James Cameron swears it was an original idea. Harlan Ellison begged to differ, and was awarded a screen credit (and one assumes, some cash) for challenging said statement. It turned Arnold Schwarzenegger into a superstar and reset the tone for actions movies for decades to come. Yet few who saw the original Terminator thought it would be a sleeper hit. Cameron, working with a tiny budget and a mostly no-name cast, had to be overly inventive in his story of a killer from the future chasing down the mother of the man who would lead the human resistance against the machines in a future war fraught with death and destruction. The results hit audiences desperate for something both intelligent and energetic. The sequel was even more satisfying, utilizing amazing special effects that, once again, rewrote the sci-fi filmmaking rule book.
But then time passed, and studio suits grew antsy for more fanboy cash. They cooked up a warmed over version of the second film, hired a then flagging Ah-nold to return to his signature role, and went all girlie on the potential murder machine. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had its moments, but with its shockingly similarly storyline (a 20-something John Connor is chased by an advanced cyborg, only to be protected by another Schwarzenegger-bot) and downbeat ending, everyone could see the corner the series was staring into. Now, with the less than successful returns for the fourth installment, it seems like nothing can successfully bring the Terminator back to Cameron era, excellence.
Of course, in between blaming Christian Bale (who eviscerated the Terminator Salvation script to meet his own star turn demands) or the original premise of the screenwriters shuttled by McG (can you say criminal turned cyber-clone Marcus Wright? A Matrix like Skynet spa where man-machine hybrids live unconscious subservient lives?), one need only look at the lame-ass narrative to see where Salvation comes up stale. Massive machines battling Neanderthal like humans who, apparently, have a hard time with complicated concepts like hiding and maintaining sufficient weaponry. Skynet doesn't know that Kyle Reese is John Connor's dad? Huh? What?
We think we can trump up something much, much better. Therefore, SE&L is summing up its closet screenwriter and has conceived five ideas we like better than the recent cinematic installment now playing. Sure, some have possible pitfalls and problems, but as initial concepts, they are a lot more intriguing than an angst-filled ex-con machine clone wandering around a desert California looking forlorn. Let's begin with a biggie:
Kill John Connor/Sarah Connor/Kyle Reese
Follow the Terminator 3 Opening
Send the Terminator to…the Far Off Future
Focus on John's Life Post-Nuclear War
Make a Major Meta Merge of All Three Previous Films