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In case you didn't figure it out for yourself, the Terminator franchise is a bit of a mess right now. Terminator Genisys was meant to be the start of a new trilogy for the great sci-fi series after performing its own semi-reboot, but it now basically lies dead on the table. It makes you wonder what could have happened had 2009's Terminator: Salvation wound up getting the follow-ups were planned -- and now we actually have a clearer idea of just that, courtesy of the writer who was developing the story. William Wisher, who was developing treatments for Terminator 5 and Terminator 6 in 2010, recently told me,
I was looking to, in those two films, to close out the whole story and to explain things, or reset things that I thought had gone awry in Terminator 3 and Terminator 4, including bringing Linda Hamilton back as Sarah -- kind of unkilling her. And then kind of glimpsing the final chapter of the war where you see it all - the first Terminator being sent back, and then Michael Biehn being sent back, things like that.
I learned about these never-made projects earlier this week when I had the opportunity to hop on the phone with William Wisher, who worked on the script for the original Terminator and co-wrote Terminator 2: Judgement Day (which is about to see a 3D theatrical re-release later this month). Having read about the plans that were in place back in 2010 to continue the storyline from Terminator: Salvation, I asked the screenwriter if he could talk about his versions of Terminator 5 and Terminator 6, and he seemed happy to oblige.
William Wisher's ideas certainly do sound attractive, particularly now that we know which direction the franchise wound up going instead. Terminator Genisys did wind up doing some of what was planned, as it did bring back Sarah Conner and also showed the time travel of both the first Terminator and Kyle Reese, but it surely would have had a very different context if it were following up on the events in Terminator: Salvation. Plus, the idea of bringing Linda Hamilton back instead of just recasting her through time travel would have been much cooler to see.
So what exactly happened to this idea? As William Wisher explained, the development process hit some rocky road thanks to a lawsuit, and within that same time the rights to the Terminator movies were sold to a different studio. Because of this, the treatments and outlines that the writer had put together wound up going nowhere. Wisher explained,
I was developing the potential sequels that McG was going to direct. He directed [Terminator: Salvation], and he had more to do. And then the whole thing blew up over a lawsuit having nothing to do with either of us... I just wanted to close all of the loops, and bring the story full circle. And we didn't get a chance to do that. Things moved beyond us, and the rights went to someone else, and then they made their own Terminator 5, and... Terminator 5, I guess [laughs].
With James Cameron potentially eyeing some kind of return to the franchise, we'll have to wait and see what the future winds up holding for the Terminator movies. The good news is that fans can always look back on the heyday of the franchise, and we'll all get the opportunity to do just that when Terminator 2: Judgement Day 3D arrives in theaters on August 25th.