Pitch Meeting: The Terminator Franchise

The Terminator franchise hasn’t had the best of luck.

After pulling off the rare feat of making one great movie and then a sequel that was even better, it’s struggled to recapture that magic. Repeating the formula of the first two movies in Terminator 3 wasn ‘t received so well. Terminator: Salvation tried to shake things up by setting the whole movie in the post-apocalyptic, Machine dominated future, but that also got a lukewarm response. Terminator: Genisys tried doing a complicated time travel based reboot, and was probably the worst received film of the bunch. And The Sarah Connor Chronicles, while it developed a cult audience, only lasted two seasons on FOX.

So the question left for us now: if you were given control of the Terminator franchise, what would you do to get it back on track?

If it were me? First thing I’d do is move away from the Connor family. We’ve had so many movies go on and on about how important Sarah and John Connor are, and built all their stories around protecting their destiny, that I just think it’s played out. You can have stories about Machines and future humans going back in time to change/protect history without having it all centered around this one super-special future-leader dude.

To that end, I’d take a page from The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and establish that the Machines have sent a whole bunch of Terminators back in time to carry out a wide variety of missions meant to make the future better for Skynet. Not all of them would be simply smash-and-kill missions, either. A lot of the Terminators would be doing long term infiltration, taking on the roles of important people and pretending to be them for years in order to manipulate events to the Machines’ liking.

This would serve to shake up how Terminator stories are told. In the past, it’s generally been about our human heroes facing down a single, nigh-unstoppable juggernaut of a Machine. But this setup, with lots of Terminators posing as ordinary people, would turn it into more of an Invasion of the Body Snatchers situation, where any person you see could potentially be an alien enemy in disguise, and even your closest friends and family could be replaced by an unfeeling doppelganger. Add in the ability of the Terminators to hack into our increasingly wired world and track us through every satellite and cell phone camera out there, and you’ve got a great recipe for a paranoia filled movie.

Of course, if the Terminators are going back in time in large numbers, the humans should probably send back a lot of folks, too. Not only would I have a bunch of time traveling humans forming a resistance against the Terminators in the modern day, I’d establish that some humans have gone back in time a thousand years or more to create a secret society that will last through the centuries, and can be used against the Terminators in the present. This would in turn create great fodder for sequels, as the Machines send Terminators even further back in time to wipe out this conspiracy, and you can have human/Terminator battles happening throughout all of history.

I mean, how is the Terminator franchise this old, and we’ve never seen an Old West Terminator, a pirate Terminator, or a Medieval knight Terminator?

Those are my thoughts for fixing the Terminator franchise. What are yours?