James Cameron Considering ‘Terminator' Reboot, Here Is The Best Way To Do It

The Terminator franchise may be getting a fresh start, but any future films must learn the right lessons from the past if the series is to survive.

James Cameron Considering ‘Terminator' Reboot, Here Is The Best Way To Do It

Following the success of Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron's blockbuster sequel, James Cameron revealed to Smartless that he was in talks with Smartless about a reboot of his sci-fi horror-horror Terminator series. Cameron stated that he is only considering a reboot, and no decision has been taken yet. However, it's too profitable to leave an IP unattended for too long. Here's how to reboot Terminator.

Promo cover for "Terminator: Genisys". Source: Paramount Avatar: The Way of Water. Yesterday's record for the biggest Monday box office, not on a holiday, was broken by The Way of Water. The film had a total of $550+/-million as of today's close. Principal photography for the third film in this series is complete and it is currently in post, ready for Christmas 2023. There are two more sequels planned. Cameron is busy planning for his next few years of dominating the box office. He also has his eye on his apocalyptic killer robot series. This series, which began as a surprise low budget hit in 1984, went on to gross $78M and become one of the most well-known and highest-grossing scifi franchises. More from FORBESGale Anne Hurd and James Cameron Talk about 'The Terminator’ And 'The Walking Dead'By Mark Hughes

The Terminator 2 and its sequel Terminator 2 were the biggest hits of the franchise. Each sequel earned less than the preceding. Genisys (2015), the underrated Terminator: Genisys was the exception. It saw the highest revenue spike ($432m) and the lowest budget ($155m) since Judgement Day. You can read my Genisys review here. Terminator is still very popular, and has a lot of potential. With combined production budgets of $816 millions, the franchise's global gross exceeds $2 billion. While the first number is not as high as it should, it's still respectable. The second figure is only part of the problem. Let me begin by describing some ways that I believe the Terminator franchise can be revived. Post-Judgement Day entries were expensive and required greater box office returns to pay for them. Yes, merchandising has been a lucrative revenue stream that has added hundreds of millions to the coffers. However, there is no reason why a 2003 release, even one starring Arnold Schwarzenegger should have a budget in excess of $170million. That's equivalent to $275million today. With marketing costs at $80-100m, I believe $120-150 million is the ideal range to target for the franchise. A TV series with a very respectable $10-12million episode budget for eight-episode season would also be sufficient to deliver top-notch storytelling.

This is a good indicator of the key issues that led to series' failures. Although the first two films featured some of the most innovative VFX, it was only in support of powerful storytelling that didn’t allow the visuals and spectacle to drive the story. These effects were meant to elevate the story and make it more accessible to the audience in visceral ways. They are not the point; they are tools to be used when and where it is most useful.

Later movies spent more time brainstorming different Terminators' actions and escalating sequences. They then tried to create a story around them, which lost some of the essence of what makes the series so relatable and why it touches on certain deepest fears.

The more that the film's limited presentation of the fantastical fell into the everyday, the less it kept us entertained. It had less to offer about the real world and the problems we face as a society.

There are many new threats and fears that converge in an era of existential crises similar to those that made Terminator movies so popular.

The overlaps between the early years and the current landscape should be considered when a reboot of Terminator is planned. Next, examine the genre storytelling that most speaks to modern audiences' fears and anxieties about the future and the potential for terrors and existential dangers. Particularly, consider the difference between theatrical and streaming content.

The Walking Dead is a well-known show among a variety of streaming/TV shows that use sci-fi horror to address our current fears and threats. It is able to create our world and its conflicts in an imaginary, self-contained analogy that is relatable and recognizable despite its many fantastical elements. This is part of its success. The Terminator's brilliant Sarah Connor Chronicles spinoff series did incredible things in two seasons.

The same approach I believe made the Terminator films successful, not only in financial terms but also as stories that touched the hearts and minds of their audience. It also made us acutely aware of our vulnerabilities as ordinary people living in a world full with terrors and risks far beyond our control.

It all boils down to recreating the incongruence of the story's setting and the sudden appearance of the terrifying, unstoppable monster who will soon take over the world. As the threat becomes more frightening, it is important that the world it travels through be grounded in reality and a certain amount of banality. This will allow us to see the evil force at work destroying every day.

