Fitting of its nature as a time-travel franchise, the future of Terminator is currently unknown. The series has been running for over three decades now and while the basic elements have always remained – time travelling robots try to kill revolution leader John Connor, and with him the whole of humanity – there have been a lot of variations on the formula.
Last year’s Genisys was intended to be the start of a new trilogy that spun-off in an alternate direction from the original film, but the disappointing reception meant that those two sequels were discretely cancelled. Rumors persist that due to the movie’s success at the Chinese box office that Paramount may still try and make the films before the series rights return to James Cameron in 2019, although a new movie pitch in the form of an animated trailer suggests a new direction they could take.
German animator Bruce Stirling John Knox has made a pitch for a potential new direction the series could take. Called simply Extermination, it’s set in the series’ post-apocalyptic future, later than any other movie has shown, with Skynet seemingly defeated, yet its remaining robots becoming increasingly dangerous. Knowing they’ll only shut down when all human life has been extinguished, the Resistance comes up with a solution – exterminate the human race (or at least the majority of it) so the top brass can survive.
Fan films are ten-a-penny on YouTube, but this one’s a little different. Knox isn’t just presenting his ideas for a pre-existing franchise, but trying to use it to get his idea green-lit. We’ve seen budding filmmakers try increasingly extreme ways to try and break through in recent years, with one writer posting a detailed pitch for a Die Hard prequel in The Hollywood Reporter, and when the likes of Gareth Edwards can rise from working in visual effects to directing Godzilla and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in a matter of years, you can sort of understand why. Whether Knox joins Eric Wilkinson (whose Die Hard pitch seems to have gone nowhere) or Edwards is too soon to tell.
Regardless of what it leads to, it’s an impressive short. The animation style is rather simple yet very evocative, with a lot of silhouette work creating a bevy of dystopian images. The idea is the most striking though, something completely new for Terminator that rings true of the barbarism that haunts Kyle Reese in the original film. The extinction argument does lead to a bit too much philosophising about the natural order and other high concepts, which could be seen as preachy, but the dialogue is pretty solid otherwise. Interestingly, the John Conner shown here bears a resemblance to Christian Bale, suggesting this is envisioned as being set further down the timeline of Terminator Salvation (and thus side-stepping Genisys completely).
Even if this isn’t picked up (which is of course the most likely outcome), it does still pose an interesting idea for where the Terminator series could go from here. The past three movies (Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys) have tried and failed to stir up interest in a new series, but a new visual style and a return to the blood and intensity of the original R-rated duology may be the way to go whatever the story.