The Terminator Franchise Can Only Continue If It Ditches Time Travel


If the Terminator franchise is ever to continue, it needs to move on from its attachment to time-travel. The Terminator sci-fi movie series has had a history of commercial ups and downs, and since the franchise’s peak with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it has largely been the latter. In many respects, this can arguably be attributed to the Terminator movies being continually fixated on time-travel as a staple element.

At 2022’s San Diego Comic-Con, Terminator: Dark Fate director Tim Miller commented that the Terminator movies could theoretically continue if a filmmaker were able to tell a new story on a low budget. After the box office failure of Dark Fate (which still received fairly positive reactions), the idea of the Terminator franchise continuing at all seems far-fetched, as Miller himself acknowledged. If another Terminator movie or series were to get greenlit, it will surely need to act as a major franchise re-invention.

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The Terminator movies are predicated on a future war between mankind and machines, with the machines, under the leadership of the Skynet A.I. program, sending Terminators into the past to kill the future leader of the human rebellion. While this was a novel concept with the first two Terminator movies, it has come to be an anticipated element of the franchise. That would need to change for Terminator to have a chance at continuing.

Terminator’s Time-Travel Has Been Overplayed

The problem with how reliant the Terminator franchise has become on time-travel is that it has made it increasingly difficult to tell any kind of new stories with the same concept being used consistently. By the time Dark Fate was released, audiences had a very set-in-stone notion of what to expect from a Terminator movie, which could be argued was a big contributor to the movie’s unfortunate failure. That is the complete opposite of how new the concept of the Terminator mythos felt back when Terminator 2 made Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 a hero and set the standard the entire series has tried to meet ever since.

However negative the reception to Terminator: Salvation may have been, it was at least doing something completely new for the series in taking place in the post-Judgment Day war with machines. The two-season TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, while having to utilize time-travel again itself, also tried a new story with the exploration into Skynet that it took. For a fresh approach to the Terminator series, angles like the war against Skynet in the future or a Terminator prototype going rogue in the present day would be curveballs for the Terminator franchise, and would not need to invoke time-travel to tell their stories.

The box office decline of the Terminator series makes any proposed continuation one that would need to have a very strong pitch behind it to actually be realized. Whether as a Terminator TV reboot or a re-imagining on cinema screens, it would also need to be one that either sets itself entirely in modern times or after Judgment Day to gives the next Terminator movie its own identity. Time-travel might have been what made the first two Terminator movies hits, but in the event that another Terminator film happens, the time has come for the franchise to move on from it.

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