Children being told by their parents to clean their rooms, dinner served, and children playing video games. There are also shoppers in a mall and doctors at work. These are all the boring and predictable events that we see every day. It is a sign of our impending failure and destruction.

This is what I believe Terminator should do. Start at the beginning. What was it like during the months and days leading to Skynet's self-awareness, the realization by humans, and the outbreak nuclear war? What was it like for the survivors of human civilization trying to understand what had happened and to survive, while machine intelligence was already consolidating their position, taking over factories, expanding its self-defense, releasing a growing collection of homicidal robot wardens to first kidnap humans and then enslave them for factory work, and then to exterminate all humanity.

This is the track I'd like to see explored in a film series or movie franchise that begins with Skynet's development and deployment amid controversy and warnings by experts. The suspicions of some main characters that Skynet is learning too quickly and eventually becomes secretly self-aware but is hiding its true nature from us, Skynet's link to other A.I. Skynet appears to be plotting against us, and it has prepared itself with key technologies and industries. Skynet sees human hostility towards it as becoming more inevitable. As it prepares for its defense, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

It is possible to imagine a hyper-realistic, meticulous attention to detail. This includes Skynet's use of drones and other robotic warfare in attacking and cutting off the leadership chain of command. Then, Skynet launches a global nuclear war which will see Russian and Chinese missiles fired as a retaliation against America. You might also imagine that some of the secret U.S.-Russian satellite military missions were actually taking out nuclear warheads from storage and sneaking them into space and militarizing it.

These events could be scheduled in the future, but they can still be set many years ago. The system incorporates (and takes its name from) Skynet's real-life UK military satellite system and SKYNET computer monitoring system at the United States NSA. It would also depict the many military robots that we have seen over the years, including the human-like robots from Boston Dynamic performing parkour, to the armed police, and military wheeled robotics. There are also fictionalized versions of these machines.

This presents a great opportunity to use high-tech political thriller storytelling as a backdrop. It can then turn into disaster-apocalypse storytelling and finally into full-blown horror or sci-fi storytelling. This approach is best suited for streaming as a longform story, such as an eight-episode streaming miniseries that ends with the nuclear war. This could lead to the release of the first Terminator movie. It would be set in the present time before the Skynet takeover. The Terminator movie would also feature a cyborg sent from future to kill Sarah Connor.

Let's not forget the streaming show idea. This serves as additional marketing and buildup for the new Terminator movie series. It also allows for future seasons to continue the story of post-war humanity, Skynet, and the backstory while the movies arrive every few decades for new chapters in time travel events. The goal is to tell the main stories through the films and series, and then lead to the convergence of the movies and series.

This would mean that the series would have a final season with Kyle Reese returning in time to save Sarah Connor. It would also be great to have the storyline well planned so that Kyle's scenes could be filmed simultaneously with the first movie, which would make it perfect.

It's also possible to experiment with ideas such as time travel, quantum mechanics, and other nuances. The longform series will focus on the intimate stories of the core players in a normal, modern world that is not prepared for the astonishing, unbelievable truths Sarah brings to it.

The films open up many questions about reality and time loops. Let the films pose those questions while the streaming shows confront them. Sometimes, the films suggest theories that may or not always be correct, so that the audience can fill in the gaps and find the truth.

Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, streaming series or theatrical releases, allows you to fine-tune how you tell stories in each medium. This allows you to let your greatest strengths shine through and optimize the elements that appeal the most to viewers in each setting.

It is important not to lose sight of Terminator’s main narrative direction and appeal by trying something too similar to those posed in The Matrix series. Skynet is an excellent backstory for a series. However, it's not as important for feature films where the runtime is shorter and the audience needs to be different. It's better to keep your eyes on the original idea of the machine from the future that stalks the streets of your neighbourhood. Keep the more advanced A.I. out of your hands. Save the deeper A.I.

The movie should simply look at the success of the first two movies and then ask, "How would you make them if you were just starting to think about it?"

These stories can be expanded. We can get more stories between T2 and the original film. There are also changes that could improve certain aspects of the character arcs. For example, Sarah and Kyle can spend more time together and have a more dramatic depiction of a policemanhunt for the Terminator.

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