I had no strong feelings one way or another about Terminator 3; though many of us expected a disaster, director Jonathan Mostow delivered a reasonably entertaining action movie capped by a nihilistic finale that was refreshingly out of place in a major Hollywood blockbuster. As a refutation of the bittersweet but generally upbeat Shane ending of T2 ("Come back, cyborg! Mommy doesn’t mind so much that a different version of you tore up Los Angeles trying to kill her ten years ago!"), that stunning sight of nuclear Armageddon via Skynet – so narrowly averted in the prior two films – could’ve completely demolished our relatively fond memories of Cameron’s iconic B movies. Instead, you walked out with a grudging admiration, hoping this was the end of it, and knowing full well it wasn’t.
The previously announced Sarah Connors Chronicles was the first wave of the name-brand cash-in, while today’s news that the Halcyon Company has bought out all of C2’s rights to The Terminator franchise is the second salvo. Headed up by Victor Kubicek and Derek Anderson, Halcyon is looking to get a fourth Terminator movie in theaters by summer 2009. John Brancato and Michael Ferris, who penned T3, already have a finished draft, which they foresee as the first part of a trilogy that will document the human v. cyborg conflict – you know, the one that human resistance leader John Connor is doomed to lose unless his time traveling boy Reese (Michael Biehn) successfully protects (and impregnates) Sarah Connor from a future-sent Terminator. And, lest we forget, the defeat of Skynet is also contingent on a late-model Terminator protecting the young John Connor from the newfangled T-1000, which, thanks to a design flaw, looks ridiculous when it runs. (As for further plot details on T4, producer Moritz Borman lets slip this enticing tidbit, "This new Terminator will build upon the already huge worldwide Terminator fan base, which was both revitalized and expanded with the global release of T3.")
When science-fiction series start getting this convoluted, it’s time for anyone who values their leisure time to bow out. Some franchises can sustain themselves without insulting their core audience by going the episodic route (e.g. James Bond), but fantasy and sci-fi authors favor sagas, which generally seem to run out of steam around the third installment (e.g. Dune, Tolkien’s Middle Earth tales, and Updike’s Rabbit novels). And it’s not like this is classic sci-fi to begin with (I’d say, averaged out between the three movies, it’s above-average sci-fi pastiche).
What’ll be interesting to watch w/r/t to Terminator: Let’s Keep Halcyon Afloat is whether it can draw ticket buyers without Schwarzenegger in a starring role. There is talk of the Governor of California contributing a cameo, but, if this materializes, expect him to deliver those famous three words and disappear (maybe as John is sending him off to protect his younger self in T2). Also, expect him to not be naked.