was effective. In so many words, there was a robot uprising and the Human Resistance trying to stop it. Robots from the future traveled back in time to take out the leaders of the Human Resistance (Sarah and John Connor, respectively), and the Human Resistance used every resource they had to make sure their most valuable human assets were protected.

Through simple storytelling and playing into our fears of technology that we don’t fully understand, the plot of The Terminator felt like something that could actually happen within our lifetimes.

Scenes from Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

What’s most impressive about The Terminator is that this picture of a future gone wrong was painted with a relatively small budget of $6.4 million dollars. Though its sequel, Judgment Day, boasted a production budget of $102 million, the franchise’s spirit remained intact but was elevated tenfold because James Cameron and co were able to pump more resources into the project and take the action sequences to a whole new level.

But if 2003’s Rise of the Machines taught us anything, it was that a big-budget blockbuster is only as good as its storytelling. Though Rise of the Machines was met with somewhat favorable views, James Cameron’s absence from the project, as well as the franchise’s direction into more campy territory, marked the beginning of the end.

Scenes from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Simply put, the reason the early Terminator films worked so well was because they relied on the storytelling first. But as subsequent sequels became more convoluted, we lost the plot.

If the upcoming Terminator film gets past its development phases, and James Cameron helms the project with the same spirit as the sequel that started it all, then we’ll be left awestruck once again.

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator (1984)

At the end of the day, The Terminator was always about humanity’s struggle to reclaim their place after a robot uprising turned our planet into a desolate wasteland overrun by killing machines. Using artificial intelligence technology as the primary analogy and narrative vehicle for a future film could give the Terminator franchise an opportunity to go back to its roots and tell us a harrowing tale about how we could potentially end up becoming the victims of our own design.

For the sake of humanity’s future, let’s hope that if a new Terminator movie graces us with its presence, we’ll witness substance over style and storytelling over special effects.