It’s safe to say that often times dragging out a franchise for too long can damage its name! Sometimes it’s best to just leave a classic alone and leave people wanting more. But in 1991, James Cameron shocked the world and gave us one of the best sequels ever made with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Not only did it totally surpass the first one, but it also became a box office smash and remains a classic today and one of the greatest action movies ever made! But somewhere along the line things got a little questionable and the big stickler is – did Terminator Salvation ruin the franchise for good?
Was Terminator Salvation a Box Office Success?
With a reported budget of $200 million and a gross of over $370 million, that’s not a bad return! Especially seeing as this was the first Terminator movie to not star its iconic lead, Arnold Schwarzenegger. After donning the leather jacket once more in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Arnold said goodbye to the role and by 2009 was knees deep in his political career as Governor of California – strange turns of events, right? When asked to star in Terminator Salvation, he politely declined, leaving the weight to Christian Bale and Sam Worthington.
So while the movie wasn’t a flop at the box office and managed to pull in some good money, it is still considered a dud amongst many hardcore Terminator fans to this day. Many factors go into this, and when you add them all up, it seems like this movie was destined to fail!
Christian Bale’s On-Set Rant
It certainly didn’t help the movie’s image when footage of Bale screaming at Director of Photography, Shane Hurlbut, leaked and quickly became viral! Bale embarked on a foul-mouthed tirade, yelling and mocking Hurlbut for supposedly standing in his line of vision during takes. Now, this would undoubtedly put off the best of actors, but Bale’s rant went a little too far and, unlucky for him, leaked right before the press junket began.
Bale’s performance was also not looked upon favorably, with the likes of USA Today and LA Times calling it a “disappointment.” Bale is, without a doubt, a gifted actor and has a shiny gold statue to prove that, but his role of John Connor is not exactly up there with his best performances. Bale even displayed his lack of interest in the role to MTV, saying, “I said no three times. I went, ‘Nah, there’s no story there.'”
So if Bale didn’t fully believe in the material, of course, his performance isn’t exactly going to be on par with The Machinist!
When Arnold Didn’t Come Back
That classic line has been repeated millions of times amongst movie fans all over the world – “I’ll be back!”. Only this time, Arnold didn’t come back. After shooting to fame in the early 80s after The Terminator, by the time T2 came along, Arnold was a massive superstar. People would flock to the theaters year after year to see him kicking ass! So when word got out that Arnold wasn’t returning to his titular role, that must have hurt the numbers slightly.
In addition, the pesky attempt to CG Arnold into the movie was a pure insult to die-hard Terminator fans. They felt cheated and tricked. Not a good potion to get people to flock to see any more Terminator movies.
After being hurt by The Writers Guild of America strike in 2008, Salvation suffered another devastating blow when Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jonathan Nolan dropped out of the project due to other commitments. While it’s not certain that Nolan’s input on the script would have saved the movie from flopping, it’s safe to say it would have been very different and probably for the better. Jonathan has co-written a handful of films with his brother, Christopher Nolan, such as Memento and The Dark Knight, and has written on the hit show Westworld. By the time Terminator Salvation was being written, Bale had worked with Nolan on both The Dark Knight and the critically acclaimed sci-fi, The Prestige. So it’s safe to say he thought he was in capable hands when he signed up for the role!
Unfortunately, this was not the case, and Terminator Salvation is deemed by many to be the worst entry into the series.
Although Terminator Genisys picked up some steam in 2015 due to Arnold’s return and James Cameron’s endorsement, it was panned heavily by the critics. Terminator: Dark Fate didn’t add much to the franchise either, apart from a solid return from Linda Hamilton. So, maybe it’s the right time to leave the franchise where it is. It peaked at the masterpiece that is Terminator 2: Judgement Day, and nothing can take that away! But maybe it’s time to stop muddying the water and let a classic remain a classic!
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