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What we know about the upcoming new Terminator movie, which is sometimes referred to as a reboot and sometimes as a sequel, could fit inside a single lightbulb at the "Tech Noir" nightclub. The movie is happening, and now has a director and everything, but details about the story are nonexistent, as writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier work on the script. But now that Game of Thrones and Thor: The Dark World veteran Alan Taylor is on board, we may have our best hint yet at where the next Terminator film is headed-- and I'm not sure I like it.
Few franchises have transformed as much over their lives as the Terminator films, which started with 1984's The Terminator as a slick, sci-fi tinged thriller and eventually turned in 2010's Terminator: Salvation, which involved a CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger and a robot heart transplant. The great leap into big sci-fi blockbuster happened under the capable guidance of James Cameron, who made T2: Judgment Day the first great action film of the CGI era and exponentially more successful than the original. When Cameron declined to make a third one it was probably time to call it quits, but the last decade's two Terminator movies-- Salvation as well as Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines-- have found diminishing returns, amping up the effects and fiddling even more with time travel. What started as a blazingly original sci-fi idea became a roided-up franchise dead set on competing against the big sci-fi spectacles it had inspired, while getting away from the clean narrative and flawless action filmmaking that made it work to begin with.
Terminator 5, which has been talked up for the last four years, seemed headed in the same direction until 2011, when Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures picked up the rights to the series and hired Justin Lin to direct. In a few short years Ellison has backed major directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Kathryn Bigelow, and though Lin had helped the Fast & Furious franchise morph from dopey car races to massive spectacles, he did it with serious action chops and a constant awareness of the franchise's strengths. If anyone could continue Cameron's clean action style and unblinkered ambition, it could be Lin, with Ellison's pocketbook to back him up.
Except now we have Alan Taylor, a veteran of many, many different TV shows whose star has risen significantly since working on Game of Thrones, a show of huge vistas, large-scale battles and other tropes that translate well to the big screen. His Game of Thrones credentials made him a perfect choice for the grand-scale Thor: The Dark World, which comes to theaters in November. But does it make him right for Terminator? I'd hoped that somehow the new Terminator film could be an opportunity to strip it down, to resist the urge to highlight giant robots and big battles and allow the basics of that still-fascinating premise-- a machine sent back in time to kill-- to take over. The only plot rumor we have, about a 1940s-set story and a robot played by The Rock, seemed right along those lines. But Taylor's hiring suggests something bigger and more like Terminator 2, if we assume they've brought him in for those Game of Thrones skills. Again, that's not necessarily a bad thing. But it might not be the best way to re-introduce the Terminator franchise for a generation for whom Arnold Schwarzenegger has mostly been the governor of California.
Let us know what you hope to see in Terminator 5-- or whatever it winds up being-- in the comments.