These are the movies and TV shows I’m looking forward to in the new year:
In some ways, spinoff novel authors have less freedom than movie writers. For example, we know Timothy Zahn is not going to kill off John Connor in “Trial By Fire” (July 2010). On the other hand, as “Salvation’s” John Brancato reveals in a blog post, screenwriters can be handcuffed, particularly on blockbuster movies, owing to the perception that simpler stories draw wider audiences. As such, his idea that John Connor be replaced with a Terminator/human hybrid at the film’s end was scrapped.
Greg Cox’s “Cold War” (October 2009) is the first spinoff material to come out after “Terminator Salvation,” but it’s actually another prequel story, like “From the Ashes” and “Sand in the Gears.” The major tie-in to the film is the backstory of General Losenko; his story in the wake of J-Day alternates chapters with that of an Alaskan Resistance group right before “Salvation.”
The very first “Terminator” spinoff materials – the Now comics – explored the Future War, but aside from flashbacks/flash-forwards, it took another two decades for the Future War to be explored on screen. This makes “Terminator Salvation” (2009) stand out among the saga’s screen incarnations, even though the plot points and themes will be familiar to readers of the spinoff materials, particularly Dark Horse Comics’ early 1990s work.
Around the same time that the novel line provided a “Terminator Salvation” prequel with “From the Ashes,” IDW – the seventh (and, as of now, final) comic company to hold a “Terminator” license — launched its line with a four-issue prequel story called “Sand in the Gears” (February-April 2009). Unlike the book, it doesn’t introduce any film characters, but it works as a stage-setter.
Even as Fox deemed the “Terminator” franchise not popular enough to renew “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” for a third season, the movie wing of the franchise was betting the TV network was wrong. From the ashes of “Chronicles” rose the “Terminator Salvation” franchise, which would eventually rank second only to the “T2” franchise in pumping out the most spinoff materials. I personally don’t think it was better than “Chronicles,” but apparently it was more commercially successful, or at least more aggressive. (“TSCC” spawned no spinoff materials at all.)
“Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” Season 2 (2008-09) is a decompressed stretch of low-key epic storytelling that continues to chronicle central “Terminator” ideas. John and Sarah ferret out organizations that might be the proto-Skynet, and resistance fighters and Terminators pop up in time bubbles on specific missions relating to Skynet or the Connors.
These were my 10 favorite movies of 2015:
1. “Spotlight” — This chronicle of the Boston Globe’s 2001-02 probe of rape allegations in the Catholic Church is a thank-you letter to the dying art of investigative journalism. An all-star cast of actors including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber does a marvelous job of capturing the small details of how reporters live and behave – particularly Ruffalo, whether he’s boiling hot dogs for dinner of scrounging through his bag for a pen. Meanwhile, the case itself works as a meat-and-potatoes procedural potboiler. (Full review.)
When faced with a totalitarian government, institutionalized corruption or a plain ol’ supervillain, pop culture’s superheroes and revolutionaries are almost always reluctant, and it’s getting to be a rather predictable trope, even within the context of otherwise enjoyable franchises. I got to thinking about this odd trend when watching “The Hunger Games” movies on Showtime.