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Will Terminator Be Back?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood August 20, 2009 at 12:31PM

The Terminator franchise is in jeopardy. The question is, do we care?
Thompson on Hollywood

The Terminator franchise is in jeopardy. The question is, do we care?

The recent Halcyon bankruptcy announcement has raised some eyebrows, because it seems bizarre for the producers of the $370 million worldwide grosser Terminator Salvation to be running on empty.

It's not about Terminator. It's about the producers and how they handled their money. I could have predicted that the young fly-by-night playboys who arrived in Hollywood in 2006 with some play money from Wall Street hedge funds and private investors would turn some tricky corners. They pulled together some Hollywood power hitters to help them buy the rights to the Terminator franchise from Carolco's Andy Vajna and Mario Kassar for an undisclosed sum as that company was closing down in May 2007. I met with Halcyon co-founders and co-CEOs Victor Kubicek, a broker-turned-writer-producer, and Derek Anderson, ex-owner of ad agency In the Mix, and wrote up a start of production story.

But I had my doubts about whether they had the right stuff to stick around. They did deliver a $200-million-plus movie, directed by McG and starring Christian Bale, released by Warner Bros. and Sony, that floundered domestically but scored overseas.

Veteran producer Moritz Borman sued them for fraud to the tune of $160 million in order to get paid; they settled. And then the suits kept coming. Now Halcyon is trying to raise money to make a fifth Terminator, but Pacificor, which lent them the money to buy the rights, is now trying to get them back, as collateral for the loan. So Halcyon is now suing Pacificor, reports the LAT.

So what if we don't get another Terminator ? Is the series worth continuing anyway? The latest sequel scored 51% on Metacritic. The movie seems derivative, familiar, almost old-school. It's a forced imitation with no vital life blood left. Sure, McG got to prove he could handle an actioner so he can land a later, more lucrative assignment (think Brett Ratner and X-Men: The Last Stand, Jon Favreau and Zathura). I'm sure Bale regrets appearing in the movie all around; he could have played the juicier Sam Worthington part but chose the less compelling John Connor hero, and got slammed for his profane on-set outburst. I'm sure he knew he had picked wrong.

It's hard to believe that James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd started Terminator back in 1984 with a budget of $6.5 million and thick-accented musclebound Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now it's a so-called brand, a franchise, satirized here by Fast Company. Back then it was a scrappy original. Now it's been so widely imitated--how many giant fighter bots and dystopian futures have we seen since then? RoboCop, Iron Man, District 9, and Transformers to name a few.

This mash-up basically says it all:

This article is related to: Genres, Studios, Players, Sci-fi, Action, Warner Bros./New Line

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.