Deadline’s reporting that Justin Lin’s had to step away from the fifth Terminator movie because of scheduling conflicts with the next Fast & Furious flick. For now, he’ll be helping the current rights holders brainstorm ideas with Schwarzenegger and--here’s the real bombshell--James Cameron. Yeah, even though the man’s long since stepped away from his “sacrificial lamb,” he’s supposedly been lured back in by his old pal Arnold to help plot a proper conclusion to the series with two final films.
No qualifications, T2’s my all-time favorite movie and I’ve expressed my ambivalent feelings about the direction the series has taken without Cameron’s involvement. Still, come what may, I’m too invested in the saga at this point to ever not be interested in seeing it come to some kind of conclusion. Thus, the very notion of Cameron being involved again, in some capacity, hooks my imagination. How would he work with what’s been added by T3 and Salvation? Schwarzenegger always wanted this to be a Bond-like series with the Terminator returning every few years; surely Cameron’s entertained ideas about how to cap off the Future War, right?
With a few rumors to go off of, I think we’ve got enough of an excuse to speculate about what the man might do. These are, of course, just my conjectures as a fan. Go on and offer your own up in the talkback.
At this point, I think the only sensible way to have Schwarzenegger still involved would be as a human Skynet modeled the 101 Terminator's likeness after. That’s an idea that different sections of the franchise has been playing with over the years, actually. There was a series of official tie-in novels set after the events of T2 which had John and Sarah falling in with an Austrian counter-terrorism operative who’d eventually serve in that very capacity--and I’m sure everybody remembers the infamous Sgt. Candy deleted scene from T3. McG was even talking about doing something similar with Robert Patrick and the T-1000 when he was still attached to this series.
I figure such a casting decision would continue the conceit of role reversals that made the Terminator’s “face turn” work so well in T2. It’d put a real spin on the usual dynamic by making Arnold just as vulnerable against the machines as everybody else, and it'd actually turn the drawback of him looking so different from his original appearance into a plus for the overall story.
Another big shoe waiting to drop concerns Connor and Reese. At some point, the older son will have to send his younger father to his death, and that’s got the makings of the kind a tragic sacrificial finale that’s become Cameron’s forte between T2 and Titanic. A plot crafted around the emotional core of these guys developing a doomed friendship during the war could certainly substantiate a whole movie. I can easily picture there not being a dry eye in the theater when Connor’s reluctantly forced to order his best friend into the Time Displacement Field. Cameron actually scripted such a scene early on in the development of T2 but ended up scrapping it because it, along with an extended prologue in the Future War, would’ve skyrocketed the budget.
Also, believe it or not, there'd actually be even more real psychological drama here if Schwarzenegger did also end up joining the resistance as the human model. The series has explicitly stated a cruel irony in how the Terminator, the killer of Connor’s real father, ended up being his best surrogate father. You can just imagine the kind of head games Connor would be dealing with when both of his Dads wind up back in his life under completely different circumstances.
One of the obvious, basic appeals of the series lies in seeing new Terminator and Hunter-Killer models introduced each installment. Cameron imagined a whole host of machines in his early drafts of T2--crab-like walking gun platforms, super Aerial HKs and mobile landmine “Silver Fish," to name a few--and they've all shown up in the various video games. There's also the absurd ultra HK, the T-1,000,000, from Cameron's T2:3D ride and the gang of modular, inter-connecting Transformers-like Terminators which William Wisher (Cameron’s co-writer on T2) imagined in a spec treatment he wrote last year. Group those with the yet-to-be-reintroduced T-1000 and T-X and, needless to say, even if no entirely new models are created, there's no shortage of machines to potentially join the Hyrdobots, Harvesters and Moto-HK's introduced in Salvation.
Speaking of the different Terminator models, this is admittedly (and unapologetically) far-fetched, but I honestly wish they'd retcon Marcus Wright into a more advanced infiltration model Skynet sent from an even farther future. Since he emerged totally naked from that nuked site, there was some intentional ambiguity about this in Salvation, anyway. The biggest untapped story potential lies in Connor dealing with how, because of his actions, this future's different from the one he already has pre-awareness of. Adding to that, I think the biggest threat to his power would come from a more nuanced infiltrator designed to change those events on a subtler, and more insidious, level. Say this Terminator was so sophisticated that it had working internal organs and could emote convincingly enough to fool humans over a sustained period of time? That'd be a hell of twist, wouldn't it?
This would cast Wright's sacrifice under a sinister light by turning it into one chess move in a frighteningly-elaborate scheme of manipulation. You could say it'd be too great a contradiction, but I don't think it's too far out of the question (especially given the history of the series.) After all, wasn't the whole message of T3 in direction contradiction of T2?
What would you do if you were in Cameron's shoes? Any ideas on how you'd "fix" the Terminator franchise?