An Open Letter From The Future to James Cameron and Tim Miller

We’ve been visited from the future with some thoughts about the latest attempt to keep the ‘Terminator’ franchise alive.
By  · Published on October 4th, 2017

We’ve been visited from the future with some thoughts about the latest attempt to keep the ‘Terminator’ franchise alive.

…record goddammit. Different decades, the same problem. This voice recognition isn’t any better in the future. Jesus. Is it — oh, it’s going. Right.

Dear James and Tim,

I’m never sure how to start these things. So, uh. I’m from the future. I’ve just stepped out of the time bubble and stole the first cellphone I saw. Is it weird that I’m still naked? Turns out you can time travel in more than your birthday suit, but I prefer to travel wearing nothing but an homage to some of the great time travel theorists of the pre-TT years. Huh. Time travel kind of kills your inner-monologue. Where was I?

It’s your franchise! Not the Avatar one. That’s got its own country-level economy now. Some people say you jumped the shark when you announced the new trilogy would film on the surface of another planet, but mostly I was surprised that didn’t happen sooner.

I mean your Terminator franchise. It’s in trouble! If my calculations are correct, we’re going to see some serious shit when this sequel rolls out. Before you make it, never forget Terminator: Genisys! But, you also can’t go full Genisys sequel. It’s complicated. I may be naked, but I do know the future! Listen to me and I’ll share how you save this franchise.

I’m not going to say we all lived in peace and harmony because of your films by the time 2019 rolled around. After the brief, but a completely destructive nuclear war between, well two countries you’d never expect, the world renewed its view on multilateralism. In the ensuing years, it’s your movies that help us get comfortable with new and challenging environments. Weirdly enough, Arnold Schwarzenegger downloaded his brain into one of those Na’vi themed clones which were made in the United States and was elected the 48th President of the United States.

It’s kind of complicated how The Terminator franchise helped make all this possible. So. We’ll just leave it at: It does! You’re close to success, but you could still most heinously flunk. Also, you need to keep in mind that this would not be the first strike for this franchise. The Terminator, if this fails, is going to get sent to Alaska to military school.

Terminator 3, 4, and 5 are not bad dreams! Well. Terminator Salvation is pretty much only good for one of the most versatile on-set rants ever captured on audio. Aside from that, I think it’s mostly because we don’t care about the dystopian future of the Terminator world. It’s cool that you originally designed that to basically bring a walking, talking murder-machine to the streets of L.A. Run with that. It’s still way more radical to see the Terminator in a contemporary environment.

Genisys has it all, though. The time travel premise is so essential and wackadoo and surprisingly logical that it forces a compelling story. If time is so malleable, then, of course, it’s probable that by the time Kyle Reese gets back to 1984, everything will have become different. Time wars are endlessly destructive and just, like, really confusing. Time is bendy or maybe like a bowl of freshly boiled pasta thrown at a fridge. On your way back, people have time to fight and conclude a dozen wars in the timeline prior to your arrival. Missions change. Causes alter.

I mean, have you seen the Back to the Future trilogy? Zemeckis always will have gotten that right. It’s the extrapolation of the ripple effect to its logical failure point. In time travel, we can often see the effects of our choices before we realize our thoughts. That’s practically the whole premise of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. This is essential to good time travel story-telling. And Genisys is the only film that actually understands that.

This franchise has been casually remapping the timeline for decades. Plural. Like three of them. Five movies and a television show all about stopping future events and succeeding. It’s all very confusing. And that’s why you need to scrap a major part of the cannon.

It rankles a bit because it feels like I’m arguing you should just chuck the portions you didn’t have a hand in. But, that’s not totally correct. Even as you J.J. Abrams the rest of the Terminator franchise, you need to fight like hell to preserve the good parts of those movies.

Arnold is old. The Terminator needs to get old. I know you’ve alluded to that already in your interview. But, dammit, make that decision the centerpiece. It makes for one of the best parts of Genisys. He doesn’t have to act old, but he needs to age. He’s got a learning computer in his noggin. You have to humanize AI! Let him learn. And for gosh sakes, let him show his sense of humor. Arnold is best when he goes in for the laugh.

I know the machines are evil and that they’re out to kill us all. And I know we have this complicated relationship with our technology. In the end, we’ll die with it. That’s inevitable. Until then, our tech evolves with us as we do with it. I know you hate to see people staring at their cell phones, and it feels like the machines won. We definitely will do better than Twitter, but it is helping people talk to one another. We’ve always been symbiotic with our technology. And it always shapes us as we shape it. It’s okay for that relationship to happen on screen.

You also have to preserve the fall of John Connor. A man billed as the savior of the people would quite naturally be corrupted immediately after his victory. I mean, that’s just some Julius Caeser shit right there. Shakespeare, man. Classic literature because it reflects humanity. If you want this franchise to explode into public awareness, you’ve got to speak our language.

The return of Sarah Connor is exactly the kind of pivot the story needs. Do not write off Sarah Connor as soon as humanly possible. No more cancer. Time travelers never fucking die. And she deserves to be a time traveler, my dudes. Yes, you need to prepare the baton for the next generation. But, let’s be honest. You’ve got a 71-year-old man playing a Terminator. And, Liam Neeson had a hell of a second career as an angry old murder-machine. If Linda Hamilton wants to rock this franchise for a decade, you need to make way for that shit to happen.

Do you want to save the planet? How about stop the machines? Do you want a magnificent franchise? Humanize the murder machine. Subvert the savior. Give us the mythologized Sarah Connor. Also, like, not for nothing. But, give Patty Jenkins a listen. She knows what’s up. Open your mind to the possibility that ‘different’ isn’t ‘misguided’. I mean, do you want to save the planet or not? Besides, I’m from the future. I know things.

Okay. So. People are starting to notice me. I mean, I’m naked and voice dictating this thing as I dart from alleyway to alleyway. So, wait. Shit. How do you turn this thing off? Off.

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Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.